As it currently stands, the property industry both locally and abroad is one of the few industries that have not yet been disrupted by tech or innovation. For Flow CEO Gil Sperling, this was a golden opportunity to execute an incredible vision.
“Compared with any other industry, the property industry – and in particular the rental market – is archaic and disconnected. There’s also a massive paradigm shift in how people should rent, which is inspired and driven by their lifestyle choices, and is something ‘proptech’ could leverage big time,” Gil says.
“People are now used to being connected constantly and transacting digitally, all in real-time. They want transparency in their dealings with companies, this includes their landlords. These are some of the key factors that inspired the creation of Flow. Through scaling with technology and economies of scale, we can revolutionise the economics of rent, providing a more seamless experience and more value to tenants.”
Globally, proptech is one of the fastest growing sectors. In 2017, venture capitalists pumped $12.6 billion into this sector, with WeWork and Compass leading in terms of funds raised. Softbank invested $4.4 billion in WeWork and $450 million in Compass. US-based real estate tech firms comprised nearly $6.5 billion (or 52%), of the venture capital funding raised in 2017.
As opposed to other tech companies, Flow has noticed a gap in the market and is largely focused on a very specific subset of people: Millennial residential property renters.
The demand for rentals among millennials is on the rise and it’s easy to see why. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey of over 10 000 people born between 1983 and 1994, the research found that freedom and flexibility were key workplace priorities for this age group. This could be extended to the world of property too. Because of this desire to have more freedom, millennials tend to settle down later and want a more transient lifestyle which means they’re renting rather than buying. Property prices have also increased across the board, making home ownership increasingly unaffordable for younger generations.
Millennials have become increasingly familiar with using technology to meet their needs – yet when it comes to renting an apartment or a house, the entire rental process is still very manual; lacks transparency and clear communication while leasing. Flow is setting out to drive the digital innovation that is desperately needed within the rental market.
Gil, along with Co-Founders Daniel Levy and Jonathan Liebmann, come from three very different backgrounds, yet they all have serious expertise in their respective fields. Gil started his career as an engineer and Daniel as a lawyer. Together with a third partner, they founded Popimedia, an ad-tech and performance marketing company that partners with tech giants like Facebook.
After exiting Popimedia to France-based global communications group Publicis, they identified opportunities in the proptech space and joined forces with Liebmann, a property disruptor and innovator best known for creating the highly successful Maboneng Precinct in downtown Johannesburg.
For these three serial entrepreneurs, Flow is the vehicle that brings their various expertise together into one offering and aims to disrupt the proptech market in South Africa.
Thanks to the big ambitions, passion, drive and unique skill sets of the three partners, their hope with Flow is to collectively make a big impact and empower “Generation Rent”. By making the rental market in South Africa better for tenants and landlords, this will have a positive knock-on effect on South Africa’s economy at large.
HOW THE APP WORKS
Tenants will register with Flow and get rewarded with points after completing certain actions such as paying rent timeously, taking care of their home and filling in property details. The more points a tenant generates, the better their chances are of winning prizes from lifestyle, homeware, travel and fashion brands (namely Superbalist, Weylandts, SweepSouth and OneCart) who we have partnered with. Exceptional tenants will be able to receive 20% of their rent back in rewards every month.
Read more in the May 2019 issue of Fast Company SA