At Curo we are always keen to look for new ways to do things, so when we heard about Housemark’s Evolve project, to introduce some “disruption” and creative thinking into the sector, we jumped at the chance to get involved, writes Donna Baddeley - Curo's Executive Director for Corporate Services.
The concept was to bring together some like-minded housing organisations (known as ‘pioneers’), an established investor in young companies (L Marks) and a host of entrepreneurial start-ups, interested in accessing a new market for their products in a supportive environment.
Following an initial event at which the pioneers flushed out the key challenges and themes to explore within the project, we were thrilled to receive around 70 expressions of interest. These were soon whittled down, and the successful tenders were invited to pitch for their place on the programme.
I was excited to join the Dragon’s Den-style event, but sceptical we could get through 26 five-minute pitches with no time slippage. Happily, I was wrong!
Everyone who made a pitch was able to communicate their offer and generate a lot of interest and excitement within their five-minute strait jacket. Some of the pitches were done via Skype calls from as far afield as South Africa, which seemed fitting for a largely technology-driven initiative.
The pitches covered exciting new approaches such as 3D printing of concrete walls; using algorithms to predict and understand patterns of behaviour; and smart thermostats to remotely track property performance.
The two pitches that particularly caught our attention were:
- A ‘virtual keys’ system that can be issued via the cloud and embedded in a mobile phone, eliminating the need for physical keys (Standard Access)
- A transactional home service that connects the relevant professionals with customers who want a repair or home project (Plentific)
For Curo, the first offer is appealing as a way of driving down costs associated with lock changes and exploring more flexible access opportunities in terms of servicing cycles and essential maintenance.
The second could be extremely beneficial for our burgeoning private rented portfolio.
What happens next is a period of discussion, exploration and investigation of what is possible, with a view to piloting new ways of working.
The great thing about such a collaborative approach is that we will share all the learning and experiences so the contribution to the sector as a whole is maximised, while we continue to develop this fantastic project.
This article first appeared in Inside Housing magazine in January 2017.