In our latest Member Spotlight Interview, we spoke with Peter Rose, Chief Revenue Officer at Forbury, an intuitive & user-friendly Commercial Real Estate Valuation Software.
Peter shares insight into the technology behind their product & the problem they are solving, what separates them from competitors and advice for other PropTechs that are launching in the UK…
Q: Forbury is a commercial real estate valuation software aimed at transactions and investment teams. How did Forbury start?
A: Forbury’s origins began back in 2003. Forbury’s founder Steve Surridge was consulting at the time, building bespoke proprietary models in Excel to value Commercial Real Estate transactions for the likes of Savills and other big names in Australia.
Turns out, he was pretty good at it and eventually the requests for his work grew and grew. Steve couldn’t keep up with all the requests. So (after losing a bit more of his hair) he realised there was a smarter way to meet his customers’ needs.
Out of necessity to meet the demand, Steve got our CEO Scott Willson on board and they poured their decades of combined experience into turning Forbury into a Software as a Service (SAAS) product.
Fast forward to 2021 and we’ve got a team of 25 taking care of our customers in the UK, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. More than half a million valuation calculations are made in Forbury every single week, so our customers can be confident they’ve got the industry’s best practice all wrapped up in our easy-to-use tools.
Q: Forbury improves efficiency for property companies such as JLL, Cushman & Wakefield, Savills, Knight Frank and many more. Can you tell us more about the technology behind your product and the problem you are solving?
A: Yes, we have worked hard to establish an enviable customer list in Australia, including some of Australia’s most prominent REITS, biggest pension funds and smaller boutiques. Leading CRE brokers and agents are also using Forbury to speed up their buyers’ Due Diligence process.
The problem in our industry is that CRE appraisals are a time-consuming hassle, especially in the transactions space where fast analysis can give our customers a significant ‘leg-up’ and help them secure the best deals. Our customers’ needs are pretty simple: smart analysis fast, so they can cover more of the market.
We think the best way to support funds in their investment decisions is by using tools they’re already familiar with. That’s why we’ve chosen to build our tech using Microsoft Excel as a User Interface (UI), but powered by a cloud engine.
With this “Excel Meets Cloud” marriage, we think Forbury has the best of both worlds: It still has all the bits our customers love about their own bespoke Excel models, but backed up by a powerful cloud engine that makes the calculations accurate and lightning quick (a 2.29 second average calculation speed, to be exact).
Q: What separates Forbury from competitors?
A: From a “features” point of view, it’s that our product is built with Microsoft Excel as the User Interface (UI). It sounds counter-intuitive, but our biggest competitor is probably Microsoft Excel itself, i.e., Investment Teams who are using their own in-house models. The challenge these teams have is that they run into problems with version control, security and numerous spreadsheet errors that are not picked up.
But undoubtedly and despite these challenges, Excel has a lot of significant advantages, too. And that’s exactly why we built Forbury with the Excel UI. An important advantage is that it’s transparent and familiar, so busy investment teams can pick it up very quickly. For example, when we onboarded our first UK customer the training lasted about an hour. At the end we were given feedback that they’d previously sat in a training session for a competitor for a whole day and still weren’t sure how to do something as simple as an IRR goal seek.
In our experience, existing solutions (not based in Excel) have several flaws: They can be cumbersome, making it difficult for Investment Teams to do a quick first pass of an acquisition, before then layering on the detail if that first pass looks attractive. Other solutions are a bit “black box”, preventing the owner from tracing the formula or calculations thereby making it difficult to build trust in the numbers.
Despite all of this, we know we’re entering a very competitive market in the UK, with some big players that have a longstanding history in the UK market. It’s going to be a big year!
Q: You have recently launched in the UK. What advice would you give to other PropTechs that are launching in the UK?
A: The exact same advice we’ve been given over the last 12 months: Do your homework!
We spent more than six months researching whether we should even enter the UK market. And the results of investing this time up front have been game-changing and put us in a much stronger position.
We came into the market and interviewed nearly 50 stakeholders: PropTechs, complementary businesses who might become future partners, potential customers, opinion leaders and even competitors. I know many of them will be reading this, so I’ll take the opportunity to thank them for their early support!
We were continually told that others in our position had not done their homework and that their products had been slow to launch because they were too US-focused. But we went “All In” and worked with several local UK consultants to produce a Gap Analysis to highlight what our product required for the UK market. We ended up releasing a completely new version called Datum, which is specifically aimed at UK investment teams. Launching our standard product “with a few tweaks” would have been a disaster.
Our last piece of advice would be: Have fun! We’ve been overwhelmed by how great the PropTech industry is here! Lots of friendly faces, always willing to lend a hand or have a laugh. Now that things are opening up a little, we’re looking forward to meeting some faces in real life!