5Q PropTech Interview – Julia Arlt Global Digital Real Estate Leader at PwC

5Q PropTech Interview – Julia Arlt Global Digital Real Estate Leader at PwC

1. You have a hugely dynamic profile and background. Could you describe briefly who you are? 

Julia Arlt is a serial entrepreneur with global hands-on experience with digital real estate startups from pre-seed to established companies.

Currently Global Digital Real Estate Leader at PwC, Julia focuses on strategy, digital real estate advisory, new product development, fundraising, M&A and startup collaboration.

A recognized leader, Julia has over 50,000 followers on LinkedIn, Twitter and as subscribers of her newsletter, which she started in 2015.

Julia has an MBA in finance, a Masters in marketing, a Bachelors in human resources and a hospitality degree from Marriott Hotel.

A passionate speaker, author, mentor and mother of two teenage boys, Julia is heavily engaged in many areas in the PropTech and real estate space.

 

RESEARCH & TEACHING

Beyond her popular newsletter, Julia is regularly published including the popular book PropTech101, a foundational and downloadable resources directory created in collaboration with MetaProp, an early-stage VC firm focused on PropTech that has invested in 100+ technology companies.

Providing up-to-date insights about the innovation ecosystem, Julia is a resource for MetaProp’s Global PropTech Confidence Index.

In collaboration with BUILTWORLD, Julia is a contributing member of both the ConTechMap, a virtual ecosystem of construction startups that competed for the recognition, and PropTechMap, an organized listing of Europe’s top 100 PropTech companies that applied for the competition.

An avid supporter of recognizing disruptive companies and those who start them, Julia also teaches graduate students at MetaProp’s Accelerator at Columbia University which boasts over 80 mentors, world-renowned corporate partners, and extensive media reach.

 

STARTUPS & VC

Julia connects startups and investors from all over the world as a bridge mentor at MetaProp NYC and as a startup mentor at Plug&Play Real Estate Tech.

Julia regularly supports a handful of top-notch VCs in fundraising, deal selection, strategy, and partnerships.

Keeping her hands on many projects, Julia is on several advisory boards for PropTech startups.

One of these, spaceOS, is a platform for flexible, safe and human-centric workspaces that is powering the future of office real estate and flex space.

WorkClub, which gives instant access to flexible workspaces, meeting rooms and laptop-friendly areas, is another and Basking, an AI and Wi-Fi-based workplace analytics platform, is yet another.

Overall, Julia has her fingers on the pulse of the CRE and PropTech worlds and is regularly making introductions to potential investors and clients while helping with business development and strategy, expansion plans, marketing, social media, events and more.

 

EVENTS

Most recently in 2020, Julia co-founded FuturePlace, the leading intelligence platform for digital real estate in Asia Pacific.

FuturePlace connects the world’s largest and most influential owners, developers, and operators of the built world with PropTech/ConTech entrepreneurs and investors.

A co-founder of FUTURE PropTech (exited in 2019 and now part of CREtech) in Europe, Julia also established the Austrian PropTech Initiative to support the industry around her place of residence in Vienna as well as the PropTech Vienna Event.

She is a member of the global awards committee at the NYC Real Estate Tech Week, a jury member of Propel by MIPIM, as well as part of the BUILTWORLD advisory board and the CREtech leadership board.

My favourite topics:

1. Sustainability (Buildings and their construction account for 39% of global carbon dioxide emissions annually – we must act NOW together)
2. Well-being (inside & outside of buildings, physically & mentally)
3. Diversity & inclusion (being half Afghan, female in a leading real estate position, dealing with dyslexia and a chronic illness)

More than anything she enjoys her role of an active mom of two amazing teenage boys.

What has brought you to where you are today?

Well, real estate is the largest asset class in the world and it is one of the least digitalized and I thought that’s a great challenge to work on.

Digital real estate is about people, investing, finance, innovation, networking, marketing /distribution channel, transformation and collaboration – together we can make a difference!

Buildings and their constructions account for 39% of global carbon dioxide emissions annually.

This presents a huge opportunity to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the climate crisis and PropTech will play a huge part in it. I simply love what I do.

 

2. Your role was a newly created position within PwC. How did you encourage a workforce to engage with PropTech, an area that perhaps lacked expertise even in recent years?

Finding and retaining talents is hard regardless of the industry.

Given how fast technology is advancing, there will no longer be a workforce who has the exact expertise.

The focus on expertise is an outdated concept.

The next generation of talents are those who have a curious mind, a growing attitude, coupled with a relentless pursuit of mission.

On top of that, I agree with Stephen Schwarzman, who said in his new book, that “place an emphasis on hiring people who are nice, thoughtful and considerate of others – I will never hire someone based on talent alone”.

At PwC we have an amazing group of over 5k smart dedicated real estate professionals, and we make $bn’s in revenue in real estate alone.

Therefore, building a global team of digital real estate experts was a logical consequence of the company’s past success.

Each country has a real estate territory leader and they ensure that they develop great digital real estate capacity on the ground.

Also, our Global Real Estate Leader Craig highly encouraged and supported this initiative and foremost our globally renowned real estate clients ask for digital real estate services!

 

3. In your opinion, has the current pandemic helped to accelerate the digital transformation within the RE industry?

The real estate sector has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in unprecedented ways.

Over the past year, the startups that are simplifying processes by reducing the need for face-to-face interactions or digitizing physical processes have had the opportunity to shine.

More importantly, this pandemic has changed the mindset in the industry.

For years, real estate leaders were notoriously cautious and hesitant in adopting new technologies.

Through COVID-19, the corporate real estate market understands tech is a must-have – a mindset shift which may take a decade.

With a wider acceptance of tech, I’d expect more innovation in real estate will emerge in the near future.

These innovations will be focused on solving problems and challenging the status quo.

What the financial crisis was for FinTech is COVID-19 for PropTech.

The future is not an extension of the past and we must embrace change, agility, uncertainty and it’s a huge cultural shift for the corporate real estate players to test and integrate technology solutions.

 

4. According to you, which PropTech vertical has the most potential currently and why? 

I heard a saying that “PropTech is the new FinTech”, and I agree with it.

Change in the industry is no longer enough, but a true transformation.

While the whole industry will endure a fundamental shift, the construction industry, in particular, will be vertical which is crying for a digital upgrade. Construction is known as one of the least digitized industries.

For example, the productivity in construction has been flat for decades, especially when compared with manufacturing, where productivity has nearly doubled. I see a lot of opportunities for construction tech.

Think about it – factories have been automated for decades, whereas construction still heavily relies on labour.

Technologies like 3D-printing, LiDAR, pre-fabrication, and robotics will challenge the conventional ways of how we build and construct.

COVID-19 will accelerate the transformation in construction.

 

5. What is the biggest challenge that you have faced, if any, as a female in the PropTech industry?

It’s a widely known fact that women are under-represented in tech as well as in real estate. PropTech is no exception.

The biggest challenge we face is not having enough women who are making investment decisions.

The current system of startup funding puts women entrepreneurs at disadvantage.

Based on a World Economic Forum survey, men make up 91% of the venture capital industry’s executive ranks.

Female founders received 2.2% of $130 billion in VC funding in 2018.

The number of deals completed by female founders is growing, though the percentage of money going to these companies remains stagnant.

Investors need to be aware of the lack of diversity in their board rooms as trickle-down effects.

I am very focused on tackling the diversity issue with my partners by bringing a network together to support, mentor, and coach young women entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals.

The good news is diversity and inclusion are becoming main-stream, and I believe the next generation of entrepreneurs and investors will find more success from a more diverse workforce.

My message to all females out there: You can have it all, a family, a leading position, loving your job and doing good – don’t settle for less, fight for it!

 

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