Yesterday concluded MIPIM’s first ever tech focused event in Europe. Having long been an organizer of the world’s premier property event held every year in Cannes, France, the fact that they are now putting together conferences that focus exclusively on technology says a lot about the direction of the industry. It is becoming harder to talk about the built world, how it is designed, constructed, transacted and managed, without talking about the innovations that are being used to change every process in the value chain.
The event kicked off with a rather opulent cocktail party held in a famous club under what many consider to be the most beautiful bridge in Paris (being the most beautiful anything in Paris is a feat in itself as the entire city seems to be constructed with aesthetics as the main design principle). In true Parisian style the party went rather late into the night and was filled with seemingly endless amounts of champagne and horderves that seemed more like works of art than snacks.
The next day began with a speech from Rand Hindi (pictured above), 35-year-old founder of Artificial Intelligence startup Snips. His firm develops voice platforms for connected devices, enabling companies to add a voice assistant to their products, bypassing the big guys like Google and Amazon. He explained that AI is not really new technology as much as it is the convergence of increased computing power and the availability of vast quantities of data. Eventually Hindi expects AI to become invisible, operating without fanfare much like electricity. But until then, he admits the technology can be threatening and kind of creepy.
The future of AI is a liberation of people from technology, Hindi hopes. No one wants to live in the dystopian world of cold, overbearing technology so often imagined by science fiction writers. “We don’t want to be oppressed by tech all of the time,” said Hindi. “The real promise of technology is having all the benefits of being hyper-connected without feeling connected yourself.”
After a packed day of speakers from various sectors of the property industry, it was concluded by a keynote speech co-organized with Propmodo from Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Aaron Renn. MIPIM’s theme for this week’s event is “unexpected value,” something that Aaron spoke to on the city level. Since the value of properties are based on the market demand, they are often tied to the sentiment towards the city and neighborhood that they are in. In Aaron’s view, cities often miss the mark in branding themselves by trying to display themselves as similar to other popular cities, with young urban socialites on bikes, rather than embracing their idiosyncrasies.
One of his examples is Brooklyn. The young hip(ster) population of the formerly industrial borough embraced the working class, artisanal activities and styles that had been shunned by midwestern small towns. “It is as if the midwest threw away their history and Brooklyn picked it up out of the trash, dusted it off and ran with it,” he said during his keynote. Rather than try to show themselves as posh and trendy his suggestion is that cities and neighborhoods embrace their quirks.
After the event a number of after parties were held, including one at a WeWork on Paris’ famous shopping Mecca, Champs Elysee. This particular location boasts being Thomas Jefferson’s home during his time in the city. Something makes me think that he would have been happy to know that it is now being used as a place where innovators work and play.
The next morning started off with a keynote presentation co-organized with Propmodo by Roma Agarwal, award winning engineer of The Shard, Western Europe’s tallest tower. Drawing on innovation stories from her recently published book, Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures, Roma highlighted a few of the amazing individuals who have contributed to the evolution of buildings. From Henry Bessemer’s process for refining iron into strong steel, to Elisha Otis’s safety brake that made high-rise elevators possible, Roma assures us that, “The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations — for whatever we can dream up, engineers can make real.”
Roma appears frequently in documentaries and news media and actively promotes engineering, scientific and technical careers to young people and under-represented groups such as women. In fact, following the keynote, she also delivered an inspirational speech to kick-off a MIPIM women in PropTech networking session.
The day of seminars, panels and networking was highlighted by a live demonstration by Jamie Woodruff, one of Europe’s top “ethical hackers.” As a way of pointing out possible security flaws he talked about some of his previous hacks and even demonstrated how easy it is to compromise smart devices by hacking a video camera at a nuclear testing site live on stage. He warned that the weak link in most modern hacks isn’t hardware or software, but the people at organizations tasked to use them. Having secure buildings, devices and data systems is only possible if employees are trained on security protocol. It was a stark reminder of the limits of technology when left to the folly of human behavior.
Over the two days of the event a startup competition was held. This is one of the three stops on a global competition tour that will ultimately crown a winner at MIPIM Cannes on the 12-15th of March next year. The winners from this event were Spaceti and Sensorberg.
As to be expected from a seasoned organization like MIPIM, the event was amazingly well run and well attended. If you would like to see for yourself how MIPIM is raising the level of events in the PropTech space then you should look into attending their next event in New York City on November 6th for the New York Real Estate Tech Week. Until then, au revoir.