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A United Kingdom PropTech View with Tom Robins, Switchee


Welcome to ‘A United Kingdom PropTech View, by Duncan Kennedy, our Q&A focused on United Kingdom PropTech’s.

Our Q&A series is an opportunity for our UK 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 Tom Robins, CEO at Switchee.

Switchee improves the quality of life for people living in rented homes. It is Switchee’s mission to fight fuel poverty and provide social housing provider’s with remote data insights that cut maintenance costs and improve resident well-being. Switchee enables social landlords to hit challenging financial and environmental targets with real time, remote data analytics. A personalised platform identifies condensation, damp or mould risk and flags fuel poverty. Switchee transforms resident engagement and appointment scheduling via a two way in-house communication display.

How did you find yourself working in the PropTech sector?

I have been working with housing providers from a number of different technology angles for some time and when I heard the Switchee proposition, it was very appealing. I believe that in ten years time every rented home will have an IoT device to improve the quality of life for the resident and cut operating costs for the landlord – and of course we will do our very best to make it a Switchee.


What does your role entail at Switchee?

As CEO my role is to get out of the way of our leadership team and support them so they have everything they need to do great things. I keep close contact with customers and our product engineering team so we can resource solutions for their challenges as fast as they occur. I also get the opportunity to look further ahead as we take Switchee away from our UK core market and into Europe.


At what point did you realise there was a gap in the market, and you had the product/service for it?

Switchee was founded in 2014 to reduce carbon emissions and fight an injustice; people who can afford their heating bills can buy smart tech to reduce them but people who struggled with their heating bills didn’t have access to the same technology. As we have evolved our relationship with landlords, we have found a need for a broader range of capabilities from our IoT platform. We now offer connectivity (insights, analytics, data), control (boilers, heat pumps, solar, energy storage) and communication (messages, surveys, appointment booking) all from one device. 


What are the challenges in the UK PropTech for your company?

In our market we have seen a lot of evolution as we have progressed from the innovators to the early adopters. We still need to cross the chasm though to the early majority and that is where we are focusing our go to market strategy.


What are the long-term plans for your business in the UK?

We want to be synonomous with enabling landlords to move from reactive to proactive in UK social housing. While our customers manage ⅓ of the UK’s social housing stock by volume, we have much to do before Switchee is the new normal for many of them. We will stay focused on our founding purpose to improve the quality of lives of people living in rented homes with more actionable insights, easier integrations with existing systems and enriched features.


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

We have opened Switchee NL and are working hard to validate and localise our offering to the Dutch market. We hope to open a further European office every year for the next three years. While we have much to learn, I see the same core benefits for resident’s across northern Europe as we have proven in the UK.


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

Government support from BEIS has been instrumental in our sector as a pump prime for new technology and ways of working. This year will see some of the first legislation that sets standards and hurdles for landlords which can only be met using new technologies and ways of working. The move from innovation into practice is exciting to be part of and the next big step in a long journey.


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

Ask your potential customers why they won’t buy your product. Understanding the barriers to change are critical to success. Answers like ‘we’ve always done it that way’ are exciting opportunity gold mines. But if your product requires transformational change not incremental change then you could be in for a longer journey than you planned. 


What are your thoughts about the UK Fundraising landscape?

I have heard a lot of horror stories about deals falling apart at the last minute and money drying up. I haven’t see that on our journey though. I see the leading PropTech VCs going from strength to strength and the ESG investment space is full of people looking to back worthy businesses.

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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