London Tech Week discussion: ‘The Future of Venturing in the Built Environment’

 

What is the most pressing issue in the built environment? How do VC investors differentiate between hype and scalable investments in an increasingly busy space? Our CEO Elspeth Finch joined this London Tech Week panel debate, hosted by Arup and URBAN-X.

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Image: Arup & URBAN-X

 
 
 

The event:

Disrupting the status quote: The Future of Venturing in the Built Environment

Tue 12 June @Arup HQ

Arup did a great job hosting the event and providing a space where a panel of five and an audience exceeding 100 people (Arup staff, start-ups and VC investors), got together to discuss technology, bio-tech, smart cities and more.

The panel

  • Chair: Ian Rogers, Ventures Global Leader and Head of Intellectual Property and Technology Law, Arup

  • Elspeth Finch MBE, CEO of IAND

  • Michael Hurwitz, Director of Innovation, Transport for London (TfL)

  • Raphael Scheps, CEO and co-founder, Converge

  • Raya Yunakova, Programme Director, PiLabs

The debate

The session focussed on the technologies that are reshaping the built environment space, how innovation and creativity can serve to make the built environment fit for purpose and how investors are differentiating between the hype and scalable, sensible investments.

Discussion snapshot:

What are the most pressing issues in the built environment?

  • Michael (TfL): How will the interface between people and the built environment change? How do we power it? What about space as a platform? How to get people moving around a city in a healthy sustainable way?

  • Elspeth (IAND): Tech will be used in ways that we can’t anticipate. We know things will change, but we don’t know how. We need to be better at responding fast. Cities are about people, and with the rise in tech, we need to retain the humanity of the place. 

  • Raphael (Converge): The mode of construction thinking today is project based. Human based experience leading to advancement / slow. Biggest opportunity, gather as much info as you can to inform data models.

What about SMEs and investments?

  • Elspeth: Small professional services lose 30p in every £1 spent. Are commercial models driving the right behaviour, when there is little capacity to grow and invest in new tech? Why invest if you don’t have a client who can buy the service?

  • Raphael: With a fragmented supply chain, it’s hard for specialists to deliver full value of products.

What’s the dynamic between the naivety you can find in startups, and setting up a business knowing full well the problems you are about to face?

Rafael: Naivety is when you start tackling the problem, towards product market fit.

Elspeth: You have to know the problems, but also want to solve them. Have perseverance, don’t let knowing the problems stop you. This is where the role of boards and advisors come in, to advise startups and understand risks.


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A huge thank you to Arup for convening this discussion. What came out was how to balance the challenges of creating brand new products, which will work in new ways, with the risks of running a city. 

It’s a debate that we need to continue and we look forward to being part of this evolving conversation. 

 
Lena Lindstrom