Interview: Andrew Miles, Co-Founder, Realla.
What is Realla, and how was it founded?
Realla is a search engine for commercial property, which also provides sophisticated tools for removing the “grunt” work from agents’ lives. I founded Realla with Ian Parry in 2014 after spending five years in British Land’s investment team; Ian had co-founded and eventually sold Globrix, a successful residential search engine, giving us a mix of property and technology expertise. We now have a team of nine, and have a series of strong backers from the property world including Tower 42 owner Nathan Kirsh’s family office, and Travelex entrepreneur and The Office Group backer Lloyd Dorfman. The idea is to provide the definitive search engine for agents, occupiers and investors, and we already have an index covering one billion sq ft of space in the UK. The search engine is free-to-list and we drive traffic for free directly back to agents’ websites. Backing up that search engine we have a series of advanced marketing automation and deal management tools – website and PDF creation, emailing, tracking and interest schedules etc. – which will take the “grunt” work out of agents’ lives. We are already working with five of the top 10 property advisers in the UK – including JLL – who see the potential in what we can do.
How will Realla change the property market?
We can help bring occupiers together with agents marketing properties, and their landlords, far more efficiently than any traditional marketing campaign. Marketing a 500,000 sq ft office development isn’t our target; our sweet spot is smaller disposals up to 10,000 sq ft and investment sales under £10m, where the “admin load” of transactions is high relative to the fee. We want to reduce this admin load. The agency world is changing: the long tail of small disposals which ties up so much of agents’ time with admin will be empowered by innovations like Realla, leaving agents to focus on the high-value work like advising clients, generating competitive tension and closing deals. Agents who recognised these trends early, like the Hatton Real Estate Founders, have done and will continue to do very well. I think the collapse in the middle tier of the agency world will continue. Global firms like CBRE & JLL, will do well leveraging their global footprint, focusing on large deals and large consulting contracts – a globalising world favours this dynamic. Local specialists like Farebrother in Midtown and Ingleby Trice in the City of London will thrive because of deep expertise and very high levels of client service. Individually, recognised “closers” like Stephen Lewis will always do well, of course.
What’s the basis for a successful proptech business?
I loved working at British Land, but I’d always been interested in technology. I also thought we were at the beginning of a wave of innovation because property is an enormous industry which until now had been insulated from the digital world. I’m also big on collaboration, so the catalyst for me to start afresh was meeting Ian. A lot of the best ideas for any industry are devised by insiders, but you need a first class business partner from the tech world as well.