The Genesis of An Idea
As Published in RICS Modus Global Edition - Sept 2018
What makes a start-up succeed is fully understanding the problem you’re trying to solve, or, if you like, what makes you angry,” says Tripty Arya. “If someone is looking at building a proptech business they either need to have experienced the problem as a consumer or be very close to the problem. Without passion you won’t make changes.”
It was on these principles that, in 2013, Arya set up Travtus, a property maintenance platform that automates jobs for residential property managers. She observed that real estate is an industry with a lot of depth – buildings, repairs, tenants – but property managers are so busy dealing with everyday issues that they don’t see the bigger picture.
Travtus connects residents, management and maintenance staff, collecting residents’ requests in a single database and sending jobs directly to contractors’ phones. Tenants can log issues on their phones and managers are able to analyse trends to identify problem areas affecting whole floors or buildings, improving efficiency and saving money. “Our users manage 6,500 residential units in London and 13,000 in New York,” says Arya.
The big development this year is the launch of Adam, Travtus’ version of Siri or Alexa – a digital property manager driven by artificial intelligence and voice recognition. Adam can talk and text, take calls from residents and book jobs. It prompts the caller to say what the problem is and which day would be convenient for the work to be done, checks the availability of the workman and schedules the job with the resident all in one call. Adam can even send suggestions of equipment needed to the workman’s phone.
Adam was launched in April, and clients on both sides of the Atlantic are currently piloting the innovation, among them JLL and Cluttons. “Adam is live in New York and London, people are getting quite excited about it,” says Arya, emphasising the importance of feedback for start-ups, good or bad. “Feedback is the elixir we live on, it’s what enables us to make changes and develop.”
Arya developed Adam with the help of MetaProp, the New York-based proptech accelerator that helped provide seed funding for Travtus’ AI innovation. The company graduated from MetaProp’s Accelerator programme in February 2018. “MetaProp encouraged us – they were a critical part of Adam’s development,” she enthuses. “We absolutely love them.”
Arya agrees with Beringar’s Sorsa-Leslie on the industry’s previous lack of appetite for adopting technology. “I’ve noticed that the property industry is about five years behind other industries,” she says. “Property people like to see a concept proven elsewhere first, but there is now an acknowledgement that this needs to be addressed.” Convincing the industry that innovation is necessary is the biggest hurdle. “Companies need to partner with start-ups to make innovation happen.”
Arya is in no doubt about the benefits of working in a proptech start-up. “The tech side gives you so much creativity,” she says. “You learn such a lot. You are solving problems every day but you have the luxury of thinking about a problem in a creative way. That’s the point of a start-up. You don’t have to deliver a solution the next day.”
Like our other entrepreneurs, Arya wakes up excited about the next problem to be solved. “Property is a traditional industry but you can see you’re part of its future,” she says. “I love the environment, the speed and the excitement of a start-up. It makes real estate a fun industry to work in.”