From Brynne McNulty Rojas to Jess Beck, these women have smashed the glass ceiling and set up successful PropTech startups.
It is well-known that tech is a male-dominated industry, and PropTech (property tech) is not exempt. According to an article by Forbes, only 10% of startup founders in the PropTech space are women. Multiple factors could be attributed to this, including an unconscious bias against women during the hiring process and a lack of investment in women-founded companies, to name a few.
Perhaps the biggest reason PropTech is not seeing as many female founders is that women don’t see themselves represented in leadership positions and thus feel demotivated to even try out for those opportunities. With that in mind, we bring to you a list of the top four female PropTech founders.
Brynne McNulty Rojas
Rojas founded the Colombia-based PropTech startup Habi with her co-founder Sebastian Noguera in 2019. Habi buys, sells and renovates houses in the South American country. It aims to simplify real estate for both the sellers and buyers. For the sellers, it gets the property off their hands within 10 days, and for the buyers, it not only helps them look for the right real estate opportunity but also aids them in getting a mortgage to finance the purchase.
Rojas had been interested in the PropTech space since her undergraduate days at the Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania. But it was only when she moved to Colombia that she realized she was in the right place to establish a PropTech company. Today, she has not only successfully founded her own PropTech business but also leads it as the chief executive officer (CEO). Under Rojas’s leadership, the company has successfully raised US$200 million as of this year, making Habi the second unicorn in Colombia and the first Latin American unicorn with a female founder and CEO.
Butz founded the U.K.-based startup District Technologies in 2017. District Technologies is a mobile-based workplace platform that facilitates the use of “Space-as-a-service”. Butz believes that technology needs to be leveraged in a way that improves people’s lives and helps build a community to make this happen, District Technologies provides services to two groups— companies that need office spaces and property owners.
On one hand, it allows office communities to stay connected from anywhere in the world. Using District Technologies’ platform, companies can rent out office spaces as per their need and otherwise stay connected over the mobile platform. On the other side of the spectrum, it allows owners of these office spaces to manage operations providing one single platform for a streamlined interaction between landlords, property managers and the companies renting out the space.
Chen founded the U.S.-based startup Nomad Homes in 2019. Nomad Homes is an online platform that simplifies the process of buying and renting houses in the Middle East and Europe. Nomad Homes makes it possible for people to search for properties, make deals and even finance their purchases with no additional charges.
Chen had been working as an angel investor in 2018 when she realized that she wanted to do something different. Ever since childhood, she had helped her parents manage the properties they rented out— doing everything from cleaning to building furniture, all to give the renters a comfortable experience. This spirit of putting the renters’ needs at the forefront can be found in Nomad Homes. After all, the startup’s primary audience are people using their service to buy/ rent properties as opposed to property owners. Her business has been so successful that it has expanded its services from Dubai to Paris, Lisbon and Spain. By 2021, the company had raised US$20 million in Series A funding, and Chen had made her way onto the Forbes 30 under 30 lists.
Beck co-founded the U.S.-based startup Alfred (formerly known as Hello Alfred) with her co-founder Marcela Sapone in 2014. The company is a PropTech business that provides people with a personal home manager to take care of all their needs— walking their pets, getting their dry cleaning done and stocking the refrigerator with groceries. Besides providing home managers, the company also has software that helps facilitate regular communication between Alfred and the residents.
Beck and Sapone realized the need for a service like Alfred when they were attending Harvard Business School. They noticed how holding down a job left them in desperate need of help on the home management front. Beck is the chief operating officer (COO) of Alfred and, as of 2021, has negotiated deals with developers, thus expanding Alfred’s reach to 44 American cities. As of this year, Alfred seems to be faring well, having raised US$125 million in its most recent round of funding.
While there is indeed a lesser number of women in this space than men, the stories of these successful female founders and their businesses should tell you that women have made their mark on PropTech. They are great role models for women who want to enter the PropTech industry but are clouded by self-doubt and unable to take the plunge.
This list only has four people, but there are many other role models out there in the PropTech industry. For instance, to encourage networking among women in the space, the networking organization Women In PropTech (WiPT) has been established. WiPT promotes female leadership and provides women space to talk to their peers about diversity issues. Hopefully, ventures like these encourage our female readers to consider PropTech as a viable career path.
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