Unlocking The Secrets Of Land: How Two Entrepreneurs Have Transformed Property Development – Forbes

Posted: December 14, 2020 at 1:53 am

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LandTech founders Andrew Moist and Jonny Britton

A decade ago, a nightmare self-build experience led former software developer Andrew Moist down a path that would culminate in LandTech, the proptech platform that he cofounded with Jonny Britton, which streamlines the entire property development process into a single digital workflow, enabling developers, from novices to building firms, to be build ready.

Anyone developing property, whether on a small or a large scale, is looking for one thing; an off-market deal to which they can add value. LandTech helps them by unlocking the secrets of land and providing them with the notoriously hard-to-find information and data on things like land ownership and availability, planning permission, previous sold price comparisons, potential problems with developing the land, and any other ongoing developments in the area, all in one place.

By eliminating the need for laborious manual research and liaising with countless organizations, including such as councils and land registries, the technology streamlines the process for existing developers and allows new developers to see the bigger picture and make informed decisions from the outset.

The business began with a chance conversation on Twitter. In 2013, Moist embarked, naively, on a mission to buy and do up an east London-based two-bedroom apartment. But having zero experience of property purchase, renovation, or development, his project quickly became a nightmare, which he shared on the social media platform.

Meanwhile, Britton, a former town planner, had become frustrated by the archaic systems and processes that he had to work with every day, especially as he could see the rapid evolution in technology that was driving innovations in social interactions and data capture. He decided to leave the planning industry, learned to create software, and built TimeMaps, an online atlas of world history, in his family business.

Through a chance conversation on Twitter he was introduced to Moist and the problems he was facing in trying to build his own home in London. With a clear understanding of these problems from the planning side, Britton saw an opportunity to tackle the U.K.s housing crisis by bringing much-needed innovation to the industry. With their combined insight into property and smart technology, they teamed up and launched LandTech.

Within a few weeks of meeting for the first time, we were working together full time on the business in a startup accelerator, says Britton. Andrew had already left his previous job and I still had some commitments with the family business, but, thanks to the accelerator we were able to dive into the business, which we started in February 2014.

By the end of the three-month program, they had a business plan and some of the basic, more visual aspects of the product. A year later, they were ready to put the product out into the market, but immediately ran into problems.

There were complications since the property data we wanted wasn't available when we first started, says Britton. We also had to aggregate a dataset from over 10 million unstructured PDF documents found in hard to reach locations. However, building the technology to do this has given our company a huge advantage as we can now use it for other datasets.

Another issue was that property developers had no industry body that the founders could work with, nor were they big users of social media, or advocates of business networking, so marketing LandTech to this group proved difficult. But, the founders knew their target audience and approached them direct, confident that their pitch would grab their interest. On the back of this came an unexpected challenge, in that their product was too good.

Our customers were blown away by it and therefore didn't want to talk about it with others so that they could keep the advantage to themselves, says Britton. Overall, having no clear channels to market and customers who wanted to keep it a secret, it was difficult to build brand awareness.

However, over time, LandTech began to build momentum. The founders hired a marketing team and used data-driven content to appeal to their customers, which Britton says has enabled them to add value to the industry through their unique insights.

The coronavirus pandemic that initially posed a threat to the business has also played a part in shaping its future. When it struck in March the uncertainty it created in the market left them unsure of their prospects. But they were keen to offer help during the crisis and adapted their product for volunteer groups to help them organize their work getting supplies out to the vulnerable.

It was used by hundreds of volunteer groups, says Britton. Fortunately, customer demand returned very quickly, so the business wasnt too badly affected. But it has made us more conscious as a business. The impact of Covid-19 will be minimal compared to climate change, so we will be speeding up our work towards becoming carbon neutral and a better ecosystem contributor in and around the property.

Recent reforms to the U.K.s planning system have presented LandTech with further opportunities. Being able to respond rapidly to the reforms, we can offer our customers the fastest way to take advantage of them, says Britton Without technology, you would not be in the game.

Today Landtech has a broad client base that includes major housebuilders, leading commercial and residential property agencies, and hundreds of SME residential developers. With investment, comprising seed capital and a grant, totaling $678,000 LandTech has been profitable since its first year of trading. It employs 90 people and is on track to turn over 8 million ($10.6 million) this financial year.

The brand is also set to go global, with immediate territories including the U.S. and Australia. The founders plan to grow revenues to 50 million by 2024 through this expansion.

Britton adds: We already have an office in Sydney and will be moving into the U.S. in 2021. As global urbanization continues, so will the need to develop in smarter, more efficient, more open ways, and we have some big surprises in store in terms of our market entry.

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Unlocking The Secrets Of Land: How Two Entrepreneurs Have Transformed Property Development - Forbes

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December 14th, 2020 at 1:53 am