“A tipping point”: BlueChilli partners with Stockland on proptech accelerator, as corporate property firms open eyes to new opportunities


Chris Ball, senior vice president and head of partnerships at BlueChilli. Source: Supplied.

Australian startup accelerator BlueChilli has partnered with real estate giant Stockland to launch a new program tailored to early-stage property technology startups.

The Stockland Accelerator will see 40 applicants competing at an initial bootcamp, before 15 are selected for a six-month intensive program.

Successful startups will also receive a $38,000 investment, with the potential for up to $500,000 of additional funding.

Speaking to StartupSmart, Chris Ball, senior vice president and head of partnerships at BlueChilli, who has spearheaded the partnership, says the time is right to shine a spotlight on so-called ‘proptechs’.

BlueChilli receives hundreds of pitches every month, providing a “really good lens into the problems founders are tackling, and where talent is pooling”, he says.

Increasingly, there has been a lot of talent in the property startup space, he says.

There has also been “strong growth in venture capital in the proptech space,” Ball says, as well a change in the attitude of property corporates.

“We sensed that the rhetoric among corporates has hit a tipping point to actual action,” he says.

While until recently there has been a lot of legacy thinking in the traditional property space, there’s now a sense that corporations are “seeing the writing on the wall”, he adds.

But for these corporates, the ability to embrace disruptors, rather than fight them, is “absolutely critical”, Ball says.

“It’s a difference of life and death,” he says.

Whether it’s through an accelerator program or some other means, as in many other sectors, real estate corporates must engage externally to “set up partnerships with startups, other corporations and other organisations, to keep pace with that increasing rate of change,” he adds.

These aspects of talent, availability of capital and corporate interest haven’t necessarily lined up until now.

The talent has been there for a while, but “the capital and corporate appetite have only just started to come through”, he says.

The new accelerator is open to all early-stage startups, ranging from prototype to something “scribbled on the back of a napkin”, Ball says.

Ball says he expects to see “a real mixed bag” of technologies — including artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and automation — perhaps not traditionally associated with a by-definition bricks-and-mortar industry.

“That’s a big part of the challenge and the opportunity,” he says.

“A lot of these technology layers are largely unknown as to how they might work in the traditional real estate sector.”

AI, for example, could have the potential to reimagine valuations, which for many incumbents could be “a really tough thing to accept”.

Ball’s advice to startups even with the earliest twinkling of an idea that could change the property space, is “the best way to start something is to start something”.

“You don’t need to know precisely what the opportunity is or how to attack it, but getting started is really important.”

Accelerator programs allow for collaboration that is valuable to large organisations. By bringing in “a handful of the best entrepreneurs who are experts in their technology”, they can also provide those entrepreneurs with resources, sector expertise, their first customers and, crucially, their first funding.

“Any idea that is a great solution to a big problem, we want to hear about it,” Ball says.

NOW READ: How two co-founders of property management startup Pleased.Property went from launch to exit within two years

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