With Locale celebrating a significant milestone in 2020, we interview Founder & CEO, Guy Windsor-Lewis, on the evolution of Locale and his hopes and expectations for 2021.
2020 marked the 15th anniversary of the online property management firm Locale, making them one of the most seasoned proptech trailblazers in the UK. Trusted by over 200 buildings, the firm currently manages nearly 80 million sqft of residential, commercial and mixed-use property, and serves some of the biggest players in the real estate, such as Savills, BNP Paribas Real Estate and The Shard.
Guy’s perseverance in growing Locale to an established proptech leader has been inspirational, and we speak to him on his vision for Locale in 2005, what evolution he has witnessed within proptech over the last 15 years, and the year ahead…
Despite quite an unapologetic year, Locale celebrated its 15th Birthday in April. What was your vision for Locale back then and has it changed?
Locale has always aimed to connect buildings and the people within them by acting as a one stop shop digital property management solution. This has grown exponentially, with innovative modules created to provide a well rounded client experience. Today, Locale’s innovation has gone beyond property management: it delivers people management. The intuitive platform is constantly evolving to serve everyone’s needs, driving value for both owners and occupiers.
To see the strength of Locale in 2020 is incredible, as in April 2005 I was working from my kitchen table – interestingly the enforced remote working due to COVID has given me nostalgia to these early days. I spent a lot of time on the phone, attempting to explain my vision, which was hard work as proptech wasn’t a thing back in 2005 – it wasn’t even a word!
Slowly the approach to technology has improved, with only the last few years revealing a change in attitude to digital solutions, which has led to huge excitement and overwhelming growth for the industry and Locale.
To meet the demands of this quick development, we have grown our teams across the business, investing in development, client services, sales and marketing. Our processes have tightened and matured and because of our ever-growing team, we have moved offices three times in the last five years.
15 years is an established age for a PropTech company, what evolution have you witnessed within this industry? How has it matured?
Before Locale was born, there were less than a handful of businesses that provided building management tech solutions. It’s only in the last 2 or 3 years have we seen a digital movement grip real estate and due to COVID, we have seen years worth of PropTech advancement happen in just a few months.
Locale started off originally with a master template, and the portal was there to hold information such as document storage and communications. However after trying various strategies we became bespoke, and realised that to run a sustainable business, you need maintenance, fees, service teams, and products that are robust and fulfil clients ranging needs.
Now there has been a rise in hotelisation within commercial and residential real estate, which means an increasing demand for front of house and lifestyle services. This in turn has given birth to space for service and engagement functions, which has reshaped Locale. There is still a large number in the property sector who are still hesitant to move into this new era, but with the recent months accelerating the thaw, the future is looking digital.
What do you believe the future looks like for Locale and the property industry in 2021?
It is incredibly exciting to see properties that were once entrenched in old fashioned thinking; from the building construction and materials used to the archaic and manual processes, begin to abandon these outdated methods and look towards a digital transformation.
At the moment, the industry is not using sustainable materials, and the idea of smart centres, buildings and cities need to be acted upon quicker as they are carbon friendly, and radically better for people, culture and the environment.
There is a lot of chatter about the death of the office, and that we will be witnessing empty cities. I truly don’t believe this will be the case. We will go back, and the cities will not be dead but rather different – not radically – but small changes that improve the lives who interact with it. I’m all for flexible working, but home is home and work is work.
I’m excited for Locale’s future, as the tide is turning in favour of digital, and there are massive opportunities for the UK property market to develop building management, engagement, and cost management through technology. Only a small percentage so far have decided to take the step towards a smart future, and Locale will support the industry embrace technology.