Proptech, community, and the lessons of Steve Jobs: A conversation with Martin Vang Hansen

Aya Fabricius, Head of Communications, PropTech Denmark

The Nordic real estate scene is a complex market, not easy to generalize. Yet, it is known for being a front-runner in tech, ESG, and servitization, looking into new business models beyond brick and mortar.

In Danish real estate, this focus on “doing good” and “building for people” is not exactly a new thing. Our tradition of socially-oriented, semi-public or cooperated portfolios, mixed with green tech and an overall high degree of digitalization in society, has given us a head start. Combine that with new EU regulations and a worldwide demand for green solutions, and you have a pretty good foundation for new platforms like Urban Partners and Home.Earth to raise capital and push innovation in one of the oldest markets in the world.

One of the not-so-new Danish companies that have 30+ years of experience with purpose-driven investments is ATP Real Estate. The large scale property owner and developer is a subsidiary of the ATP pension fund, which was established by the Danish government in 1964 with the purpose of not only adding to Danes’ pension accounts but also contributing positively to the society they are a part of. In an old-school industry, by some accounts responsible for more than 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions, that means new ways of investing, managing, and thinking about property. And with ATP owning almost 1.5 million m2, with a total value of 43 billion DKK, you could easily say that they have an exceptional opportunity to try new things out on a big scale. I caught up with CEO of ATP Real Estate, Martin Vang Hansen, to get his take on how new technologies can help leverage that opportunity.

From IoT sensors to generative AI
Hi Martin! Thanks for talking to us and for being part of the PropTech Denmark community. First of all, we wanted to hear your take on the proptech landscape at a high level. What opportunities is ATP Real Estate currently exploring?

“Within real estate, proptech has brought exciting new opportunities that will enable us to predict and plan maintenance, optimize energy usage, and utilize space effectively; thereby enhancing the experiences of our tenants while optimizing operational costs,” begins Martin and continues:
“In our portfolio, we are in the process of installing IoT sensors to monitor indoor climates and space usage. Linked with our Building Management System (BMS) and energy meters, we collect vast amounts of useful data.

With open APIs and integration between systems, we can ensure that decision-making is based on a solid data foundation. Additionally, our ESG team has access to consistent and reliable data, on which we base ESG reporting and improvements.

Furthermore, Generative AI and Large Language Models are exciting new arenas in which we have yet to unlock the potential for ATP Real Estate.”

Building your “Tech Stack”
Seems like ATP Real Estate is already on a proptech journey. Can you share what has been challenging working with proptech and how you are navigating the many new solutions on the market?

“As with all activities, we are focused on what adds long-term real value. Along with opportunities mounting, we are in the process of estimating how new proptech initiatives fit with our existing activities. For this, we still need to collect more data and gain more experience. Some key points from what our journey has taught us so far:

  1. We must assess and visualize our existing data landscape.
  2. We need to understand that no single technology will meet all needs. It’s about joining multiple technologies to bridge data gaps.
  3. It is essential for us to prioritize platforms with open APIs for seamless and transparent data integration.”

As a community-driven organization, it is interesting to hear such a big player looking into an ‘ecosystem of digital solutions’ or as the cool kids call it: ‘a Tech Stack’ consisting of multiple solutions working together. This is no easy feat. Could you share 3 tips to get started on building a diverse tech stack and what to be aware of?

  1. “Collaborating with peers openly to share insights will provide invaluable knowledge, especially for those just embarking on their digital journey.
  2. Resist the urge to upscale immediately. For us, a gradual approach with multiple pilots has provided invaluable lessons.
  3. Be aware of the cultural and collaboration effects of digital changes. Change management is essential.”

The lessons of Steve Jobs
Change management is definitely something we in PropTech Denmark see as one of the big challenges in digital transformation overall. And as a tech philosophy major and communications professional myself, it is a pet peeve of mine that we shouldn’t just build tech for the sake of tech. It’s always people who need to benefit, whether it’s in smoother operations or as an end user. How are you thinking about the people-aspect when looking for new tech?

“For me, the later version of Steve Jobs taught us that technology is immensely powerful when packaged and designed such that the user interface and the interaction between technology and humans are extremely intuitive. This philosophy extends to almost all spheres; certainly to the current and future proptech landscape.

We also actively engage with the proptech community by collaborating with startups and industry partners in sharing knowledge and experience on how the tech functions in the real world and with real people. A thriving proptech community drives innovation that benefits everyone in the realm of real estate.”

Thank you for sharing, Martin. We look forward to following ATP Real Estate’s upcoming pilots and seeing your tech stack unfold.

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About PropTech Denmark

PropTech Denmark is a not-for-profit that brings together members across the real estate ecosystem with a common purpose to drive innovation and digitalisation within the industry.

Their members represent the entire real estate value chain as well as the proptech world. They include both significant real estate players and a large number of the leading proptech startups and technology suppliers in Denmark and across the Nordics.

PropTech Denmark is the leading regional proptech association and work closely with our Nordic neighbours to support local initiatives and ecosystems to position the Nordics as a leader on proptech globally.

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