Tech start-ups battle it out for Westpac funding

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Tech start-ups battle it out for Westpac funding
Winner Josh Rowe, from realAs. Credit: iTnews.

House price prediction platform wins out.

A start-up offering an online platform that predicts the sale price of Australian properties has won $40,000 from Westpac and six months under the wing of start-up incubator BlueChilli, after besting five new businesses pitching their solutions to problems in real estate.

Westpac launched its inaugural innovation challenge in September, offering funding and training for a start-up with the most disruptive business solution for Westpac’s SME and commercial real estate customers.

Just over 100 applicants were whittled down to five over two months. The finalists were last night offered the opportunity to pitch their ideas in front of a live judging panel, which selected the ‘realAs’ property price prediction platform as the winner.

Already live for several months, realAs delivers home buyers and investors forecasts of what properties will sell for before they are snapped up.

It was developed by serial entrepreneur Josh Rowe, whose first start-up launched in the 1990s, offering web hosting to the then-limited internet user base.

After spotting what he identified as a hole in the market and setting out his vision to address it, Rowe approached RMIT to implement the realAs platform, while he retained the global license for the IP.

He last night successfully argued to the judges that the fact that his product was already operating in the market gave him an advantage, and that the funding would now go simply to scale rather than to growth and development.

He claimed almost two-thirds of his website’s predictions came within five percent of the final sale price, and 90 percent were within ten percent of the final price.

The value for real estate agents, he argued, was that by giving a vendor a realistic idea of what the property will sell for, the agent will be able to execute a sale more quickly.

“They can use it as a data point to say ‘hey, come on vendor, let’s be a little bit more realistic about the advertised price,” Rowe said.

The website  - which he said is currently attracting 100,000 browsers every month, 40 percent of which return - could also be used as a tool for homeowners to educate themselves on the value of their assets, even when they aren’t in the market to sell or purchase.

The judging panel agreed, and awarded the $40,000 funding pot and six month accelerator program with BlueChilli to Rowe and his team.

“It’s not easy to get into the 22nd floor of the oldest bank of Australia - I’ve worked in corporates before, and I really appreciate the opportunity to do that,” Rowe said.

“We plan to invest this money straight back into our product to make it much better for our customers, real estate buyers and agents."

The people’s choice award - which came with a large bottle of Mumm champagne - went to PropertyShares, a crowd funding platform for real estate investors.

The online investment platform aims to help people buy shares in private real estate properties, at values ranging from as little as $1000 to the entire share.

The platform, dreamed up by another serial entreprenuer Scott Price, brings property developers together with accredited investors looking for investment opportunities.

The company screens all development opportunities before advertising them on the site for investment, performing due diligence based on a number of criteria to ensure the developments on offer are high quality and managed for risk, Price said.

Property developers pay a fee to be listed. PropertyShares has started operations with accredited investors only, and plans to scale out when the model is proven.

“Some of you will throw your hands up and say ‘it’s too hard, there’s too much risk, there’s too much regulation’. But that’s exactly what was said about AirBnB and Uber,” Price said.

“Crowd funding in property in Australia will happen. It’s not a matter of what if, it’s when.”

Among the three remaining finalists were:

  • a mobile application to streamline the process by which tenants can apply and resolve repairs and other property issues with landlords, property managers and tradesmen;
  • the ‘StickyBeak’ solution, which places iBeacon technology inside for-sale properties to deliver relevant content to potential home buyers and allow real estate agents to ensure they are following up the most interested parties;
  • an app that analyses social media data to inform potential home buyers and renters how local residents rate an area they are looking to buy into.
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