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Major CRE Players Fuel Proptech Funding Boom Aimed At Hybrid, Remote Workers


The proptech boom reached record funding levels last year, fueled by venture capitalists investing in flex office technologies as they search for ways to entice workers back into offices.

New data published by PitchBook shows venture investors pumped $20.5B into the global proptech market last year across 974 deals, roughly $7.5B of which came through funding rounds backed by real estate investors, also a record high.

The cash outpouring was fueled by major players in commercial real estate like CBRE, JLLCushman & Wakefield and Nuveen Real Estate, all of which are looking ahead to capture hybrid or remote workers in a post-pandemic world.

"This is the most seismic change in working since the industrial revolution," Roelof Opperman, partner and co-head of the Europe team at venture capital firm Fifth Wall, told Pitchbook.

Coworking operators especially benefited from the fire hose of money aimed at tech-first property managers: Industrious, a New York-based flex office operator, raised $200M in equity from CBRE last year. This year already, WeWork has returned to expansion mode for the first time since its IPO flop and CEO switch, acquiring Texas-based Common Desk.

Office return technology has also drawn its fair share of investment: Envoy, an app that tracks worker health and office comings and goings, raised a $111M Series C round led by Brookfield's venture investment arm this month.

PitchBook's latest numbers match up with other measures that have found investment increased considerably since the pandemic first began. Total private investment hit $32B last year, a 3.23% increase from 2019 and a 28% increase from pandemic-wracked 2020, according to the Center for Real Estate Technology & Innovation's 2021 Real Estate Tech Venture Funding Report.

Use of proptech is rapidly becoming the norm among CRE firms as the industry sees a "maturation of the proptech startup landscape,” JLL Spark Managing Partner Raj Singh told Bisnow last year.

The number of companies offering property technology across the built environment has increased 300%, according to JLL.