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A North American PropTech View with Ember Hansen, Biproxi

1.8.22

Welcome to ‘A North American PropTech View, by Tabitha Francis’ our Q&A focused on North American PropTech’s.

Our Q&A series is an opportunity for our North American team to discuss all things PropTech, Start-ups, and Career with different founders from across the region. Each week we will ask PropTech innovators burning questions and quiz them about their product, we hope you find it insightful and enjoy getting to know the founders as much as we have.

This week we have been in touch with Ember Hansen, Co-Founder of Biproxi.

Biproxi is the CRE marketplace built for serious buyers and sellers. We match the right investor with the right deal at the right time.

How did you find yourself working in the PropTech sector?

If I’m being truthful, it was sort of accidental.  I spent the majority of my career leading marketing & sales teams in SaaS (everything from learning management to adtech). I was connected to my two co-founders – Tabitha Satterfield & Gordon Smith – to consult on the demand generation front. They previously worked together at Ten-X – the largest CRE auction platform in the US –  and highlighted the gaps in the landscape from years of being hands-on. As a vertical-agnostic software marketer, I was blown away by the incredible amount of opportunity for innovation in this space. Long story short, here I am today.

 

At what point did you realize there was a gap in the market for Biproxi, and how did you conduct your research into it?

While there are a large number of proptech companies solving various challenges, proptech – especially CRE – is a relatively nascent industry. Our residential counterparts are years ahead of us and – by contrast – there are only a couple of really established players in the CRE space. 

We looked at all of the solutions out there and set out not to just copy and compete, but to truly rethink the way that CRE professionals get deals done. 

In terms of how we conducted research, we did it the old fashioned way – we talked to a lot of people.

We lean heavily on our Broker Council – 35 of the top CRE brokers in the US – to help us get to the core of their challenges, flesh out ideas and help us rapidly iterate on our products. 

We’ve also talked to hundreds (if not thousands) of real estate investors about where current CRE solutions are failing them. It turns out, we heard a lot of things like “I’m a very established investor in the Chicago area and looking to invest in Florida – I can’t even get a broker to call me back. They just want to show their sellers they got a lot of leads and then end up steering the deal to someone they know anyway.” 

On the other side of the coin, we heard brokers tell us “yeah, it’s nice to get 400 leads, but most of them are kicking tires – they’re not serious, not qualified and I don’t have time to call everyone back”. 

When both sides of the market are feeling like they’re underserved, you know there is an opportunity.

 

How does your value proposition differentiate you from competitors?

The first and most important thing that makes Biproxi unique is our community. Our marketplace is built for serious investors and brokers. We take a proactive approach vs. a passive approach. Most listing sites are passive – you put up your listings, blast it to thousands of buyers and hope the right buyer happens to see your listings. On average, only 18% of those emails actually get opened & most get deleted immediately or sent to a folder that never gets read. It’s a bad experience for brokers and it’s a bad experience for investors.

Biproxi connects brokers directly with investors that are actively searching for deals that match their listings. This allows them to start a meaningful 1:1 conversation. The chances of investors responding to personalized outreach from a broker? 76%.

The second thing is that we put transaction tools directly in the hands of brokers. For example: we looked at the traditional online CRE auction process and found

  1. They’re expensive (3-5% of the transaction plus marketing and facilitation costs) and 
  2. It takes all of the control away from the broker. 

We knew there had to be a better way, so we built the first and only self-service auction product on the market. Brokers can run their own auction processes without the fees and on their own terms.

 

What challenges are you facing within the real estate landscape in the current climate?

It’s really amazing how quickly market sentiment has changed given 2021 was the biggest year for CRE ever. The landscape at large is shifting rapidly – widening cap rates, more expensive money, return to office stagnation, income quality – there are a lot of unknowns right now. Typically, CRE has been a great place to park money to hedge against inflation, but we’re seeing a lot of factors converge at once. Is it all gloom and doom? Absolutely not. There will be incredible opportunities that present themselves – they just won’t likely be as frequent or as obvious.

 

What does the next year hold for your company? What are your expansion plans?

We’re continuing to double down our guiding principle:  “how can we continue to match the right investors with the right opportunities at the right time”. This means investing a lot of resources in building our investor community, encouraging quality interactions and bolstering our data products.

 

Future of North American PropTech, what do you think is going to be important this year?

PropTech companies are going to have a two-front battle to fight:

1-The overall real estate landscape – for all of the reasons I listed above, proptech companies are going to have to ask themselves “how do we help buyers and sellers find an edge and highlight opportunity where it doesn’t seem like there is any.”

2- Their own business fundamentals – proptech companies that rely on transaction volume to survive may need to take a hard look at their business models and adjust with the changing climates. How do you continue to provide value and grow through uncertainty – a lot of this comes down to really honing in on how to make your product a necessity, not a luxury. 

 

What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the PropTech industry?

Patience & perseverance. There is an incredible amount of room for innovation and upside in this industry if you’re able to stick it out. The biggest challenge is that – in addition to being the world’s largest asset class, it’s also one of the oldest. We’re not just talking several decades of institutionalized behavior that other tech companies face, we’re talking literal hundreds of years of institutionalized behavior. Challenging the status-quo in CRE is just plain harder. 

The mentality is also different. CRE has made a lot of people a lot of money over the years & people are very protective of their processes, ideologies and the things that historically created massive amounts of wealth. 

Patience, perseverance and “approaching it with curiosity”, as my co-founder, Tabitha Satterfield always says.

What are your thoughts about the current fundraising landscape in PropTech?

Raising money in any vertical looks different than it did even 6 months ago, but I think the core principles will still apply. Investors will likely continue to shy away from late-stage, high-burn companies and focus on earlier-stage, high potential companies that have a clear path to revenue. I think there is still going to be a lot of interesting funding available for newcomers with promising ideas and solid business plans.

LMRE are specialist PropTech recruiters, if you need help growing your business or making any key hires please get in touch via the form below!

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