Support for Proptechs and Fintechs: Aareal Bank promotes start-ups in the property sector

The Aareal Bank team is convinced that young founders have the courage and ideas to inspire business models. With its own programme, the company therefore addresses start-ups that offer exciting solutions specifically for the property sector. The first contact person is Henning Zander. He validates the companies and makes sure that the start-ups receive the support they need via accelerator, cooperation and investments. We spoke with Henning about the program and gained interesting insights into the challenges of the real estate industry.

Henning, how did you come to develop a startup programm?

In 2015, we took a closer look at what is happening in the real estate industry technologically and which new players are coming onto the field as part of a strategic environment analysis. Due to increasing digitalization, many of these were start-ups, especially proptechs and fintechs. In the course of this, we noticed that the start-ups can attack parts of our value chain.
At the same time, we realized that these new technologies could be a valuable addition to our existing solution portfolio. That’s why we wanted to get in touch with the start-ups, learn from them and even develop things together for which we would otherwise have lacked the time or skills.

Can you also be approached by startups that are not from the proptech or fintech sector?

Yes, they can. We also work together with startups that are active in completely different fields. For example, we are currently cooperating with a Berlin-based start-up that specializes in recruiting. Another one focuses on the evaluation of employee seminars and further training. We also have a startup that helps with the administration and accounting of external lawyers. We have also worked with chat bot providers. Energy supply is also an important topic for us. Startups are interesting for us when we can use their solutions internally at our firm. Currently we cooperate with about 20 startups.

How far do the start-ups have to be with their solutions before a cooperation is worthwhile for you?

Aareal Bank Group’s business is purely B2B. Proptechs, which are still in a very early phase, we would refer to the blackprint Booster, for example – an accelerator we work with.
We also have a venturing program within the Group. With a team, we are explicitly looking for exciting ideas that have something to do with real estate and are not too close to our core business. These are validated and if they are really attractive, we look for external founders. In the best case, new start-ups are created in this way. So far, we have had two companies.

Can you tell us about a particular success story from 2019?

Yes, of course. A software from realxdata in Berlin was particularly helpful for us. We had already made a positive proof of concept with the 2018 team and then integrated the solution into our system. When we finance office buildings, we receive tenant lists from our customers. We do this in 25 countries and receive them several times a year in all possible formats. The processing was previously incredibly complex and had to be done by hand to a large extent. The software from realxdata can read and process the documents automatically. This is a real relief. In addition, we can now better analyze, for example, which tenants we have across countries, how long rental contracts are running on average, etc.

Do the established companies in your customer base also come into contact with the start-ups?

We are part of the Real Estate Innovation Network and regularly exchange information with other companies in the sector. Sometimes we even look at startups and their solutions together. On the other hand, we also try to market the solutions of the founders to our customers. For example, we have had a cooperation with KIWI for quite some time. With their software you can open doors via smartphone etc. to give certain groups of people like craftsmen temporary access to an object. We have integrated this solution into our craftsmen portal. So if our customers use the portal to commission a tradesman, they could use KIWI to give him temporary access to the boiler room.

What are your plans for the future of your start-up program?

At the moment, our start-up program is going very well, so in 2020 our first priority is to keep it that way. What is important to me is that established companies and startups meet on an equal footing. It’s important to approach issues openly and in a solution-oriented manner. In the future, I would like to see companies try even harder to move things forward together. Many challenges in the banking and real estate industry are so complex these days. That is why we should try to join forces.



LinkedIn: Henning Zander

About Ambivation
Ambivation connects innovative companies and startups for cooperation and innovation partnerships. As an innovation consultancy and matchmaker, Ambivation promotes cooperation between established companies and startups within the framework of concrete customer, supplier and research partnerships. We support companies in the identification of needs, startup identification, startup evaluation and cooperation initiation with startups. Formats such as research on relevant startups, startup monitoring, strategic cooperation consulting or event formats such as startup tours serve this purpose. Our monthly newsletter also provides information on current examples of cooperation and events.