For true disruption in the property sector, Corporates need Start Ups… and Start Ups (may) need Corporates.

Fri 20 Oct 2017

Many thanks to Lydia Dutton, Co-Founder of Loop for this thought provoking blog around driving innovation within Corporates and beyond.

Lydia and her colleagues at Loop will be joining us on the 12th April 2018 in Berlin for our next 40 Percent Symposium, where we will be talking all about positive disruption in our industry. For further details, please view the agenda here, or register to attend.


Lydia writes.....  "LOOP  are a prop tech circular economy consultancy and digital platform disrupting the built environment through the reuse and sharing of materials and equipment.

Real Estate, ‘ripe for disruption’ since 2014. That’s if Ecosia has served me correctly (use Ecosia by the way, they plant a tree for every search made). In three years of being ‘ripe’ and ready, disclosed investment in prop tech, a powerful tool for disruption and innovation, has risen by over 132%, up to $2.7bn (CB Insights). This blog explores one emerging trend in how corporates are continuing to drive innovation within their organisations.


How can property companies ensure they keep pace?

One way is to collaborate. Looking to other sectors, those reaping the rewards of embedding disruption and innovation into company culture are doing so through collaboration with startups.  According to StartUpBootcamp, over 180 independent accelerators globally are facilitating innovation and the pace of change in organisations.

The Unilever Foundry September 2017 report, ‘The State of Innovation predicts startups and corporates will be working side-by-side in the same office by 2025. The report also identifies two models for collaboration of relevance here:

  1. Tech Tourism: A largely ad-hoc, exploratory activity which lacks the ability to impact core business aims. Activity can range from exploratory trips to tech HQs to engaging in ‘innovation theatre’ to manufacture instant PR gains.
  2. Structured Programmes: A formal process based on mutually beneficial goals to drive business impact.

As the Co-Founder of Prop Tech startup LOOP, we’re in the full throws of a structured programme with Vertical and Stora Enso in Helsinki. Working with the top talent at this world leader in renewable materials manufacturing, is providing a platform for embedding innovation into company culture, whilst enabling LOOP to access resources and insights unavailable to a startup.

Since Terry Clarke and I founded LOOP in 2016 our journey has provided opportunities to experience the best of both worlds, through collaborations with Corporates as well as participating in two programmes developing innovative startups. From working with Crossrail and the Costain/Skanska JV for HS2 and Stora Enso mentioned above, LOOP have benefitted from access to finance, resources and contacts. So to, participating in the Newcastle University Founderships Programme (Start Up) we have had the opportunity to experience the hugely collaborate nature of working alongside other startups literally unstoppable with new ideas and ways of working beyond the status quo.

There are benefits to collaboration, but it needs to be considered.

There are a variety of mutually beneficial reasons for Corporates and Startups to collaborate:


“While corporates can bring experience, investment and best practice, it seems this isn’t a one-sided partnership, as startups bring the agility and fresh thinking to potentially shake up a market.” Startupbootcamp.


It is critical to highlight though, just finding a startup to collaborate with may not necessarily be the best fit for both parties. It can not only waste Corporate working hours, but significantly, for a startup, could literally be THE END.  Below are ten collaboration tips for Corporates considering working with Startups, which from experience are vital for the success of a collaboration:



Get buy-in throughout your whole company. You can’t just mandate from the top, you need the people who will have to implement.


Have a startup innovation champion and encourage them to get immersed in the local startup ecosystem.


Don’t isolate your innovation team. It’s an inter-departmental activity - from legal, risk, procurement and IT.


Create the right infrastructure and processes - sandboxes, APIs, test data for new solutions, and fast-track procurement processes with streamlined SLAs.


Identify the right KPIs for innovation. Traditional metrics won’t often reflect the true value of innovation.


Understand how startups think and be aware of their reservations.


Ensure the startup is complimentary to your business. Don’t just work with a startup because their product is ‘cool’.


Collaborate, don’t dominate. Recognise that the startups are bringing value and are generally wary of corporates.


Startups change fast, but recognize that you won’t, at least not yet. One partnership with a startup won’t change your company. It has to be part of a long-term strategy and solutions.


Move fast. Understand startups can be born and die within the space of time it takes for you to negotiate a contract.


(StartUp Bootcamps Collaborate to Innovate)-  FYI for Start Ups reading this blog there are also 10 tips for Startups working with Corporates which are an excellent read for Founders starting out on their corporate engagement journey.

In conclusion, the property sector can innovate within their own businesses to keep pace with the disruption taking place through proptech, but to really explore and enable change collaboration is key:


“Innovation has enjoyed a big hype over the last few years. Companies start to understand innovation is much more than having ‘good ideas’; it is about culture, business processes, planning and strategy,” 

Jorge Rivero, Innovation Director at VINCI Energies.


The April 12th Disruptor Roundtable session at the 40 Percent Symposium 2018 will provide a unique opportunity to explore the interplay between Corporates and Startups, and how, when fully considered, bring added value to the property sector and accelerate its sustainability journey."