PropTech Roundup – April 2021

Here are the top news story from the UK PropTech space in April 2021…

PropTech app enables tenants to view homes on market

Following a pilot scheme with agency WinkworthCrowdhaus, which describes its product as a property discovery app, has secured around £200,000 to develop the project further.

The app can be used only for properties for sale and to let in London and allows users to view by means of a swipe-based screen.

The software also provides for group activity, so that, for instance, household members can discuss, give feedback and rank relevant properties in private.

Conan Osborne, co-founder of Crowdhaus, wants to improve people’s interaction with property when looking for a new home and tapping into ‘dream searches’, something he says is now a real hobby with 27m adults viewing websites for dream homes a minimum of once a week and one in ten doing so every day.

The test run with Winkworth’s lettings and sales team took place in Kensal Rise, London, and the app’s creators say the new funding will make possible further pilots, new staff hires and development of the Crowdhaus product for various platforms.

RO Group founds capital development arm for PropTech

RO Capital Partners, the new investment arm, will focus principally on PropTech, CleanTech and FinTech. Since its formation in 1932, the RO Group, a family owned range of companies based in Hertfordshire, has invested successfully in a wide variety of sectors.

As the senior team has substantial expertise in the real estate, financial services and renewable energy sectors, the Capital Partners team will act as an early stage investor.

The company has existing assets in, as well as access to the networks in these sectors, which could support investee companies to achieve commercialisation and growth.

Capital Partners can also offer long-term patient capital free from the demands of shareholders, as well as follow-on capital to underpin fast growing investments.

Edward Rowlandson, Group MD of the RO Group, believes the new investment arm is a natural progression for the company, which has a strong balance sheet, the right mix of skills and a platform of assets available to help companies thrive.

He would like to hear from those with plans for the proptech, cleantech and fintech sectors and, believing changes in working habits and the move to a low carbon economy will inspire the next generation of businesses, would like to partner them.

PropTech provider enables rent payment in three clicks

A student accommodation provider has joined forces with an automated payments service to create an eCommerce system providing simpler rent payments.

Vyne avoids the need for students to use credit card networks with their associated costs by operating Open Banking to move money in real time between bank accounts.

The partnership with accommodation service Kinetic offers Vyne as a payment method, letting students pay their rent directly from their account in as few as three clicks.

Payments are authenticated by means of a banking app and biometric scan, ensuring the person is who they say they are, instead of requiring card details.

Students can receive contributions from parents regardless of where they live in the UK and Europe, with QR codes that can be used for in-person payments and pay-by-links sent by email, SMS or Messenger.

This partnership means that for Kinetic’s clients the risk of fraud is reduced, fund settlement is instant and less money is lost to card fees.

Karl MacGregor, Vyne CEO, argues that the education and property sectors are areas where he can make a difference for companies applying simpler and more up-to-date methods of transferring money from one account to another.

Major portals use PropTech to court agents

Property portals Rightmove and Zoopla have drawn attention to their use of proptech in their struggle to win and retain agents.

Rightmove has rebuilt its draw-a-search tool and integrated it into the property search flow, resulting in a 37pc leap in punters creating bespoke search areas since early March.

The draw-a-search update follows on from Rightmove’s revamp of its property details page last year, which it says has increased by 70pc the amount of time home-hunters spend looking at each property.

Additional updates in recent weeks include integrating the stamp duty calculator into the property details and inserting adverts in property details for the controversial Modern Method of Auction. 

On the lettings side, changes have been made to the appointment booking tool, Viewings Manager, arising from feedback from agents.

Newcastle PropTech achieves second fund-raise this year

One Utility Bill, which simplifies utility payments for consumers, landlords and letting agents, has raised £1.6m through its second attempt to secure funding within the year, bringing the total collected to around £5m.

The latest investment will allow the company to increase scale and efficiency, improve its technology and create over 40 new jobs in the North East.

The company consolidates household bills into one simple monthly payment, provides customers with a coherent front-line support service and enables costs to be split among house-mates. 

One Utility Bill, founded in 2015, and inspired by CEO Chris Dawson’s experience in rented accommodation, now manages energy, water, broadband and media, with an annual turnover of over £15m, on behalf of hundreds of thousands of households across the UK.

Dawson regards the second round of successful investment as a ‘huge vote of confidence’ in the business which reflects the ‘incredible progress’ made by the One Utility Bill team over the last 12 months.

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