DiscoverThe PropcastHow Do You Build a Community Using Innovative Technology in the Residential Space? with Nobu Iguchi and Fatima Dicko
How Do You Build a Community Using Innovative Technology in the Residential Space? with Nobu Iguchi and Fatima Dicko

How Do You Build a Community Using Innovative Technology in the Residential Space? with Nobu Iguchi and Fatima Dicko

Update: 2022-06-22
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Summary: In the penultimate episode of season 9 of the Propcast, Louisa is joined by Nobu Iguchi, Managing Partner at Agya Ventures, and Fatima Dicko, Founder & CEO at Sugar.

In this episode, they discuss their journeys into the real estate innovation space and how, over the years, they’ve come to realise how important the concept of “community” has become. 

We hear from Fatima about the mission, product and value of Sugar in the real estate industry, while Nobu explains how Agya Ventures helps businesses expand into Japan. The key takeaway from this episode is that innovation happens as a result of people taking risks.


Resources:


Companies Mentioned:

 

 


Shout Outs:


Key Insights From This Episode: 

  • The largest expense for building managers and owners is apartment turnover. - Fatima
  • Gen Z will represent over 40% of the workforce by 2024. Most of them will be renters versus home buyers. - Fatima
  • Community is a universal need. - Nobu
  • If we continue building a product that customers love, continue listening to the product feedback, and continue solving this large and growing problem then we can build a company that is not only relevant right now, but sustainable over the long run. - Fatima
  • Real estate has both a local component to it and a global component to it. - Nobu 
  • Innovation happens as a result of people taking risks. - Fatima 
  • Real estate is the largest global asset class with a 1% technology utilisation rate. - Fatima

 

About Our Guests:

Nobu Iguchi, Managing Partners at Agya Ventures

Nobu Iguchi is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Agya Ventures. Before Agya Ventures, Nobu worked at Bridgewater Associates, as a senior investment professional on the micro equities team. Nobu started his career at McKinsey & Company, where he was based out of the Tokyo office, and worked on projects across the United States, Thailand and Germany. Nobu holds a BS in Chemistry from Yale College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. 

 

Agya Ventures
Agya Ventures is a technology-focused real estate fund investing in exceptional entrepreneurs and early-stage companies.

 

Fatima Dicko, Founder & CEO at Sugar

Fatima Dicko is the Founder & CEO of Sugar, a resident experience platform that helps property managers build stronger communities. Before Sugar, Fatima spent 5 years at P&G as a senior engineer on a product innovation team. While at P&G, she received several patents and was 1 of 127 nominated technologists awarded the annual 'Most Transformative Product Innovation' award.

Fatima came to the U.S. from Mali at a young age and grew up in New York City, receiving her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University and MBA from Stanford Business School. She was named as '18 Inspiring Women to Watch' by Inc Magazine, listed on the 2021 Forbes 'Next 1000' list and has been featured in major publications such as TechCrunch, Business Insider, Crunchbase, Black Enterprise and CNBC.

 

Sugar

Sugar is a modern resident engagement platform that turns apartment buildings into vibrant communities. Sugar allows residents to pay rent, unlock doors and earn rewards for engaging with their community. By elevating the residential experience at their properties, Sugar helps managers attract new residents, increase lease renewal rates and introduce additional revenue streams. Sugar's vision is to turn strangers into neighbours and neighbours into friends.

 

About Our Host

Louisa Dickins

Louisa is the co-founder of LMRE, which has rapidly become the market-leading global PropTech recruitment platform and search consultancy with operations across North America, the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

To promote the industry she is so passionate about, Louisa set up the Global podcast ‘The Propcast’ where she hosts and invites guests from the built environment space to join her in conversation about innovation.


About LMRE

LMRE is globally recognised for leading the way in Real Estate Tech & Innovation talent management.

From the outset our vision was to become a global provider of the very best strategic talent to the most innovative organisations in PropTech, ConTech, Smart Buildings, ESG, Sustainability and Strategic Consulting.

At LMRE we are fully committed at all times to exceed the expectations of our candidates and clients by providing the very best advice and by unlocking exclusive opportunities across our global network in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.


Timestamps:

[02:20 ] Fatima: Can you share your journey to this space? 

  • My background is in chemical engineering. 
  • I started thinking about communities when I was at Stanford Business School, how do they  form, what strengthens communities and what keeps communities alive?
  • When I moved to LA, I lived in an apartment building with hundreds of people and I started an experiment where we put a QR code in the elevator, from there we started looking at traditional property management platforms and found residents weren’t very happy with them.
  • The name Sugar came from the cup of sugar from your neighbour. 

[04:20 ] Nobu: Can you tell us about your journey to the VC space? 

  • My co-founder and I were at college together but we went on very different paths. 
  • In 2019,  I had an idea about raising capital from real estate developers and other entities with an interest in real estate and investing the capital in promising real estate technology startups.
  • We left our previous jobs and started Agya Ventures. Our LPs are real estate developers, construction companies and other entities that are interested in real estate and construction innovation.

[05:40 ]  Nobu: What do you call “early stage” and how much capital do you look to put in?

  • Seed is our sweet spot but we invest pre-seed.
  • $500,000 to $1 million. 

[07:40 ] Fatima: Can you talk a bit more about how you can strengthen community resident spaces and how did you go about your raise with Nobu? 

  • Building Community in Residential Spaces: 
    • The largest expense for building managers and owners is apartment turnover. 
    • Gen Z, who will represent over 40% of the workforce by 2024, most of them will be renters versus home buyers. 
    • Community is not a nice to have or luxury, it's a necessity. 
  • Raising with Nobu: 
    • Nobu understood the vision and the importance of community from the early days.
    • When we dove into the nuances of the actual opportunity and what things are going to look like moving forward, they continued to resonate. 

[09:30 ] Fatima: Where is Sugar based? 

  • We are alive in properties in different regions across the country, our largest presence is in LA but we live in properties in Florida, North Carolina and New York. 
  • What makes an ideal Sugar property and profile - 30 or more units and we have seen a lot of engagement in senior living properties so our ideas about demographics are changing. 
  • Community resonates with people of different ages and geographic regions.

[12:40 ] Nobu: What change have you seen pre and post-COVID? Have you been investing at the same rate? How many more investments are you looking to secure by the end of this year? 

  • What changes have you seen pre- and post-COVID? 
    • The need for community has been direr and has been more pronounced with COVID.
    • Some people were working remotely before COVID and now hybrid work is an integral part of how employers are thinking about their workforce.
    • Our fund started investing post-COVID and one of the things that emerged with COVID were a lot of amazing startup ideas.
  • Have you been investing at the same rate?
    •  2021 was a booming year for VC and many startups emerged. 
    • There has been a change since then because of inflations. 
    • Some of the best companies come out of these uncertain times.

[16:20 ] Nobu: Do you think valuations will go slightly down or be more slightly realistic?

  • We are already seeing late-stage correction that's in response to a public market correction and we're seeing mid-stage valuation correction in response to the late-stage correction.

[16:50 ] Fatima: How have the last nine months been since securing your investor?

  • Over the last year, we've invested heavily in the product which has led to greater efficiency within sales and marketing.
  • If we continue building a product that customers love, continue listening to the product feedback, and continue solving this large and growing problem then we can build a company that is not only relevant right now, but sustainable over the long run. 

[19:15 ] Nobu: You help businesses expand out to Japan, how do you go about it? 

  • We invest in US-based technology companies and one of the things we do bring to the table for founders is an expansion to Japan.
  • We also work with companies that are not necessarily portfolio.

[22:20 ] The ‘LMRE’ part, Louisa asks the guests to talk about; 

L – Touch on the main lessons you have learnt throughout your career.

Nobu: There is a risk in not taking a risk.

M - Please give a mention to anyone / product / service.

Nobu: Kunal, Aaron, Elian, my wife, Megan and my daughter, Ruth. 

R – What has been the most  rewarding  aspect of working in PropTech?

Fatima:  It's a very relationship-driven industry. 

E - What are you excited about in the future of PropTech?

Fatima:  There's so much opportunity in this space.


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How Do You Build a Community Using Innovative Technology in the Residential Space? with Nobu Iguchi and Fatima Dicko

How Do You Build a Community Using Innovative Technology in the Residential Space? with Nobu Iguchi and Fatima Dicko

Louisa Dickins