Proptech founders, investors and thought leaders shared their insights on the industry at the Proptech Association Australia’s 2022 Proptech Forum in Sydney this month. Here are our favourite insights from the conference:  

Work with your critics – Fred Schebesta (pictured), Finder  

I don’t think you can actually ask your customers today what they want. You’re going to have to just go and build it. So when Edward Land was making the polaroid camera, he didn’t go and ask everyone what they wanted from a better camera. He put the instant camera out there and asked everyone to buy it. The only way you’re going to know if people want to buy it is if someone is going actually put some money out there.  

Polaroid hired critics and deep experts. One critic in polaroid’s case was in the area of photography – one of the greatest photographers. They would give him the camera and he would write reports, pages and pages of critiques about the product.  

So who’s your critic? Who’s your expert that’s giving you feedback? Who’s the person that’s telling you exactly what we do need and what we don’t? Who’s the person that’s telling you where the problems are? You need that person on your payroll giving you that criticism… You need an expert on your team, or a specialist or a deeply passionate person interested in your particular product or industry that you are competing in. Bring them onto your team. You want to hear that all day.  


Don’t ask can you do it, ask how can you do it? – Mina Radhakrishnan, :Different 

Mina Radhakrishnan, :Different 

Mina Radhakrishnan, :Different

You should never ask the question, can you do it? You should ask, how can you do it? As an entrepreneur, there’s so many things dragging on you. Everything is fighting for your time and it’s so easy to say, ‘I just can’t deal with it now, just move on and try to deal with the next thing’.  

I think that’s like the worst thing you can do because it closes off good ideas. Force yourself to think, ‘okay, I’m not going to answer the question of should I do this right now, I’m just going to think about if this actually existed, how might it happen?’ The biggest thing is just being very open to ideas and not worrying about the constraints before you even figure out how to do it. 


Proptech is transitioning through ‘liminal’ times – Nigel Dalton, Thoughtworks 

Nigel Dalton, Thoughtworks 

Nigel Dalton, Thoughtworks

Liminality is important because we are desperate as humans to either be in the before or the after state. It’s a social science term from a French anthropologist who talked about rites of passage and rituals for kids and children. So imagine you’re a 12-year-old tween and then suddenly, the after state is that you’re a teenager. There’s a moment on your birthday that if time stopped, you are neither. You are liminal.  

And we are in liminal times. This is not the after of Proptech. It’s not the before either. There’s a lot of tech and a lot of opportunity, but we aren’t there yet. But by 2035, we’re probably going to be heading towards it. Living in liminal times is ambiguous and you are in that ritual. You’re halfway between being a child and being an adult.  

[A plane] is the most liminal place in the world. Liminality has a temporal and a spatial dimension. Think of how you behave on an airplane. You’re sitting in the lounge beforehand – that’s the before world. The after is when you have [left the plane and] jumped on a train to come into town. How do you psychologically behave in liminal times like this? Some people want to get to their destination and some people wish they had never left the lounge. That’s where we are in the plane of technological change.  


Take care of your people during times of change (like an acquisition) – Sarah Bell, RiTA by Aire 

Sarah Bell, RiTA by Aire 

Sarah Bell (centre), RiTA by Aire

My advice is to really to take care of your people. When I think about the value of our company… the product, the software and all the rest of it obviously has some value. But if I think about what … that driving force that got us to being not just valuable but also purchasable, then it was about our people and our relationships.

So in terms of making sure that the acquisition was successful and that our future state was going to continue with that trust and equity and those relationships that we had with the industry that we were serving, we had to very much keep that front of mind.  


Be thoughtful of which investor you partner with – Jethro Cohen, Square Peg Capital

Jethro Cohen (left), Square Peg Capital

Be thoughtful about the investor that you want to partner with. Not every investor is right for every business and there are lots of businesses that make sense for certain investors that don’t make sense for others. In this environment, be really conscious that you want a partner who you work with for 10 years that understands you, your business, your ambition, and the sort of problem that you’re solving.  

And number two, keep in mind that the core parts of property still suck. Renting sucks, buying sucks and getting a mortgage sucks. And so when you are telling the story, bring it back to what the big problem that you are trying to connect to is… if the change that you are making is fundamental to the way that people will live their lives or engage with property, sell that version of the story, don’t sell the today version of the story. 

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Proptech investment returns to pre-COVID levels in Australia