19:30 Thursday, 12 September 2019

Why a PropTech-study?

Popular education-workshop on PropTech (Property Technology) Part of an international study on Proptech by social geographer Desiree Fields

  • Increased digital innovation influencing real estate market over past 10 years
  • Need for critical knowledge base on PropTech
  • Research on PropTech business models includes workshops with activists in Berlin, London, San Francisco -> The workshops are part of the research project. It runs for a year and Desiree will be back in spring 2020

Why Berlin?

City is a hub for tech capital, corporate real estate businesses and has an active civil society

Overview of the content

  1. Critical approaches to PropTech
  2. PropTech business models
  3. Overview of alternative deployments of property technologies
  4. New technologies have always reshaped real estate practices
  5. Nowadays the digital is inseparable from the politics of housing


  • There will be more similar events, and also meetings for further discussion on the topics -> a newsletter will be created
  • Berlin Tech Workers Coalition is meeting regularly. That is a grassroots initiative for all people working in tech, from programmers to cafeteria staff (Tech Workers Coalition)
  • KiezDigital: every Thursday night until the end of the year (and hopefully next year as well), we can have the space at Oranienstr. 45 to work on the topic of the “digital city“ (from low-threshhold learning groups, to discussions and lectures).
  • Digital City Alliance: this is an alliance that critically accompanies the Berlin digitalization strategy that is being developed by the Senate Administration for Commerce, Energy and Enterprises (SenCEE - in german SenWEB, standing for Senatsverwaltung für Wirtschaft, Energie und Betriebe).
  • People that were involved in the protests against the Google Campus in Kreuzberg work on a “NoRocket“-initiative that deals with Rocket Internet and their network of tech- and real-estate-companies. The goal is to map these companies. If you are interested write an email to: annekathrinm@gmail.com
  • Tenants of Muskauer Strasse 24 want to deal with Spacebase -> “the airbnb for commercial space“
  • The Initiative “Kunstblock & Beyond“ deals with a new-project of the construction-company Pandion at Moritzplatz. They have created a poster showing the flows of capital financing this project. If you are interested in this, contact Pantea (pantea.lachin@gmx.de) or write to kunstblockandbeyond@protonmail.com
  • The collective for urban studies MetroZones works on Webtech-urbanism (metroZones Center for Urban Affairs Zentrum für städtische Angelegenheiten Centro para asuntos urbanos)
  • The Disruption Network Lab plans a conference on Real Estate in May.

Critical Approaches to Prop Tech

Theoretical context for perspective on digital technology

  • Algorithms and digital technology (AI etc.) are not neutral, objective and unbiased -> they are embedded in power-structures and reproduce and renew them
  • Data-Colonialism
  • Data as capital: exploitation

BUT: Very little research on the data/algorithmic tools used in housing, examples of that come from social welfare, job-application processes and critique on platforms like Amazon, Google etc.

Further reading: Marion Fourcade and Kieran Hesly: how does data is used to categorise us to form punishment/awards - an algorithmic/data-based inscription of inequality; Cathy O’Neill - Weapons of math destruction

What is PropTech? (Property Technology)

  • 18 Million dollars went in to PropTech last year alone -> growing market
  • Research hypothesis: PropTech is changing the social relation of rent (interaction with landlords, labor relations in real estate, and how people inhabit space)
  • Crunchbase is a good database to know more about companies in the field

PropTech is an industry-generated term, and uncritical usage threatens to essentialize tech as part of social phenomena (see for example the expression “to google something”) -> it is better to call it Platform Real Estate instead of PropTech. Because what is common today is the platform business model. It emphasises digital infrastructures, connection, value exchange and value capture. Platform Real Estate definition: digital hardware and software used to 1) enable “ownership or social occupancy of buildings…

Definition Platform Real Estate: platform business model applied on real estate / housing. Connection of different user-groups through digital infrastructures (App, Website, Tracker) and the reading out of their data (for example Uber: Drivers are being connected to passengers). With PropTech platforms it is the relationships mentioned above that are being provided and the data of which is being extracted Successful platform-based business models grow and then change / expand to other business models which is being made possible by the data gathered by the primary business model -> theoretically this process is never-ending

Prop Tech Business Models

Three categories of platform real estate: smart buildings, housing-as-a-service, operations & management

A. Smart buildings (Corporations like KIWI, Sensorberg, Allthings etc.)

  • Real Time control: Digital control of buildings through wireless internet connectivity, sensors, internet of things tech and mobile computing, autonomous of core building infrastructures
  • Case Study on KiWI and “Access as a service”:
    • managing building/apartment access for landlords to reduce their costs and labor involved in security, keys, etc.
    • charges fee per user or per door
    • They get a lot of information (DATA!) like who is getting in and out, who needs what kind of service etc.
    • 60.000 Units have integrated KIWI. About 3,1% of all Buildings in Berlin and about 1% of all buildings in Germany.
    • KIWI has a prominent partnership with Deutsche Wohnen since 2018:
    • Deutsche Wohnen as a financial interest in KIWI with an investment of 1.8 million euro. Deutsche Wohnen is also investing in other start ups like a gaming company developing map layouts
    • KIWI is being integrated in buildings as part of their modernization work and renovation

B. Housing-as-a-service (Corporations like Wunderflats, Home.ht, Quarters (co-living) etc.)

  • biggest business in Berlin
  • Mediation platforms between tenants and landlords (similar to property management companies)
  • Those corporations get long leases from landlords and rent it out in an agile way (like with furnishing, with digital locks, etc.) That way the landlord doesn’t have to be a landlord any more.
  • The appeal to tenants is that it is supposed to be a streamlined form of renting (viewing and signing the contract on an app).
  • Flats are equipped with “smart technologies” like smart locks -> overlap of Access-as-a-service and Housing-as-a-service
  • Darstellung: einfach, flexible, effektive Angebote für Wohnungen
  • Why do we need housing as a service?
    • Urbanization: growing cities, inadequate supply to meet increased housing demand
    • heightened mobility (rootlessness)
    • Growth of “on demand society” associated with digitization
  • Who uses Housing-as-a-service:
    • Core customer 22-32 years old, white collar/creative class; single, usually no kids, hyper-mobile and they are looking for community
  • a lot of offers in Berlin but also in Munich, Stuttgart etc. -> Supply of flats comes from Landlords that rent flats/houses in inner city locations that are sexy: urban metropolitan areas, well connected and reachable, with a certain kind of atmosphere
  • Corporations develop corporate partnerships with other “hip” companies to reach steady supply of core customers (for example VEGANZ, Google, Netflix, etc).

C. Operations & management (corporations like Mietwise, Home.ht, housy, rented.de)


Lichtenrader Strasse 12, Berlin 12049


Children are welcome. Unfortunately, it is not wheelchair accessible. We will try to ensure that future venue spaces are accessible.

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