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PropTech Finland is in the -coliving- house! We had a great discussion with Mikael Långström, Chairman of the Board, PropTech Finland and Digital Manager at RAKLI about the state of innovation in the Finnish real estate environment, how it will affect new spaces being built and how and event like RecoTech can help us build a better future.

We tend to define ourselves by our jobs a bit too much. So, can you introduce yourself without speaking of work? What do you love? What inspires you?

I became a dad two years ago and now I am blessed with two small boys. At the moment being the possible dad to my children defines my everyday life. Of course, them staying healthy is my priority and dream but recently I have been thinking about a simpler life. Maybe it’s the lockdown situation talking here but I realised last weekend and our summer cottage that I haven’t really looked to the night sky in a long time. Some childhood memories later I started to feel that I am way too hooked to being connected nowadays. I’ll promise to spend some more time outside of the city and away my laptop / phone this autumn!

My inspiration comes from doing things differently. I have worked in many organisations where my role has been the trouble maker. Trouble maker in the sense that I have always been developing something new changing the status quo. Breaking the old-fashioned ways of working with new even better ways of working is truly inspiring. 

Cool! Now we can talk a bit about work: What have you been working on recently?

My “marathon run” is to change the mindsets of the real estate professionals towards thinking more digital. It’s a huge theme so let me break it into some smaller projects, so you get a better understanding about my work. First of all, I am building a bridge between corporations and built environment startups. Startups are great to innovate and harness new technology. I think that both parties have a lot to learn from each other. RAKLI and PropTech Finland are the best organisations to organise events where these two different worlds can meet. I am also participating in different research projects and every year I measure the digital readiness of the real estate companies. Our survey answers questions like how the corporations see the digital world, how do they implement digital strategies in their core business, do they work with startups etc. I am also responsible for RAKLI internal ICT, so as my third project (I only mention three here so the list is not too long J) I am working on at the moment is creating an internal data dashboard for RAKLI.

What is the role of PropTech Finland in the Finnish built environment?

PropTech Finland is an association for Finnish built environment startups. We connect Finnish property related startups to a global PropTech startup network (investors, media, events, clients and other startups). We also do research on the local PropTech ecosystem and share the findings within the industry. We actually found out that there are more built environment startups per capita in Finland than anywhere else in the world. Pretty cool eh? PropTech Finland also coaches new founders to find their product market fit, connect corporations to relevant startups and works as a springboard to the Finnish real estate market.

Is real estate moving fast enough compared to the emerging technologies and startups speed of innovation? How can that dynamic improve?

No it’s not but I don’t think that real estate should move too fast. I mean that there’s a lot of groundwork that needs to be done before real estate can take full benefit of rapidly emerging technologies. For example, cyber security hasn’t been discussed enough in real estate and I think that it should be one of the key elements in digitising the industry. Another example is that real estate companies need to learn how to work with tech companies. It is hard to change the company culture towards more digital oriented but luckily Finland has had great initiatives like KIRAdigi to help the mentality shift. Anyway, PropTech Finland is speeding up the innovation with other built environment ecosystems

How do you foresee the landing of new living arrangements, such as coliving, in Helsinki in the next 5 years?

I think that Helsinki has been quite proactive in supporting new kinds of living arrangements. Of course, there is still a lot to do. It is awesome to see newcomers inventing new ways business models to the new living arrangements although Finns are not that well known for their social skills. I think that we all know that this rumour isn’t as valid as it used to be 20 years ago and in the next five years, we can see a boom in different living arrangements if the rental prices keep rising and the population of Helsinki exceeds the new housing development.  

With covid-19 came the massification of remote working. How can that affect both professional and living real estate development and operations?

I think that the question is how will the company culture change after the Covid-19? It is great to see that many businesses have been able to continue with very minimal damage to their core business. We can start asking the question that should we let our employees decide where they want to work from. I think that we will see more remote working related services like exercising at home etc. Time will tell what happens to the modern office but I think that there is always a need for meeting people at the office.

Now, let’s have a bit of fun. Say you are living in one of the many coliving spaces (hopefully soon) available in Finland:

  • What song would you be blasting?
    This is easy – Bestie boys – fight for your right
  • What movie would you watch over and over again in the shared/building’s movie theater?
    Pulp Fiction
  • What food would you teach others to cook?
    Sushi
  • And then what book would you donate to the building’s library?
    Eric Ries – the Lean startup

 

You are currently organizing RecoTech 2020 -the fourth edition: What can we expect to find there?

 A lot of startups and scaleups from the Nordics. This year is exceptional because of the pandemic but I am sure we can make a memorable event also this year. RecoTech is the showcase event for the Nordic proptech startups. We like to show that the Nordics are forerunners in the built environment tech transformation