By Vincent Mariel P. Galang
VENTURE capital firm Cento Ventures is raising funds for its new “proptech” fund focused on the real estate sector in Southeast Asia.
Proptech is a term that refers to start-ups offering technologically innovative products and services for the real estate market.
“Cento Ventures’ Proptech fund is a specialized sector fund that looks to invest in high potential startups across APAC (Asia-Pacific) to deliver products or solutions tailored for the APAC real estate sector,” Pauline Chong, principal at Cento Ventures, told BusinessWorld in an email interview last month.
She said Cento Ventures takes a disciplined approach in selecting portfolio companies, with the aim of developing “winners.”
“The investment team combines real estate domain expertise with regional VC experience to ensure a holistic approach to investment selection. What winning proptech business models will have universally is an ability to have a scaled solution, strong revenue sources which eventually translate into quality earnings,” Ms. Chong said.
While the real estate sector in emerging markets has not yet been fully disrupted by technology, Ms. Chong noted there are start-ups offering solutions to make things easier for developers.
“We are seeing solutions focused on helping developers sell their inventory in an easy way, to manage their selling agents and enabling real time bookings to occur via mobile app. We are seeing interesting start-ups address issues around rent-to-own models which target home affordability issues and tackle problems of excess property stock for developers by providing such solutions,” she said.
There are also solutions being developed for property management, which help tenants connect with landlords to request services or schedule tasks.
“As customer expectations increase, real estate owners and operators will need to deliver more to keep up,” Ms. Chong said.
The Asia Pacific region still has to catch up in proptech investments.
“Investment into proptech in APAC was $4-billion in 2018, vs. global proptech funding of $15-billion. APAC is still in the early stages of funding proptech start-ups. Majority of funding did go towards co-living, co-working as initial investment themes for proptech,” she said.
“Consumers and tenants are leading the way for proptech adoption. Businesses are starting to review how to implement technology in their businesses to improve efficiency and enhance customer experience as a result,” she noted.
Cento Ventures has invested in GoQuo, a travel e-commerce solutions provider based in Malaysia; Kalibrr, a job-matching website which is present in the Philippines and Indonesia; and Grain, an on-demand food preparation, marketing, and delivery service based in Singapore.