In the beginning of 2020, six entrepreneurs founded AMAVI Capital. This European investment fund focuses on real estate technology, also known as PropTech. Arne Allewaert, who helped start up ION and helped it to grow, is one of them. Although he is making a new start with AMAVI, he is sticking by his existing values regarding innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainability. Together with his partner Frederic Van den Weghe, he explains why they believe in real estate technology.
How do you define real estate technology?
Frederic: “Real estate technology is about digitization and innovation in all of the real estate and construction sectors’ processes. This ranges from prospecting for land, through the construction and sales processes to the management and use of a building. One example is a Paris company that collects data such as prices, demographics, and permissible construction heights and depths. They combine these data to develop a tool that lets you search for the most interesting plots throughout France. For example, there may be a plot of land with a three-storied building, in a place where the law allows you to build one with six. This tool will then automatically generate building volumes, make financial feasibility studies, and also contains the contact details of the landowners.”
Where does the idea of investing in that sector come from?
Arne: “Everyone knows we are not sustainable today. The construction and real estate sectors are responsible for 40% of global emissions. More and more companies realize that it’s time for a change. Real estate technology can help find sustainable construction methods or reduce energy and water consumption in buildings. We recognize that the real estate sector is the next one that needs to innovate, so digitization is almost a no-brainer. We like to compare PropTech with the FinTech movement of recent years. After all, online banking and contactless payments are now the new normal.”
What kind of investors are you aiming at?
Arne: “AMAVI is bringing together real estate, technology, and private equity. Our investors can also be found at that intersection, from real estate developers to construction companies and technology companies to more traditional investors. They are companies that already have a sense of innovation. We don't want to be a fund that merely raises capital, makes investments, and yields returns. AMAVI wants to create an ecosystem where the old-school real estate world can connect with the new-school real estate technology. The investors will also assess their own investments, which makes it very relevant.
You started in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. How did that go?
Frederic: “Of course, last year’s investment climate was a lot better, but there’s still a lot of interest. The investment market is not static but is shifting its focus. The coronavirus crisis has accelerated technological changes. For example, take the notarial profession. For many years, it was impossible to buy real estate without being physically present at the table. You can now give an electronic power of attorney and buy or sell via videocall in just a few weeks’ time. The COVID-19 crisis certainly has made real estate technology more interesting.”
Bundling of expertise
AMAVI has shareholders from three relevant sectors. Davy Demuynck, Kristof Vanfleteren and Arne Allewaert come from the real estate world. Frederic Van de Weghe and Paul Thiers have expertise in private equity, and Jonas Dhaenens has proven experience in the technology sector.