Early stage VC firm Pi Labs has been one of the most active investors in property technology (proptech) firms in recent years, securing 36 deals since launching in 2015. The firm counts Faisal Butt, who is best known for co-founding private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw real estate with Dragons Den star James Caan, among its founding team.
What are the details of the company, when was it founded and why? What is the vision of the company?
We founded Property Innovation Labs (Pi Labs), Europe’s first venture capital platform focused on investing exclusively in early stage ventures in the property tech space, in 2015. Based in London, but investing in property tech companies globally, our vision for Pi Labs was to identify, mentor, invest in and accelerate high-calibre startup ventures which have the passion and ability to create scalable businesses to disrupt the property industry.
Pi Labs invests in property tech companies from pre-Seed to Series A stage businesses. Our pre-seed programme is a 15-week mentor led programme that accelerates the growth of promising proptech startups. This approach creates a culture of innovation and mutual support between talented groups of entrepreneurial founders within the same areas of interest.
Watch Dominic Wilson speak at Proptech 2018
What should entrepreneurs critically consider when seeking investment from you? What are the key metrics that you consider when a company seeks investment?
Behind the metrics, pitch decks, and ultimately investment, this is fundamentally a people business – something that many forget. When we consider investing in a venture or startup, we take into account the team behind product just as much as the product itself, if not more so.
For an investment to be successful, both investors and entrepreneurs have to build rapport, a responsibility that rests with both parties. Tech teams in particular need to be conscious of how they conduct themselves with everyone from investors to office staff. A great idea and a dash of eccentricity is no excuse for poor manners.
More than just helping to form the basis of long-lasting and positive partnership, one’s behaviour and approach act as a proxy for how one will conduct herself with customers and future hires – reflecting directly on how successful an individual will be when building a business.
I’m always impressed by founders that are purpose driven. We recently met a company which initially pursued its purpose via an NGO, and now are seeking to build a venture backed business in a similar field. It’s clear the founders have a deep passion for the business, and the problems it is solving. Entrepreneurship is a hard road, and those who have passion and are driven by purpose are much more likely to overcome the obstacles which lie ahead.
Further reading on VCs
- VC interview: Adam Anders, managing partner at Anterra Capital
- VC interview: Kjartan Rist and Denis Shafranik, Concentric
- VC Interview: Ali Mitchell, Partner at EQT Ventures
Why did the company decide to invest in the insurance app Brolly?
To put it simply, the insurance market was ripe for disruption, and the Brolly founding team brought us a customer-centric and innovative solution. The market was a combination of broken, outdated processes, whilst at the same time highly liquid and valuable.
Beyond this Phoebe Hugh, the founder, was incredibly impressive. She spent many years in the insurance industry and saw first hand the problems that customers faced; this coupled with her obvious passion to improve customer experience made the investment an easy choice.
What is the stand-out transaction of the firm in recent months and how did it apply its expertise to contribute to a successful deal?
It’s tricky to pick out a single investment – our aim has always been to act as the centre of the property innovation ecosystem, providing support and mentoring to all the companies we invest in, in equal measure. However, a special mention does go to Airsorted, it’s the first company in our portfolio to break through a million pounds of revenue on a monthly basis. A significant milestone for Airsorted, as well as our portfolio. We’re proud to say that the company, which started just three years ago as a hungry young startup, is now a global proptech disruptor.
What key advice would you give to entrepreneurs seeking investment from venture capital and may not be familiar with the process?
Besides nailing down the basics, I always appreciate it when teams and founders come to Pi Labs with a realistic timeline and a truly innovative product. If founders can demonstrate that they have a comprehensive understanding of what is possible, and are open to a partnership approach with investors, we’re much more likely to invest. Once I’ve been shown an idea by a standout team, that has the potential change the property sector for a diverse set of people – and isn’t just focused on a minority market – then I start to get excited.
Dominic Wilson can be found tweeting at @Dom7Wilson
Find out more: Pilabs
See also: How to approach a VC