The inaugural Mipim Proptech fair which took place in Paris at end-June is likely to become a fixture of the European real estech scene, writes Judi Seebus.
Most European real estate professionals associate Mipim with Cannes, yachts and champagne but the organisers of the annual event in March have added another French location to the Mipim diary. In June this year, Reed Midem, the exhibitions unit of Anglo-Dutch information company RELX Group (formerly Reed Elsevier), launched the first European edition of Mipim Proptech in the French capital.
The Paris event follows the inaugural Mipim Proptech fair held in New York last November and brings the total number of Mipim events in Europe to three. In October, the organisers are due to hold the fourth edition of Mipim UK in London.
Mipim’s Paris event was significantly smaller than its far more mature spring counterpart, but it has all the ingredients of becoming a recurring date on the annual real estate calendar. Held at the Palais des Congrès, bang in the middle of the number 1 metro line running directly underneath between the Arc de Triomphe and La Défense business district, Mipim Proptech was conveniently located and refreshingly compact.
The glamour and glitz of the Riviera were absent, but Mipim knows how to throw a party. The sunset view of the Eiffel Tower at the champagne reception – hosted at the Faust discotheque on the left bank of the River Seine near Pont Alexandre III – on the eve of the fair certainly made an impression on both young and older attendees.
The following day, it took a while for the rooms on the third floor of the Palais des Congrès to fill up, but once they did there was a buzz not unlike that normally witnessed at Mipim in the bunker of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes which lasted, according to the organisers, until the very end of the fair. ‘We deliberately created a large networking area and the area was full until 6 pm on the last day,’ My-Lan Cao, spokesperson for Mipim Proptech, told PropertyEU.
The free Nespresso coffee bars were also well frequented by what can only be described as an atypical Mipim audience. To be sure, there were some suited gentlemen and high-heeled ladies on site, but the dress code was far more relaxed than for Mipim in Cannes, with most fair-goers opting for jeans and sneakers or even Birkenstocks rather than pinstripes and leather lace-ups or brogues.
Like the main Mipim event in Cannes, French visitors were in the majority at Mipim Proptech in Paris, followed by delegates from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. According to the organiser, over 1,500 international visitors attended the inaugural event. Roughly 10% were investors and included representatives from Aareal Bank, Aberdeen Standard Investments, AEW, Allianz Real Estate, APG, Australian Super, AXA IM – Real Assets, Bouwinvest, ING, Ivanhoe Cambridge, La Française, NREP, Patrizia, PGGM, TH Real Estate and Union Investment. Altogether 47 different nationalities were represented.
While Mipim Proptech certainly felt just as international as its bigger brother in Cannes, in other respects it felt quite different. The audience was not only more casually dressed, the average age of the attendees was younger and interaction appeared to more direct, thanks not least to the format of the show with its ‘flash talk zone’ taking a prominent place in the programme alongside the more formal panel discussions and keynote speeches. A live demonstration of the first real estate transaction on blockchain aiming to improve the fluidity, transparency and reliability of a real estate transaction, was conducted by HBS Research to a packed auditorium.
There was also a good mix of old school real estate professionals, techies and potential disruptors on the panels. Speaking with a CEO-led panel of property executives on how real estate is adapting to a rapidly changing environment, Chris Grigg, CEO of British Land summed up the dilemma facing traditional real estate players. ‘If you make a mistake in real estate it’s there for people to see for a long time, breeding conservatism in attitudes toward changing the system.’ Some disciplines within the industry will experience faster change than others, but one thing is clear, he added. ‘Disruptive technologies will speed up the movement of things in the industry.’
Three international technology leaders delivered keynote speeches to raise awareness about artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Rand Hindi, founder of the start-up Snips and a leading figure in artificial intelligence (AI), highlighted how providing connected objects with AI could free us from the dangers of technology. ‘The aim is to have AI so intuitive that you can stay hyper-connected without feeling connected yourself.’
While a diverse group of players in the real estate and tech chain were welcomed on stage, the spotlight was really focused on the diverse group of proptech start-ups themselves which dominated the booths in the exhibition. Their key role culminated in the announcement of the winners of the first stage of the Mipim Start-up Competition 2019, which will now move to New York and Hong Kong during the Mipim events held in these countries, with the grand finale taking place at Mipim 2019 in Cannes. Organised in partnership with Metaprop NYC, the competition singled out Sensorberg from Germany and Spaceti from the Czech Republic as the winners of the first stage of the 2019 edition.