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Proptech start-ups are using digital innovations to help take commercial real estate to new heights.

Colliers challenges 10 global start-ups in property technology accelerator program

While many sectors have stayed up-to-date with technology trends and helped establish industry standards, commercial real estate hasn’t always kept pace with change.

“Real estate has traditionally been slow adopting technology,” says Dylan Taylor, the president and chief operating officer of Colliers International. “The industry needs to catch up and innovate in order to better serve clients.”

One way the global real estate firm is hoping to fast-track technology innovation is through its new technology accelerator program: Colliers Proptech Accelerator, powered by Techstars.

In the start-up world, accelerators are vehicles to support early-stage companies with resources like education, mentorship and financing. Colliers created its accelerator program to identify and foster 10 start-ups in the commercial real estate space. These are companies active in property technology (proptech), offering products and services that aim to be part of digital transformation in the industry.

Mr. Taylor welcomes their new platforms and applications. “They can potentially disrupt the industry, and change it for the better,” says the Toronto-based executive.

The Colliers Proptech Accelerator, launched in February 2018, is a first-of-its-kind program. The worldwide competition drew more than 700 applications from 33 countries, with 10 companies carefully selected for investment. Representatives from each company, the “Class of 2018”, then travelled to Toronto for a 13-week program to refine their business plans, meet with venture capitalists and prepare for a presentation to investors and mentors this December.

Together, their solutions already hold promise for many diverse aspects of real estate operations, says Mr. Taylor.

Among the 10 start-ups are firms that will find the perfect retail location using demographic data, leverage wireless technology to enable predictive maintenance, and create digital marketplaces to help landlords monetize underused space.

Two of the firms in the class of 2018 program are Toronto-based. Lane is a tenant experience platform, offering an app that connects everyone in a building to all services and amenities, and acts as a news and information hub. Their goal is to drive greater tenant engagement and less turnover, say the start-up’s founders.

The other Toronto winner, MapYourProperty, simplifies the planning and development due diligence process. Users can search addresses in Toronto and neighbouring York Region, browse digital maps and zoning information, discover the property’s true development value, and analyze more than 50 regulatory data sets in minutes.

To create this accelerator Colliers turned to Techstars, a company that has done similar projects with leading companies in manufacturing, finance and entertainment.

Ben Liao, managing director of the Colliers Proptech Accelerator on behalf of Techstars, says Colliers has the resources and commitment to embrace progress in real estate through the implementation of new technologies.

“Real estate has been referred to as the great bastion of the global economy, with over $220trillion of assets around the world. However, the industry has yet to adopt technology at scale,” Mr. Liao says.

The goal of this program is to "serve as a catalyst to the industry to drive that change and adoption of technology," he says.

For Colliers, nurturing tech startups underscores an innovation agenda. Mr. Taylor is excited about the potential of harnessing big data, analytics, artificial intelligence and other new technology. He says it will drive insights and productivity for the industry.

After seeing the success that leading companies in other industries have had in sponsoring accelerator programs, Mr. Taylor was eager to follow suit. “Within each class there was a real game changer,” he says.

He is encouraged by the early results of the Colliers Proptech Accelerator.

“The class of 10 we selected is outstanding and is already impacting our business,” says Mr. Taylor.

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio, in consultation with an advertiser. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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