Start-up focus: Smarke. Their keyless entry solution

January 16th, 2017

As AirBnB becomes the hotel of the world, it’s inevitable that new innovations will crop up around it to make the process of ‘living anywhere’ even smoother. One such innovation comes from a start-up called Smarke, who have designed a product that allows property managers and hosts to grants guests instant, remote access to their property using their mobile phone, and without having to hand over a key.

After three years of product testing, Smarke are now on the verge of launching their keyless entry solution onto the market.

We spoke with Hady Abdelnour, one of Smarke’s co-founders, about their innovative product.


 So I understand what Smarke does in theory, but how does the process go – both for a property owner and their guest? 

The first thing a property manager needs to do is to install our hardware onto their lock. This just takes two to three minutes. Our hardware fits onto a standard Europe lock, and it fits on the inside of the door, so other people can’t see it.

Then there’s a quick syncing process with your phone, just to confirm that you are the owner of the lock and the main admin. Once you’ve done this you can grant other people access to the lock, via the mobile app.

You can give two types of access – permanent access, for example, to a family member, or temporary, scheduled access. To give temporary access, you just input the dates you want to allow that person to be able to enter your home for.

For the guest, they simply have to open the mobile app and they will have access to a key for that lock. A Bluetooth signal between the phone and the hardware on the lock will give them access to the property.


What platform does it require? For example I’ve got an iPhone 4 and I’m finding lots of apps are becoming obsolete. 

It will work on any mobile platform, so there’s no worries about guests being locked out when Apple updates their operating system!

There is also a web version as well, though it’s not possible to get a key through this – the web version is simply an admin tool for a property owner to manage dates and access.

We’re also developing a keypad, so a user can type in a code instead of having to open the mobile app if they prefer

How about security – I’m sure that’s a question a lot of people will have the first time  they encounter something like this? 

So we have three layers of security – firstly the hardware which is protected from any exterior signals that will disrupt its function.

Then we have the communication between the phone and the device, and you have to make sure this doesn’t get hacked. So we’ve developed what we call military grade algorithms to protect the key code at this stage.

Then finally there is the communication between the phone and the cloud; when you send the key from phone to phone it goes via the cloud. Again, we’re using very secure channels for this.

The reason we use Bluetooth is to focus all our security channels – we could have linked it to Wi-Fi which would have given us more freedom, but it also makes it harder for us to secure the channels.

I can’t tell you much more about our security, because it wouldn’t make sense to make it public, but I can say that all three channels have been heavily tested, and we’re using the same state of the art security systems that the banks use.

You could even say it’s more secure than a regular lock? 

We think so – one thing we say to AirBnB hosts and property managers specifically is this: You might give your key to 100 guests per year. That’s 100 opportunities that someone has to make a copy of it. With Smarke, you won’t run this risk anymore, so yes, I actually think we’re improving the security.

So no more leaving keys under pots? 

Yes, exactly. It’s quite common in the Air BnB space that a guest arrives late and can’t get into the property without seeing the property manager, so it’s solving that problem. The traditional solution would be to leave a lock box, but that’s outside the property, so not so secure, whereas Smarke is inside. It also solves the problem of a tenant losing their keys and not being able to get back into the property. (This is actually what inspired the idea for Smarke!)

You mentioned that your hardware fits on to a Europe Lock. Is this common? 

In Europe, obviously it’s very common and new buildings in the UK all have it too – older buildings tend to have other models like Mortise Lock. But the Europe Lock is going to become more and more common, as it’s much more efficient than the Mortise Lock. We can also change the locks on any building if required.

You’ve mentioned AirBnB and it seems like they would be an ideal partner. Is that a route you’re looking to go down, either with AirBnB or any other potential partners? 

Air BnB would be a dream partner of course, but at the moment we’re not looking to tie in directly with anyone. That said, we’re studying the API of Air BnB quite closely to see how easily we can link in with this. So using the platform to get the names of the guests instantly to make the experience of the hosts even simpler.

But before we get a huge community using our solution it won’t be easy for us to partner with these companies.

How about some smaller partners?

We have a number of property managers who have asked to take part in our first round of beta testing, which starts in February. It’s really positive that we’ve had so many property managers asking to use it – and not just from the UK but from countries in Europe as well.

So when does your beta testing begin?

Our first round of beta testing begins in May. At present we have 13 clients who will test it for us in around 100 properties.

There’s obviously a lot of demand within the short term rental sector. Do you see any scope for Smarke within the commercial property space?

There are a lot of different components to the software we’ve developed which can provide solutions for other markets. For example, we’ve actually been approached by a company in Beirut to create electronic access points for their office using Smarke software. So yes, offices where you need I.D cards, hotels, retail – all these verticals are in our thinking for the future. It’s not a short term plan, but certainly a mid-term plan.

What have the biggest learnings been along the way? 

Well, I think I can say what anyone who has tried to create a hardware product will tell you – that hardware probably the hardest thing for a start-up to do because you have to go through so many different designs before you find the right one. It’s very costly and takes a long time. We’ve been three years in development up to this stage. So I think the most important thing is to be prepared for a long journey – both mentally and financially.

With regards the financials, am I right in saying you raised just over £300,000 in the early stages? 

That’s right – We won a major competition run by MIT Enterprise Forum called Grow my Business – this got us a lot of exposure.

Eventually we received half from a government grant, and half from Angel Investors. We were really lucky that all our investors so far have asked to invest in Smarke, so we haven’t had to do any pitching.

And you have another round of crowdfunding planned? 

Yes, we will be raising a second round of funding through Crowdfunders. Our campaign isn’t live yet – I’ll keep you posted!

Do you have any competitors? 

There are some companies doing a similar thing, but we’re the only one really focused on the short term rental market. We’re completely focused on digitalising the short term rental market and nobody else is approaching it from this angle. We’re also the only ones building a keypad, and the only ones building an intercom system, s we think we’ve got a fair few USPs covered.

Where do you see Smarke in 3 years’ time? 

We want everybody within the short term rental space to be asking for Smarke, and to understand the convenience and security it offers. We hope we can be the primary players in this space.

And secondly, we plan to approach companies who provide maintenance to properties. We see a big opportunity in this space to and we plan to attack this over the next year.

Founder Interview. Rajeev Nayyar

January 16th, 2017


Look back through the majority of articles about the major players in PropTech over the last year, and you’ll certainly encounter someone waxing lyrical about the brilliance of Fixflo. Their property repair management system has streamlined the process of reporting and resolving repairs, making life easier for landlords, tenants and contractors, and they are now looking to expand their reach in the commercial space.

We spent half an hour with founder and CEO Rajeev Nayyar to talk about their plans.


Most people will be aware of Fixflo and the incredible success you’ve had since launching your platform. In fact, it can be pretty hard to keep up with your progress – can you give us a quick overview of where you’re currently at?

Our main market is the private rented sector, and we’re currently being used by around 400,000 homes in the UK.

But our systems are also used in the residential block management sector to streamline resolution of reactive issues in communal areas of blocks of flats, as well as planning, tracking and completing cyclical works such as gutter clearance, boiler checks lift checks and that sort of work too. We have 50,000 flats in the UK using that version of the system.

We’ve got clients internationally as well: in Australia, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, America and South Africa. This isn’t a huge number in volume yet, but the good news is these have all been inbound.

And now you’re making the move into commercial property as well? This feels like a very natural transition. 

We are already used in some commercial properties such as office blocks and hotels. We’ve also just been approved for a trial with Segro which is Europe’s largest listed owner, asset manager and developer of industrial property.

So how do you see Fixflo benefitting the commercial property space? 

I think we can provide benefits across the entire commercial property sector. Anywhere there is a requirement for either reactive and/or planned maintenance to be carried out we have great application.

Examples include where the system is predominantly used by occupiers alone, such as retailers who have a large element of fit out to maintain across different premises or by property managers maintaining common parts and managing cyclical works in multi-tenanted office blocks or shopping centres.

Put simply, if streamlined, robust and clear onsite workflow management is required there is a Fixflo system waiting to help.

We obviously recognise that commercial property is a giant beast and comes in lots of different flavours, and we have enough flexibility in our plans to see where the market takes us, but thus far we have had demand from industrial, retail, offices and hotels, so we’re confident it’s going to be a real asset to the commercial property space.

Will you have to change your technology at all to accommodate this market? 

Our platform is highly configurable and was built with the intent that it would be used across the wider property industry.  Either through a consultancy process with one of our account managers or through self-service functionality our customers can change things to perfectly suit the needs of their business.

The differences will be driven by the use cases for each client.  For example, in industrial it is likely that the proportion of reactive to planned items will be lower and those reactive repairs will be reported for common parts of an estate by on-site staff. Taking the retail side of the market, it’s much more likely they will use the reactive side of the platform more, simply because lots more things break on a regular basis that need to be fixed promptly to preserve turnover and profits.

One feature set that we definitely foresee being of enhanced value is smart contractor selection and monitoring due to need to combine contractors under service agreements for core maintenance and servicing, and ad-hoc specialists for issues falling outside the scope of those agreements.  So our system proposes from the company’s bank of contractors the team that are the most appropriate, who have done similar work before, who are the ones contracted to deal with those type of works etc. It also tracks their performance, and allows contractors to show their qualifications, proving whether or not they are authorised and insured to carry out certain types of work.

And as with residential, I guess there will be a clear and traceable communication stream?

Exactly. Rather than using email from different property managers to different people within an organisation, all of the communications are centrally located.

Fixflo keeps a chronological record of the entire process so there is a clear auditing stream, including before and after photos from contractors, invoices and financial reports and anything else that is relevant. It’s a complete repair management system.

Having worked as a lawyer in the commercial property sector for seven years, I can say with confidence that this is really important.

Can you elaborate on this? 

In an increasingly litigious environment, having clear, concise and centrally held records is key. My experience is that litigation can be hugely expensive, and even more than the hard cost of lawyers is the drain on executive time and internal staff resources, particularly in the disclosure process.

We used to call it defensive practice, so not just doing the right thing, but being able to show you’ve done the right thing and taken all the necessary steps to comply with lease covenants and statutory regulations. These days this is not just nice to have, it’s essential.

Will you be looking to form any partnerships in the UK commercial property space?

We’re always looking to work with willing and capable partners. In the residential space we currently have 13 partnerships with other companies both in the UK and abroad, so we’re well versed in the process of integration and collaboration.

Currently, for the residential block management we are supported with our partnership with Qube Global Software, who are the leading provider of block management software in the U.K.

And in the commercial space we have already partnered with TAP, who provide portals for property occupiers and managers.

The Fixflo platform has been designed for easy integration and we have also quickly and easily integrated into bespoke in-house property management and accounting systems.

Partnering in this way seems like a good approach to take? 

I think it’s a necessary approach, because I think software generally is moving towards more of an eco-system approach, and the ‘one stop shop’ is a thing of the past. Now you have one central source of ‘truth’ if you like, which might be a database or financial report, then coming off this are niche or custom and bespoke solutions to suit a client’s business. That allows providers to create a product that is perfect for their business at a reasonable price, and it also allows those bolt-on providers to continually innovate.  Being focussed on a discrete problem helps a service provider deliver excellence to their client and their client, in turn, to deliver excellence to their customers and clients.

Talking of innovation, it has been said that commercial property is sometimes a little slow to take on new technologies. Why do you think this is?

Tech and property have been viewed very differently, mainly because property processes are already very robust and, in large part, underpinned by legislation. But there’s a growing understanding, led by the likes of the RICS that every business, even within the property sector, is a technology business.  The divide between “tech” and “property” is diminishing and those businesses that strive to put adoption of value enhancing technology at the core of their strategy and actively select service providers that do likewise are best place to thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Do you think there’s a lot that can be changed?

Yes, there are processes that can be improved, it’s just going to take some time. I actually think that even if there was rapid adoption of all the tech that’s currently available, let alone what will be created, that would take 10 years. So there’s enough tech already for 10 years of innovation within the commercial property sector.

Another really important thing to bear in mind is how much consumer experience is now driving everything, including the relationships between organisations. It’s much more about the experience of an individual now. This is being driven by the major players in mobile technology and the platforms they are creating. So if something is broken, property managers want an ‘Uber-ized’ experience where they can report it instantly from their phone to their maintenance team. They then expect an Amazon type reply updating them on the progress.

There are some really interesting stats that show how what ‘good customer experience’ has changed, even in the last three years. So in 2014, three hours was an acceptable time for a reply. In 2016, we expect a reply within an hour.

Of course, in a physical environment, we know there are contingencies, but it’s important to be honest about these and manage customer expectations. The nature of Fixflo allows for all this to happen.

It seems like this might be a good time for FixFlo to be moving into the commercial property space?

I certainly hope so, and I think we have two more big trends in our favour. Firstly, there’s a move from seeing landlords as the sole client to tenants as being a valuable stakeholder and a customer of sorts. That’s being driven by tenants having shorter lease terms, and much more regular reviews of their arrangements. That means that dealing with the needs of the tenants is much more important. If you don’t serve their needs they will move damaging yields for investors.

The other area I think we’re moving toward is as property managers as relationship managers. There’s an acceptance and expectation that instead of sitting behind a desk, they will be out building relationships with tenants, to understand what their existing and future needs will be. Mobile first technologies will allow them to do their job while their out on the road.

Will your move into commercial allow other prop-tech companies to do the same?

Potentially, though think there are nuances to commercial property that might not be widely understood. I’ve worked in commercial property for 7 years, and advised clients through every stage of the life cycle. I think the commercial property industry is a lot more guarded, and you have to really understand the industry to succeed. It may become less important as technology becomes more prevalent, but the truth is that trying to sell any product to someone when you don’t know their industry and the pain points they face is almost bound to fail.

Any other companies that you admire in this space?

I really love what Land Insight are doing – I think that’s a really clever and exciting product. And this comes back to my point that Johnny really understands the industry, and only on that basis is he providing a technological solution. Companies like this I think are going to open the minds of venture capitalists within the space, hopefully allowing for more useful innovations that will make people’s lives easier.

Find out more about Fixflo’s commercial offering here.

Why LinkedIn’s Pulse could be a highly effective tool for commercial surveyors, and how to do it well. 

January 16th, 2017

Last time round we talked about why a newsletter might be a good way to address one of the marketing issues faced in the CRE world, namely, keeping yourself in the mind of clients when you may not interact with them on a regular basis throughout the year.

Another way to do this is to make use of LinkedIn’s Pulse platform. It’s free, it puts you directly in from of the people you want to be talking to, and most people aren’t using it enough.

So here’s a quick how, what and why for best use of Pulse. Hope you find it useful.

What is it? 

Pulse is LinkedIn’s publishing platform. It started off on an ‘invite only’ basis, with thought leaders in various fields contributing articles, but in 2014 opened its doors to allow anyone to write and publish articles.

Why use it?

Pulse is now one of the quickest ways to get your content seen by the right people and drive them to your firm. It doesn’t disappear in an instant like a tweet, and because LinkedIn’s content is quickly ranked, your posts will be more likely to appear in search engines’ pages than if they were posted to a company or personal blog. (Not to say you shouldn’t keep these current as well).

The benefits of doing this are twofold. Firstly, it’s a great way to attract new clients to your firm, or keep yourselves in the mind of existing clients. Interesting, relatable articles that provide real value will help position you as the experts. You can provide relevant links back to your company at appropriate places within a post as well.

One thing to be aware of is that LinkedIn won’t accept posts from a company page, so each post has to come from an individual. This brings with it the secondary benefit that you can build up your own personal profile by writing regular Pulse articles as well. If you’re harbouring desires of being headhunted by that firm across town with the staff gym, it can be a good way to show off your skills.

What to write

This will depend on your motivation for writing the post. Are you more interested to bring in leads for your company, or are you writing to boost your own profile within the commercial property industry?

Writing to Attract Clients

If you’re writing for potential clients then choose something you know will be genuinely useful to them. What are you asked about on a regular basis? Posts such as this one, which breaks down a complicated part of the commercial acquisition process are a good example of providing valuable information.

Writing for Peers

If you’re looking more to build your personal profile among your CRE peers, then you may want to take a different approach and focus on how you can help others in your industry. Are you the first to get your head around a new piece of PropTech, for example, and can you show others how they might benefit from it? Can you pick apart a new legislation or find a solution to a common problem? This post around the trend of social media and it’s applications within commercial property is a good example of this.

As well as the help and advice type examples, LinkedIn CEO David Roth recommends using LinkedIn as a sounding board. Do you have industry related opinions or ideas you want to share or debate? Can you comment on something happening in the news? A good example of this kind of post is here – the author isn’t simply reporting facts but interpreting them and expressing an opinion.

More Tips on Topics

It can be a good idea to maintain some thematic consistency within the articles you write, so you become ‘known’ for one thing. Are you usually ahead of the curve with technology? Do you have a knack for putting the complicated litigious processes of a commercial transaction in layman’s terms? Demonstrate that skill in your articles and it will help you find a niche.

Finally, the best articles on LinkedIn do more than simply present hard data – they show a human side as well. The platform is essentially about connecting people, and the posts that tend to get the most engagement are the ones that draw on personal experience in some way.

Still stuck? Here are 5 questions to get you started for article ideas.

  • What’s been the one experience where you’ve learned most in your career?
  • What personality traits do you think are required to do your job?
  • What are the current trends within CRE, and what’s your take on them?
  • What do you predict for CRE in the next 10 years?
  • What advice would you give someone looking to get into CRE?

How to do it

OK, down to the nitty gritty. You’ve picked your topic and you’re ready to go. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a writer, you can improve your chances of success by following these guidelines.

Write a Good Headline 

Then write a really good headline. To paraphrase David Ogilvy, when you consider that only 1 in 5 people reads anything more than your headline, then it makes sense that 80% of your marketing budget should be spent on that headline. Many successful Pulse writers say they’ll habitually spend as much time on their headline as the article itself.

Keep it Short (ish)

There’s a fine balance with LinkedIn – it’s a serious, professional platform, so the Buzzfeed-type posts which contain little substance are not going to gain you much credit; a certain amount of depth and insight is required. Still, people are busy and you can’t expect them to spend an afternoon leafing through your epic. As a general rule, 800 – 2,000 words is the right length for a LinkedIn article.

Make it Easy to Read 

A few ways you can do this. Break the text up with sub-heads so that those who scan first will get the gist easily. LinkedIn offers a good range of formatting features to help you do this.

Write reasonably short paragraphs – 3-5 sentences. Remember reading on the web is around 20 – 30% slower than reading from paper, so it’s best to keep it snappy.

And as with any good writing, vary sentence length for cadence, and keep it as concise and to the point as you can.

Use of Media

Every LinkedIn writer worth their salt recommends taking advantage of Pulse’s ‘header image’ option and adding a fitting and relevant image to your content. Like a good headline, the best will provoke some level of intrigue. Where is that undeveloped beachfront plot going for a song? How did he get to meet Richard Branson?

If you don’t have your own images ready to go, sites like Pixabay offer quality, royalty free images.

Break up content with pictures throughout the article as well.

Quality Trumps Quantity 

Aim for excellent articles that your audience really will find useful. Better to post less and well than often and poorly. However, if you can post great content regularly, you’ll really start to reap the benefit. Once a month, great. Once a fortnight, even better.

Go Pro

The holy grail of LinkedIn Pulse writers is to get their article featured.

This means that instead of being seen only by your followers, your article will appear in front of anyone with a stated interest in commercial real estate. Viewer numbers could go from just a few hundred to well into the thousands.

Getting featured needn’t be a goal – it does your profile a lot of good to have well written articles appear alongside your resume anyway. But if you do want to reach the masses with your LinkedIn pieces, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.

Firstly – follow all the advice above. Write interesting, relevant, and human focused content that people will actually want to read. Although no one knows exactly how LinkedIn’s algorithms work, the more likes, shares and comments you can get on your post the more likely it is to be picked up by the editors and featured. Remember to reply to any comments your readers make as well, to keep the conversation flowing.

Secondly, share it via your own channels as much as you can. Get your company to share it too if possible. To really do it like the pros, include tip@linkedineditors in your Tweet. This alerts LinkedIn’s team that you have posted something – a far more reliable way of getting their attention than hoping they notice it via algorithms.

Also be sure to link generously within the article to outside sources as well – this will increase your posts’ searchability and authority. Of course, if the helpful resources you link to happen to be on your firm’s website, then all the better.

Finally, LinkedIn suggest a topic theme each month – generic questions such as ‘The One Question I’m Always Asked’ that can be easily applied to any industry. Posts based around these are often featured if they can bring a new perspective to the answer.

Raring to go?

For a step by step guide on the nuts and bolts of putting your first article up there, this article by hubspot provides a clear, illustrated guide.


How Else Could our Microsites and Data Rooms Save you Time and Money?

September 28th, 2016

Our goal at Estatecreate has always been to help commercial surveyors sell property faster.

So we’re best known in the industry for our data room and microsite services to support the sale of commercial investment properties.

Our 24-hour turnaround on micro-sites means we can get a commercial property to market faster than anyone else. And our secure data rooms are the most efficient and convenient way to share documents, communicate with investors and learn where to channel marketing efforts.

But over the years, people have asked if they can use our services for a whole host of other purposes.

Honestly, some of these we wouldn’t have thought of ourselves. But it makes sense. When you can get a great looking site live at the drop of a hat, and combine this with the secure data room technology – well, there are all sorts of applications.

Here are some of the most popular alternative uses for our services:

Funding Opportunities

A beautiful site to showcase your project and an easy way to keep an eye on which investors are showing interest.

RFPs/Request for Tender 

Layout bidding terms and criteria. Allow bidders to upload their bids to the site up to the bid deadline.

Planning Consultation

A simple way to present the consultation, and make all required documents available to all relevant parties. Allow all interested parties to post feedback onto the site and publish FAQs throughout the process.

New Home Sites, incl. PRS

Our sites have been specially designed to showcase commercial property in the most effective way. But they work really well for residential new home developments as well. We can also work with your software supplier to manage availability and provide an online application process.

Managing Portfolios

Our sites are also used to manage large portfolios. The sites can be used for sharing key files, managing contact information and tracking lease renewal dates.


One last thing. This is by no means an exclusive list. If you’ve got an idea for how our sites and data rooms could help your workflow, please do get in touch as we are always interested in how we can develop our service further to meet a market need.

Founder Interview. Sam Zawadzki from Apply.Property

September 26th, 2016

He’s a serial entrepreneur and English Channel swimmer. Now Sam Zawadzki is on a mission to make property transactions simpler with his new product, Apply.Property. Here he talks industry insights, moving into the commercial market and being stung by jellyfish at 6am. 


Hi Sam, thanks very much for taking the time to chat to us. Let’s start with a quick ‘elevator pitch’ for Apply.Property.

Hi, you’re welcome. Apply.Property is a viewing booking and online application tool for agents. It’s like a 24/7 secretary for each agent, that helps get viewers into a property and then chases up offers and feedback. It helps agents manage their leads more effectively, and ensures landlords get the best price for their properties via a transparent online offer system.


So how did the idea come about?

I was working as a freelance digital consultant at the Yellow Pages, but really wanted to get back into doing my own projects full time. My past businesses were in all in the property sector, and when I looked at  industry I thought there was room for simplification. Uber makes it easy for me to book a taxi, I want the same simplicity for booking a viewing & making an offer.


What problems does Apply.Property solve?

I realised that agents are paying a lot of money to portals for leads that they don’t always make the most of. So I want to make sure agents get maximum value from each lead. It’s also about consumer experience, making it easy for this millennial generation that just wants to be able to tap a button on their phone and have a booking confirmed in their diary. And a large part of it for me was also about making every property it’s own mini marketplace. Having done rentals for quite a while in Edinburgh I knew it was a very competitive market, especially in the centre. You’d often have tenants bringing large amounts of money because they wanted to pay a deposit then and there, and people offering to pay more than the advertised price to secure the property. Having an online tool that allows tenants and buyers to offer above the asking price creates a mini marketplace on each property. So if you have two groups of tenants they can compete against each other on price and other factors like ability to pay rent in advance, or move in dates.


So what does the user process look like? 

The potential tenant or buyer sends in a request for a viewing through a portal like Rightmove or Zoopla, then the software will respond instantly with a link to the agent’s online calendar. The viewer can book directly onto that so there’s no need for human involvement there.

Once they’ve seen the property, if the viewer wants to make an offer they can also do this directly through the software, and fill in their offer online.

The agent can see everyone that’s made on offer on the property and compare all the variables like amount offered, move in date, length of lease etc. to help make their decision.

We’re taking away the to and fro via email between a tenant and an agent, making a huge time saving for the agent and making it way more useful for the consumer.

Essentially Apply.Property takes away all those admin tasks that are really important but are not really the core value of an agent, which is the human skill of being able to go into a property and sell it.

One way we pitch it to people is to say – “How much more work would your agent get done if they had a PA taking care of all the diary scheduling, the reminders, the follow up and offer collating?”


How has feedback been so far?

The agents that have used it have been really happy with it and we’ve seen some excellent results. One agent group put 32 properties through the system. Of those properties 73% have gone up in value because of the offer feature, with the average rental increase per property per year of  £1176. That also meant that individual agents made £150 extra each per property. So yes, there have been some really encouraging statistics from the offer feature, and some great feedback that it makes life lots simpler.

One of the key things from the lettings side is that the landlords love to see the applicant report. They think it’s really professional, a value added service and proof that the agent is getting them the best price.


Has anyone made the argument that a tool like this might actually not work in the tenant’s favour, as it’s putting prices up? 

Yes, we have heard that and there are two responses to this. Firstly, we’re very strict on not using the term ‘bidder-auction’ for our service, because bidder-auction means that just the person who pays the most gets the property. In this case people can offer above the asking price, but it’s not a guarantee of getting the property. For example someone might offer way more money for 6 months, but the landlord might prefer someone willing to take a 2-year lease but at a lower monthly rental. So there are lots of variables there.

Secondly, we see the economics of what we’re doing as quite Keynesian. We’re not doing anything that would make the property more or less valuable – we’re not doing anything to the environment like adding an extra bedroom or introducing a new school to the area.  All we’re doing is saying that if there are two groups of people who want to rent a property then the one who can pay the most, or rent for the longest or whatever should be the one that gets it. So we’re filling supply and demand. If anything, my long-term view is that as a landlord, if I get tenants who are willing to consistently pay more than market rental, it shows me I should buy another property and do it up to a nice standard and actually improve the rental stock in that area.


From a marketing perspective the data capture side of things must be really useful too?

Absolutely. There are some really large brands I’ve spoken too and asked the question – ‘if someone enquires for a viewing and you can’t facilitate it, do you remarket to them, or keep them on a database?’ – and it’s just nothing. It’s a black hole. There’s so much more that can be done and we can help facilitate that too.


Have you found any resistance to tech entering the industry? 

There is a real, real mix. I’d say it’s less about peoples’ attitudes to technology and more a resistance to sales. Agents in general continually get people selling stuff to them so when we’ve tried cold calling there can be a lot of resistance to any new technology.  But if we were to get a warm introduction to the same agent and they see all the benefits it brings them it would be a completely different conversation.

In general I would agree that the property industry has been a little bit slow to adopt new technology, but the stuff that’s going on with the major high street brands hybridising and buying online agents to improve their digital offering is really big in the market right now. There was a report this morning that said next year Purple Bricks will have a 10% share in the market which is a huge statistic. So I do think there’s more pressure than ever before for agents to adopt new technologies in order to survive in the market.

I think where financial technologies were 3 or 4 years ago is where property technology is now. People have realised this that this is a trillion pound market, it’s the biggest asset class and there are loads of improvements that can be made.


There are huge opportunities aren’t there?

Yes – it’s quoted to death but one example would be the difference between a taxi company and Uber. The innovations are actually really small – the only difference is that instead of calling a taxi company you tap your phone, and instead of having to have cash it just comes off your card. But that reduction of friction in the transaction – that tiny little process change – just has a huge impact. And it’s what we’re looking to do in our space – so you don’t have to call an agent or download a Word Document, but you can do it all online.


Do you see an opportunity to move this into the commercial property world?

Absolutely – the two fundamental things that we’re doing are firstly making it easier for people to get into the property and then make it easier for them to submit an offer. I don’t see any reason we wouldn’t move into the commercial space. We’ve had conversations with a couple of large commercial agents about this. Once we’ve grown a little bit I’d love to see us make an offer to the commercial space as well.


What adaptations might you have to make to do this?

A key thing for commercial would be slightly better lead scoring. With lettings and sales, there’s a lot of data that’s slightly less relevant, but in commercial I think there’s a lot of key information that can be scored about the leads, for example what kind of timeframe are they looking at. There’s also opportunity to build a profile based on properties they have been interested in the past.


What are your plans for growth over the next few years?

There are two routes. We want to grow this to be a sizeable UK business, which I think will take around 3 years. If we can do this and grow very quickly in the UK we’ll look at internationalising, taking the same services and facilitating that technology abroad. If we go down that path I see it as a 5 – 8 year commitment


Finally – I’ve got to ask about the Channel Swim I saw on your blog – what the hell was that like?

Really really tough. There was a huge amount of training, I was spending three hours in the pool a day, plus a lot of cold training in the sea. But it was a good challenge – and definitely one that I wouldn’t have completed without being part of a team. When you had other people relying on you, you can’t let the team down.


The jellyfish at 6am looked particularly nasty. 

There’s nothing crazier than seeing a cold sea full of jellyfish and thinking ‘I’m going to jump into that’


Thanks a lot Sam. What’s the best way people can follow your progress?

If you’re interested in what we’re doing send me an email to and I will keep you updated on our news. Also do have a look at our website


Why a newsletter might be the most effective marketing tool a commercial surveyor has. And 11 ways to create one that works.

September 26th, 2016

When the number of available marketing channels seems to increase by the month, how do you know which ones to focus on? Is social media as effective as everyone says? Should you be investing in Virtual Reality?

Well, maybe. But all the stats show that the returns on a newsletter are still higher than almost any other marketing method. And definitely higher than social media.

Newsletters are especially effective in industries where it’s important to build strong relationships with clients, but we don’t see or contact them very often. Like commercial property.

And yet, most companies don’t do it. Or if they do, it’s a Friday job for the intern. But there’s so much more that can be done.

We’ve been looking into this a lot recently. Mostly because want to make the Bird Dog one of the absolute must reads in your inbox. So we thought we’d share a little of what we’ve learned along the way.

Here are 11 best practice tips for a great newsletter:

1 – Give value

Your clients are busy people. So your newsletter has to be worth their time. To make sure it is, give them something worth reading. Insights into your area of expertise. Great articles they might not have otherwise discovered. Opinion pieces that widen their perspectives. And what ever you do, make sure that you…

2 – Don’t be boring

So many companies fail to get the most from their newsletter because they fill it with articles about themselves. Sales they’ve made. New divisions they’ve opened in the South-West. Or even worse, thinly disguised sales pitches of the kind you might get at a networking event. It’s the equivalent of a one-way conversation. After one or two of these, most readers are going to lose interest. The solution is actually quite simple (and fun)…

3 – Create your newsletter for the person, not the client

Your relationship with your clients is based on commercial real estate. But beyond their interest in real estate, there’s a complete, rounded person who enjoys – quite possibly – golf, great restaurants, holidays abroad… extreme sports?
Use your knowledge of your clients’ interests to create something rounded that they’ll enjoy. Don’t ignore your major common interest, but do acknowledge that they (and you) exist beyond this niche world.
If all this is sounding a bit overwhelming don’t worry. You haven’t got to create everything yourself. You can…

4 – Curate

This take some time. Quite a lot of time. But it’s worth it, because time is exactly what your client doesn’t have much of. If you are able to deliver interesting, valuable, relevant information on a regular basis then the trust this builds will pay dividends over time. So keep a folder where you collect all the interesting things you find over the course of the month. Pocket or Evernote are great tools for this. Look in places others might not go. Also, don’t forget…

5 – You are an expert

Make the content you do write the most valuable part of your newsletter. You can do this because you know the kind of questions your clients ask you, the kind of problems they have. There’s plenty you’ll know that they don’t. Write pieces that help them out. Explain terminology. Forecast trends. Give tips. But remember – always give value. Another way you can do this is…

6 – Make it look great

Design matters. How your newsletter looks communicates a lot about your company. Mailchimp has some great and customizable templates. If you can get a designer to help, even better. It’s worth it. A couple of good questions to ask yourself as a design brief are: How do I want my readers to feel? What do I want to say about who we are as a company? Once you’re happy with how it looks and the content…

7 – Test everything

Before you send, test that it looks good on every single platform going. Most people are going to read this on their phones. Check that it reads well on yours. And most importantly…

8 – Test subject lines

So many people spend a lot of time on a newsletter then rush a subject line at the last minute. But if you haven’t got a line that makes people want to click, all that effort has gone to waste. Many direct mail providers allow you to A/B test subject lines, then automatically send to the most effective one. There are whole books on what makes a great subject line, but testing your own is the most sure-fire way to learn what works for your audience. Just as important is to…

9 – Test timings

When are your audience most likely to have the time read your newsletter? 5.30 on a Wednesday? Almost certainly not. Think about their schedules. Do they check mail at weekends? Can you hit their downtime? Trial a few different times to see when gets the best results. When you’ve figured out what, how and when to send, remember one golden rule…

10 – Don’t bombard

We get so much spam these days. The easiest way to get on your customers nerves is to send too often. Once a month is fine. But once you’ve decided on a timeframe, stick to it. People appreciate consistency. Which is why…

11. Don’t give in at the first hurdle

You might not hear back straight away from your readers. And you might not get direct sales the first few times. But if you do it, and do it well, people will notice. Over time, it will be worth it.

One last thing. Sometimes it pays to get a little help putting your newsletter together. We get ours from Ben at Word Butler Copywriting. Give him a shout at

Ones to Watch. CompStak.

July 4th, 2016

Back when he was working as a broker, Michael Mandel noticed a problem. Long meetings discussing lease comps with little or no relevance to his own business. He knew that somewhere within it all lay important information, but it was taking too much time to get. So he designed CompStak. A novel way to source large numbers of lease comps, to allow surveyors, lenders and investors alike access to relevant, comprehensive lease comp data.

The company announced their arrival into the American big-time with a $565,000 seed funding round in 2012. Four years later they have raised a further $14million in investment, and are now moving into the London market.

How It Works

Surveyors, appraisers and researchers access the service free. They upload their lease comp data onto the platform. This gives them ‘credit’, which they can use to access data around other lease comps in their area. All entries are anonymous, and all new comps are analysed for accuracy before being added to the system.

CompStak generate revenue by offering the data to property investment firms, landlords and lenders. Initially this was on a subscription basis of around £25,000 per year, but last year the firm began to offer an on-demand service, allowing smaller companies to access the data as well. This saw a surge in usage, and has allowed them to pose a serious threat to the more established data giants, CoStar.

What it Means

With large numbers of agents uploading their lease comps, a vast database is accumulated. Agents can search quickly for relevant data, making the process of valuing and comparing the market more efficient and transparent.

In his own Words 

Michael Mandel explains what CompStak is about in an interview a couple of years ago.

We can’t afford to ignore the IoT

July 4th, 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) no longer the stuff of science fiction fantasy. It’s here, already affecting aspects of our lives. The Nest thermostat is perhaps the most popular example of this, using smart technology to learn the patterns of our lives, and adjust the temperature of our homes – by itself – accordingly.

It may yet be a while before we are living in the kind of Smart Home predicted by this video by Innovate UK, but for the commercial real estate world, IoT may arrive a little quicker than for the rest.  Research by Gartner predicts that commercial property will be the number one user of IoT over the next year. Partly, this is down to the larger budgets of commercial developers, but it’s also due to the myriad benefits it offers property owners.

From a surveyor’s point of view, it’s worth getting an understanding of two major elements of IoT. Firstly, the features and benefits that smart buildings offer. With more and more developments beginning to incorporate  IoT systems, the possibilities these offer will become major selling points for new commercial plots. And secondly, how to interpret the data generated by smart buildings to present to potential buyers; more accurate data allows them to make more informed decisions.

Let’s start with the benefits of connected, cognitive buildings. As with the Nest thermostat, much of the data collected is focused on making our buildings more efficient and cost effective. The various sensors all feed back into a network that essentially creates an automated, intelligent building management system.

The possibilities are close to limitless – every object within a building can be fitted with a sensor and connected to the net. The information this then relays back to the owner in a very specific way. In a shopping mall, foot traffic can be measured to assess where the most profitable areas of the mall may be. In an office space, machine learning can help decipher spaces where employees are more productive, and design work patterns to facilitate more productive working. In a block of residential flats, alerts can be sent to a landlord when maintenance is likely to be needed, improving relations with tenants and securing longer occupancies. It’s also estimated that smart energy systems can reduce costs of running a building by up to 30%.

Knowing the IoT features of a building and the potential benefits for investors will become an essential selling point as IoT becomes more commonplace in commercial property developments. This infographic from a Deloitte University gives a great overview of how IoT might be used in different types of buildings.

Another factor that will assist in sales is the fact that data collected by these smart buildings will give buyers a far more comprehensive picture than ever before of the investment they are making. Whether they are looking at a development plot or a pre-existing building, investors will have access to information such as traffic, crime, footfall and several other factors to help them make more accurate decisions.

Presenting these figures, and comparing them to other similar properties on the market will enable more informed purchases, for fairer prices. This has the potential to smooth the negotiations involved in buying or leasing a property – the ready comparisons in the market show what the property should be selling for, in a far more robust way than simply by postcode.

Understanding which data sets are most important for which types of commercial properties will allow surveyors to provide clients with more accurate and directly useful information.

There is even a suggestion that at some point in the future the very data collection capabilities of buildings will become valuable in themselves – that investors won’t just be buying the buildings but can use the data they collect to generate additional revenue streams.  Not everyone agrees with this, and the privacy issues involved naturally raise important questions.

One thing is for sure though – the IoT is here and it has the potential to change commercial property sales in a big way.

Connect your data rooms to your CRM

April 18th, 2016

Estatecreate data rooms can now feed data to update your CRM. What does this mean?

> We match your contacts in your data rooms to your CRM record. We then update your CRM with summary information on which data rooms your contacts have looked at and a summary of their activity in each one

> New contacts that enter their details into a data room are automatically created in your CRM;

Here is an example of the data we would pass across for “Henry Yates”:



Please call 020 7183 9088 or email if you have any questions.

Highflying marketing with state of the art drone photography.

April 18th, 2016

What’s the buzz about drones?

Your clients see exciting, never before possible, aerial views of development sites or buildings. Your marketing materials get that little extra fizz. And you can get it for a special once off price of only £295 plus vat .

Just purchase a marketing data room during 2016 (both your flight and the Data Room can be used any time within the next 12 months).

Then call us to arrange a site, a time and a brief. Our drone ‘pilots’ will take care of the rest.

Why are we offering this at such a cheap price? Well, we want the chance to showcase the benefits of two of our most popular products – our time-saving data rooms and our exciting drone photography – to a few new commercial surveyors.

And yes, obviously we’d love to continue helping you beyond this offer – to help build the kind of efficiencies into your workflow that have helped firms like CBRE, Colliers, Savills and Cushman and Wakefield sell their sites 3 times faster.

Want some highflying images for a fraction of the cost?  Get in touch today and we’ll arrange your flight. Don’t forget, you can use your flight and your data room any time over the next 12 months.  Call  020 7183 9088 or email