How Jurjen Thomas and his orange Beetle explore PropTech boundaries
He drove around the world in a self-built Volkswagen Beetle. On his road trips he is most inspired when he meets special people and learns about new and unfamiliar cultures. His ultimate dream is to take a road trip with his wife Loukje and their two sons. Nowadays, Jurjen applies the experience he has gained during his travels in his daily business with OSRE within the real estate sector.
OSRE has been active in the PropTech market for a number of years. Which roads have you travelled and explored so far?
We started OSRE in 2012 out of pure passion for real estate and digitisation. From 2015 OSRE has been an actual software company with 1 SaaS (red. Software as a Service) product. The OSRE transaction platform supports the leasing and buying process of new housing projects. We now also support the digital leasing process in one platform, while automating it step by step.
So, recently you’ve started supporting the rental process digitally. What does that mean?
After the lease of our first new housing project it made sense to start supporting the process of finding, validating and matching existing projects after termination of a lease. A big difference can be found in the flow of the process. Let me give you an example. Within one housing project, there could be one hundred apartments to lease, and a thousand interested people. The apartments have construction numbers but no address yet. Within twelve months of leasing the new houses, the first lease termination notices are received. By then the houses do have an address. So, a number of significant things are different. We launched this product called Relet starting 2020.
How does Relet work?
As soon as the lease termination is received by the landlord, the program creates a file. The entire rental process of lead flow, matching, validating the candidate, digitally signing and paying the first month's rent is arranged in a few clicks. We built it for every company that deals with leasing processes.
What are the benefits of using it?
Thanks to the smart integration of our partners' systems, such as Ockto, Fill the Doc and Mail to Pay, you save 80% of your time per lease and minimize certain risks such as fraud. In addition, our link with ERP ensures that the lease file is added to the source data in the ERP system without errors or human action. With Ockto, for example, candidate tenants can join the program without using documents and the landlord can assess the candidate based on government data. After that we add business rules, by which we automate the testing of candidates for, for instance, income or occupation.
Previously, one of your goals was to have completed one million transactions by 2023. You have moved away from that goal. Why?
Simply because that goal no longer fits the current organisation and the product. Our goal now is to make the leasing process smarter every day. All teams within the organisation are focused on improvement and reaching that goal. We are aiming for quality rather than quantity, which is why we have adjusted our goal. We want "a smarter transaction every day."
Which project are you proud of and why?
We are currently working with ten parties to integrate Relet. That is truly awesome. We conducted extensive research before launching this product. We spoke to prospective tenants and tested various designs and prototypes with several landlords. That is how software development should be developed.
The platform has a huge impact on efficiency. We are reducing the current risks – such as leasing fraud by tenants. This innovation will bring about change. The question is, what is the advantage of reducing risks? And who benefits from more efficiency? It also changes the business model. This takes you to a political playing field that, by definition, causes delay: everything takes time. Fortunately, that is part of the fun. It makes me realize over and over why these kinds of processes can be so slow.
The orange Volkswagen Beetle is your trademark, and over past few years you have interviewed a lot of managing directors at C-level.
PropTech became a household name around 2016. Digitization and innovation became a topic of discussion in the traditional real estate sector and we wanted to provide a stage. We came up with a way to interview people about innovation and digitisation in the real estate industry. The Beetle was actually already part of our marketing strategy. The Beetle symbolizes traveling, meeting people, getting to know cultures and exploring boundaries. And, the Beetle breaks the ice.
If in 2016 we were still wondering whether PropTech was on the agenda of board meetings, we now know for certain: technology and PropTech are a few of the most important items on the board's agenda.
Lennard de Graaff of BLOC inspired me during one of my Beetle rides. He stated: "The sector is blind to radical changes." It was one of the most interesting interviews I did in the Beetle. You can watch the interview on YouTube. "
Who is still on your list to be interviewed in the Beetle?
He has a very busy schedule, but we are hoping to drive Coen van Oostrom from EDGE and OVG Real Estate from A to B some time. I think he is a real estate person par excellence, if you are looking for radical change and changing course. His developments have been very important and valuable to the sector. What can technology offer to a building and the people who use it? He was one of the first to attempt to answer that question.
The PropTech for Good movement is powered by PropTechNL. What does PropTech for Good mean to you?
It's all in the name. Technology in buildings, technology in real estate organizations and technology in society make society better. The real estate sector is very sensitive to good examples that ultimately improve the cost. Ultimately, this should result in a constructed environment where it is much more enjoyable for people to live, work and recreate. And if the focus is on the social aspect, it is not only PropTech, but also PropTech for Good.
The partnership with OSRE is valuable for PropTechNL because Jurjen is aware that digital transformation goes further than only selling a technological solution. In addition, he and his team are open to a broader dialogue and to challenge the status quo in a good way (e.g. by interviewing leaders in the beetle). The entrepreneurial character of OSRE appeals to me and they are always willing to help and facilitate. I am looking forward to how OSRE will develop the transaction market in the Netherlands and abroad. – Menno Lammers