The Property Portal Watch conference has been a cornerstone event in the real estate and prop tech industry for over 14 years. This global gathering of C-level leaders, held three times a year in various international locations, provides a unique platform for industry professionals to discuss pressing issues, share experiences, and foster collaborations.
A few weeks out from the 39th edition of the event we spoke to founder Simon Baker about the conference's origins, evolution, and significance in the real estate landscape.
The conference brings together C-level leaders from across the globe, both from the prop tech and real estate marketplace sectors. As Simon explains, the primary objective is not just to have companies pitch their products but to facilitate discussions among industry leaders about the real challenges they face. He emphasizes,
"The objective is if you come you'll get to find out a lot about what other people are doing around the world. Not from sales guys, not from people just pitching their business, but actually from the C-level leaders discussing the real issues that they're facing and how they're approaching growing their businesses."
The origins of Property Portal Watch can be traced back to Baker's realization that despite geographical differences, many industry leaders faced similar challenges.
It all began in 2009 when Baker (pictured) decided to organize a one-day meeting before an industry conference in New York. The goal was simple: bring together like-minded individuals to share experiences and discuss business challenges.
Over the past 14 years that small gathering has turned into Property Portal Watch. From a handful of people and an old-fashioned projector in a meeting room, the conference now has around 350 industry leaders.
Baker notes that topics of discussion have also evolved, from concerns about web scraping in the early days to contemporary subjects like the impact of AI on property searches.
One standout feature of Property Portal Watch is the sense of community it fosters among attendees. Baker proudly acknowledges the lasting relationships that have formed over the years, with some individuals attending nearly every conference. This sense of community is not just an incidental outcome; it's a deliberate objective.
"The thing that's been very consistent from the beginning has been networking," Baker says. The conference is designed to encourage interaction, and attendees are provided with ample opportunities to connect with one another.
"I think it's probably one of the best elements of doing the conference, apart from the fantastic content, is that we really invest in getting everyone to get together."
Baker himself has become something of an introductions specialist over the years and is happy to put people in touch with one another prior to a face-to-face meeting at the conference.
"When people reach out and said, Hey, look, I want to meet these people. I'll do introductions. Okay, I'll send a quick email and say to someone, hey, look, can we you should check with this person, about their business, and then they'll set up meetings and who knows where that goes."
Networking isn't just about forming friendships; it's a catalyst for deals and collaborations. Baker highlighted several instances where connections made at Property Portal Watch led to significant business opportunities. One notable example is his early investment in VivaReal, the Brazilian portal that would later become a multimillion-dollar success story. The conference serves as a platform for companies to find investors, partners, or even explore new business models.
Many real estate portal companies tend to be myopic, focusing solely on their local market. Baker stressed the importance of breaking out of this mindset and expanding horizons. By attending global conferences like Property Portal Watch, businesses can gain valuable insights from peers facing similar challenges in different regions. This broader perspective can help them make more informed decisions and avoid common pitfalls.
"If you're in your own bubble, the best you can do is the knowledge that you collectively get. So if you happen to have three Einsteins in there, you'll probably go a long way. If you happen to have some people who are really learning about the industry, you might not go as far. But then you can go from your bubble and join the bigger bubble, where you've got a bunch of people who were basically solving the same problems."
"Can I get into mortgages, should I go into the transaction? What about the iBuyer model? listening to other people who either have done it and succeeded or failed the lessons that they've learned in that process can help ensure you move in the right direction and help you limit your mistakes."
Any portal, PropTech, investor, agent or supplier wanting to get out of their comfort zone and see what's happening in the industry should come along to the Property Portal Watch conference in Madrid from the 4th to the 6th of October.