20/20 Vision: the future of residential real estate
S2E5 - Paddy Allen, Head of Operational Capital Markets, Colliers

S2E5 - Paddy Allen, Head of Operational Capital Markets, Colliers

August 19, 2022

Paddy Allen is Head of Operational Capital Markets at Colliers. He shares his journey in real estate with Guy Westlake, founder of Lavanda.

Before joining Colliers in February 2021, Paddy was a Partner at Cushman & Wakefield working across the European student accommodation and residential build-to-rent teams, providing joint venture, disposal and acquisition advice to global platforms and investors. After spending the bulk of his early career in European fund management, he then joined Global Student Accommodation as an early employee where he led the acquisition of £1bn of student accommodation across the UK & Europe. In 2013 he co-founded fintech business Acasa, which provides financial services to tenants of residential accommodation.

Away from work Paddy is Chair of the Board of Pathways to Property and is a trustee to the Reading Real Estate Foundation.


About Colliers

Colliers (NASDAQ, TSX: CIGI) is a leading diversified professional services and investment management company. With operations in 63 countries, 17,000 Colliers professionals work collaboratively to provide expert real estate and investment advice to clients. With annual revenues of $4.5 billion and $81 billion of assets under management, Colliers maximises the potential of property and real assets to accelerate success for its clients, investors and team. To learn more visit www.colliers.com


In this episode Paddy shares:

  • How he started out in UK estate agency before jumping ship to join Halverton, a business that is today run by the team behind M7 Real Estate.
  • His early years moving around Amsterdam and Germany, cutting his teeth in commercial offices, industrial warehousing and retail before switching to residential following the GFC in 2008.
  • Being an early employee at Global Student Accommodation and over the course of 4 years building a multi-billion dollar student accommodation platform across 8 different countries.
  • Why his role is to challenge the notions of his clients, help them identify under-served customer groups, and support them in building breadth and depth in their business plans
  • Why data and insight, including demographic and psychographic profiling, is growing in importance when it comes to real estate decision making
  • How his professional ambition and career decision making has been shaped by multiple influencers including Nick Porter, Richard Croft and Jos Short.
  • Why personality and authenticity are two key traits of great leaders, but how ultimately the one that trumps all others is knowing how to get deals done.
  • Why smart building tech, customer experience tech and tokenisation/NFTs are key technologies shaping the future of the industry.
S2E4 - Vivi Cahyadi Himmel and Karolina Saviova, co-founders of AltoVita

S2E4 - Vivi Cahyadi Himmel and Karolina Saviova, co-founders of AltoVita

July 1, 2022

Vivi Cahyadi Himmel and Karolina Saviova, co-founders of AltoVita, share their journey in real estate and travel tech with Guy Westlake, founder of Lavanda.

Vivi Cahyadi Himmel is CEO and Co-Founder of AltoVita. Having started out working in Asset Management for Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers, and having had to relocate to multiple cities including New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and London for work, she became acutely aware of the challenges around relocation.  In 2018 she launched AltoVita with co-founder Karolina Saviova in 2018 to disrupt legacy practices in corporate housing by bringing forward a technology-first solution paired with duty of care. Vivi is listed on the 2021 Global Mobility Top 100. Outside of AltoVita, she’s also an angel investor and a Limited Partner in several UK venture capital funds.


Karolina Saviova is COO and Co-Founder of AltoVita. Born in Prague, Karolina worked for a consultancy in Brussels and then went on to become a business journalist in the energy sector travelling across Turkey, Indonesia, India, and Gabon. It was as a journalist that Karolina became tired of the issues that came with corporate travel and felt inspired to change the sector for the better. Karolina is passionate about delivering dynamic hospitality and it was this that led her to co-found AltoVita alongside Vivi in 2018. Karolina was named a "Rising Star" in the 2021 Shortyz Awards. 


About AltoVita

AltoVita powers the corporate accommodation sector with enterprise software coupled with a human-centric approach that provides every business traveller with exactly what they need.

AltoVita’s award-winning technology creates a cloud-based bridge between the highly fragmented property distribution system and Global 2000 companies, SMEs, and business travellers. The fully customisable platform reduces the legacy 48-to-72-hour bidding process down to a few minutes, providing instant access to a diverse network of 1 million+ housing options worldwide – including serviced apartments, professionally managed homes, aparthotels, and co-living – with the ability to sort by desired amenities, pet friendliness, sustainability scores, and more. All properties are fully vetted and verified to provide duty of care and compliance, backed by an extensive Four-Tier Quality Control system.

AltoVita’s fast-growing global footprint currently spans 165 countries and 1,238 cities. They are headquartered in London, with regional offices in Singapore and Dallas, TX. For more information visit altovita.com


In this episode Vivi and Karolina share:

  • How they both met and came up with the idea for AltoVita.
  • Where AltoVita sits as an OTA vis-à-vis Airbnb, Booking.com and VRBO
  • The problems faced by corporate travel buyers when booking accommodation, and how AltoVita solves them.
  • The various challenges AltoVita has encountered in aggregating the business accommodation supply chain.
  • Why extended stays are a different market segment to short-term rentals.
  • How smart, proactive vetting of the accommodation has led incident rates to drop to 0.5%.
  • Why sustainability is becoming a key factor for travel buyers when selecting accommodation - and how AltoVita is embracing this.
  • The role of technology within AltoVita, and their technology vision.
  • How co-creation with their target audience of travel buyers has been a key factor in finding product market fit.
  • How they are taking steps to set a new benchmark with regards to equality, diversity and inclusion in tech.
S2E3 - Cem Savas, Co-founder and CEO of Plentific

S2E3 - Cem Savas, Co-founder and CEO of Plentific

April 28, 2022

Cem Savas is Co-Founder and CEO of Plentific, the award-winning digital property management platform backed by Highland Europe, Brookfield, Mubadala, RXR Digital Ventures, A/O Proptech and Target Global. Plentific empowers housing providers to streamline operations and improve the resident experience, unlocking operational cost savings with an end-to-end work order management solution powered by a marketplace of vetted trade professionals.


Cem came to proptech having harboured a family passion for real estate from a young age. After embarking on a promising career in corporate finance, he and Co-founder Emry Kazan eventually decided to follow their hearts and set up their own property development business. As they struggled with the challenges of scaling their new venture, they came up with the idea of Plentific, founding the company back in 2012.


About Plentific

Plentific is an all-in-one delivery platform for property maintenance, trusted by companies like L&Q, Peabody, and Notting Hill Genesis to manage around 700,000 properties across the UK, Germany and USA. The platform streamlines repairs, compliance, resident and voids management, providing instant insight into the health of a property portfolio. For more information please visit www.plentific.com


In this episode Cem shares:

  • How he came up with the idea for Plentific with co-founder Emry Kazan.
  • How the company pivoted from servicing smaller landlords to focusing on large enterprise clients.
  • How he manages his family and work-life balance whilst running a global scale-up.
  • The challenges of hiring 100+ people a year, and the learnings that come from having done it.
  • His experience of raising $100m in growth capital at the height of the pandemic.
  • The importance of company vision and culture, and how he handles the growing challenge of employee retention.
  • Why startup CEOs have to evolve to meet the changing needs of their business and team.
  • The overwhelming importance of hiring people who are better than you.
  • How he approaches KPIs, forecasting and performance management as the business scales.
  • How Plentific is approaching inorganic growth via M&A.
  • Why proptech entrepreneurs benefit from operational industry experience, and why the size of their addressable market is all important.
  • Why companies should pivot as much and as often as necessary.
S2E2 - Jon Slavet, CEO of Sentral

S2E2 - Jon Slavet, CEO of Sentral

March 25, 2022

Jon Slavet is CEO at Sentral, the proptech innovator building the world’s largest flexible living community, backed by Iconiq Capital. Jon leads a team of top-flight executives from across the hospitality, multifamily and tech industries, and together they are working to redefine how people live, travel, and work. Jon has spent his career operating at the intersection of technology, real estate and consumer lifestyle - from start-up to scale-up. Prior to Sentral, Jon co-led the US business at WeWork, and previously held executive positions spanning media, direct to consumer and technology. Jon is a trusted advisor to several start-ups, father of three, and a graduate of Dartmouth College.


About Sentral

Sentral is redefining home by building a more flexible and connected way to live, travel and work. Sentral invites individuals to LIVE and STAY for any length of time in amenity-rich buildings within many of the most vibrant neighbourhoods across the USA. Sentral is creating a global community of modern adventurers with the freedom to monetize their homes, explore their passion for travel, and live life on their own terms. For more information visit www.sentral.com or follow @SentralLife.


In this episode Jon shares:

  • Sentral’s vision to “redefine home” by building the world’s largest network of flexible and connected communities.
  • Why living, travel and work will never be the same - and why flexible living is the future.
  • What he learnt working alongside Adam Neumann, founder of WeWork.
  • Hos experience launching and building a business backed by Iconiq Capital, Highgate Hotels, Ascendant Capital and Bozzuto.
  • Why he wants nothing to do with master leasing
  • How he’s optimizing Sentral for direct and corporate bookings.
  • How he structures a geographically distributed, remote leadership team and how he brings people together to collaborate.
  • Who he sees as potential competitors within the flexible living ecosystem
  • Sentral’s global growth plans.
  • The technology gaps that entrepreneurs who are passionate about flexible living should tackle.
S2E1 - Brad Hargreaves, Founder & CEO of Common

S2E1 - Brad Hargreaves, Founder & CEO of Common

March 11, 2022

Brad is Founder and CEO of Common, one of the fastest growing residential brands in the US.  Before founding Common in early 2015, Brad was the co-founder of General Assembly, a global education institution with campuses in more than 15 cities worldwide. As part of the General Assembly founding team, Brad led the growth of the company's education business from its launch in 2011 into a global institution with over a dozen campuses. Most recently, he was a Venture Partner at Maveron, General Assembly's lead investor. Brad has been shortlisted for Ernst and Young’s 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year award; Vanity Fair’s The Next Establishment; Business Insider’s Silicon Alley 100; and Crain’s 2017 40 Under Forty.

About Common

Founded in 2015, Common is a residential property manager with more than 7,500 residents in over 12 markets across the US, and over 20,000 units signed and under development. Having raised over $110 million in venture capital investment, Common is now expanding into 22 cities across the world. What sets the business apart is its focus on innovation across design, technology and operations. The Common platform also includes Noah, a workforce housing management brand, and Mily, a family-first operator. For more information visit www.common.com


In this episode Brad shares:

  • How he experienced first hand the need for more flexible and affordable housing whilst at General assembly.
  • Why he chose to raise institutional investment to fund Common’s growth.
  • His insights into scaling an operationally complex property management business.
  • Why he’s a unit economics fundametalist, and what that means.
  • The challenge of navigating hyper rent growth in the US.
  • Why The Collective, a leading light of the micro/co-living sector, ultimately failed.
  • Why developing tech to enable back office processes is key to scaling.
  • Why it’s important when developing tech not to make it a goal to eliminate humans from all processes.
  • What opportunities he sees for tech entrepreneurs eying the residential market.
Faisal Butt, Founder & CEO of Pi Labs, Europe’s first and most active proptech VC

Faisal Butt, Founder & CEO of Pi Labs, Europe’s first and most active proptech VC

July 8, 2021

Faisal Butt, Founder & CEO of Pi Labs, Europe’s most active proptech VC, shares his journey in proptech and venture capital with Guy Westlake.


Faisal is founder and CEO of Pi Labs, which he launched in 2015 after leading the first round of investment into PropTech start-ups Hubble and Trussle as an individual investor. The Pi Labs team have since built a portfolio of over 55 proptech companies across Europe, North America, and Asia. Alongside Pi Labs Faisal is also founder of Spire Ventures, a personal investment vehicle investing in more traditional property companies. After graduating from UCLA in Business Economics and Computing, Faisal left California in 2008 to study for an MBA at Oxford University’s Said Business School. Today he lives with his family in London.


About Pi Labs

Pi Labs is Europe’s first and most active proptech focused VC having built a portfolio of 55+ companies globally since its launch in 2015. The firm is committed to backing the next generation of proptech entrepreneurs by investing in pre-seed to Series A early-stage ventures that are shaping the future of our built world. This mission has seen Pi Labs invest in various leading proptech businesses including Landtech, OfficeApp, Hubble and many more. Pi Labs also runs a world-leading annual 15-week accelerator designed specifically for a carefully selected group of proptech startups solving the property industry’s biggest challenges. For more information visit www.pilabs.co.uk


In this episode Faisal shares:

- How he caught the entrepreneurial bug when he was 25 years old and what he learned from his first ecommerce startup.

- How an MBA at Oxford University created an opportunity to work alongside celebrated British entrepreneur (and ex-Dragon’s Den star) James Caan.

- How early investments in Hubble and Trussle led him to develop the core investment thesis for Pi Labs.

- UK success story Landtech’s stellar journey to becoming one of Europe’s leading proptech startups.

- The research-led rationale behind Pi Labs' core investment themes: future of work, construction technology (ConTech), future of real estate investment management and the emerging vertical of legal tech.

- How the Pi Labs portfolio performed during the pandemic, the glut of investment opportunities in the market right now and the challenges faced by investors.

- What makes a successful proptech entrepreneur and the key traits that Pi Labs looks for when making an investment.

- The leading role played by VCs in seeding and promoting diversity & inclusion within real estate, and what Pi Labs is doing to make an impact.

Sarah Liu, VP at Fifth Wall - the world’s leading proptech VC

Sarah Liu, VP at Fifth Wall - the world’s leading proptech VC

July 1, 2021

Sarah Liu, VP at leading proptech venture capital firm Fifth Wall, shares her journey in VC and proptech with Guy Westlake.


Sarah Liu is a Vice President on the US Real Estate Technology Investment team at Fifth Wall, where she leads much of the work on deals across the residential, construction, and transaction spaces. Prior to joining Fifth Wall, Sarah worked at McKinsey in San Francisco where her work spanned Financial Services, TMT, and Retail and included private equity due diligence, M&A strategy, and corporate transformations. Sarah was born in Shenyang, China, grew up in Toronto and currently lives in Austin, TX. She graduated summa cum laude and Beta Gamma Sigma from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.


About Fifth Wall

Founded in 2016 and based in Los Angeles, Fifth Wall is the largest venture capital firm focused on technology-driven innovation for the global real estate industry. A certified B Corporation with approximately $2.5 billion in commitments and capital under management, Fifth Wall connects many of the world’s largest owners and operators of real estate with the entrepreneurs who are redefining the future of the “built world”. Fifth Wall is backed by a strategic consortium of more than 70+ corporate investors from 15 countries - representing one of the largest groups of potential partners in the global “built world” ecosystem and providing a framework for game-changing investments and collaborations with promising portfolio companies. Focus sectors include retail, residential and multi-family, commercial, industrial, hospitality amongst others. For more information visit www.fifthwall.com.


In this episode Sarah shares:

- How her experience at McKinsey equipped her for a career in venture capital.

- How as a VC she gets professional fulfilment working alongside inspiring entrepreneurs who are shaping the future of the planet

- The personality traits and characteristics that make a great VC, and the challenges of hiring during a pandemic.

- The similarities between proptech and fintech, and why big valuations and exits (like Stripe) are only ~5 years away.

- The “paradigm shifts” that have occurred over the last year, and the sectors/technologies that have most benefited.

- Key learnings arising from the pandemic - including the fundamental flaws of the “master lease” model and the hybrid future of work.

- The primary reasons why proptech entrepreneurs fail.

- The very sad state of equality, diversity & inclusion in venture capital, real estate and technology, and her recommendations for how companies can make measurable progress.

- What it means to be a B Corporation.

- Her advice for other women aspiring to build a career in venture capital.

- Shouts out to Fifth Wall portfolio companies Assignar, Industrious, Notarize and Blend

Bella Peacock, Managing Director Investment Management & Operations, Greystar Europe

Bella Peacock, Managing Director Investment Management & Operations, Greystar Europe

June 17, 2021

Bella Peacock, Managing Director Investment Management & Operations at Greystar Europe, shares her industry experience and insights with Guy Westlake.

Bella is a key member of Greystar’s European leadership, heading up the Asset Management and Operations teams across Europe (France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain and UK). She’s ultimately responsible for execution across their student and multifamily portfolio - and, looking at her earlier career, it’s clear she’s ideally suited to the job! Bella's built deep experience across all of the major institutional residential asset classes; initially student accommodation at the UNITE Group, and then serviced apartments, PRS and BTR/multifamily at Native. Alongside her day job she’s an active member of the Urban Land Institute, Real Estate Balance and The Class Foundation, and recently became a mum. Bella has an MA in Geography from the University of Oxford, and an MSc in Real Estate Investment and Finance from Henley Business School.

About Greystar:
Greystar manages and operates over $220 billion of real estate in ~200 markets globally with offices throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and the Asia-Pacific region. It is the largest operator of apartments in the United States, managing approximately 729,000 units/beds, and has a robust institutional investment management platform with approximately $39.8 billion of assets under management, including over $18.3 billion of assets under development. For more information visit

In this episode Bella shares:

- How as a recent graduate a job offer from the UNITE group opened up a career in real estate, trumping other avenues in HR and consumer goods.

- How she deftly juggles work and home life, and why parenthood has accelerated plans to move to the country.

- How the significant under-supply of professionally managed student accommodation has fuelled Greystar’s re-entry into more regional markets.

- Why the increasing amenitization of space doesn’t necessarily impact affordability, and why scale operators have an unassailable advantage.

- Her views on the state of equality, diversity and inclusion in real estate - what the industry can do more of and better.

- The paradigm shift at an industry level to talking about and solving for customer experience.

- How the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology in real estate, and the growing importance of flexibility and convenience.

- Why the institutional sector is set to grow, and the real life opportunities and challenges that VCs should be investing in to solve.

- Why our time and energy is better spent building upon our individual strengths vs. trying to solve for personal weaknesses.

Harry Hill, former Chairman & CEO of Countrywide, co-founder of Rightmove

Harry Hill, former Chairman & CEO of Countrywide, co-founder of Rightmove

May 4, 2021

Harry Hill, former Chairman and CEO of Countrywide and co-founder of Rightmove, shares his journey in real estate with Guy Westlake.

Harry is one of the legends of UK estate agency, considered by many to be the original proptech pioneer. Over his 20 year tenure as CEO of Countrywide, Harry built the company into the world’s largest group of estate agents offering integrated property services, eventually selling the business to US private equity firm Apollo Global Management for £1bn in 2007.  In 2000, whilst at the helm of Countrywide, he led the formation of Rightmove and served as the company’s Chairman until 2008.  Today Rightmove is the UK’s leading property listings portal with a market capitalization of £5.3bn.

Harry has held numerous non-executive roles at both public and private companies, including Hunters, Learning Technologies Group and Lavanda.

In this episode Harry shares:

  • How failing to get into the army led to auctioning cattle in Yorkshire, which in turn proved to be a springboard to a stellar career in property!
  • How building an estate agency business of scale was a vehicle to cross-selling high margin products like insurance and property services.
  • Why digital adoption in real estate has been historically slow, but why that is now set to change fast.
  • Why 90-95% of proptech businesses are destined to fail due to lack of product market fit.
  • How he believes the next seismic innovation in real estate will be making the process of buying a home as simple and straightforward as buying a car.
  • His admiration for Alex Chesterman (founder of LoveFilm and Zoopla)  whose most recent start-up Cazoo is now mooted to be going public at a valuation of $7bn.
John Hitchcox, Founder of Yoo Group

John Hitchcox, Founder of Yoo Group

April 14, 2021

John Hitchcox, founder and chairman of YOO Group, shares his journey in real estate with Guy Westlake.

John is one of the residential industry's most influential and respected entrepreneurs. He founded YOO in 1999, and along with business partner Philippe Starck, the celebrated designer, built the company into one of the world’s leading placemaking and design brands. Today, YOO operates across 36 countries globally. By combining design, architecture, development, investment, marketing and branding, John Hitchcox and YOO are the driving force behind some of the world's most innovative and creative residential and hotel developments.


In this episode John shares:

  • How he stumbled into property despite his mother wanting him to pursue a career as a musician or conductor.
  • The serendipity of meeting Philippe Starck in Paris and together developing YOO both as a concept and proposition.
  • Regenerating swathes of London over the years, culminating in YOO's £1.3bn regeneration of Olympia into a world-leading cultural destination.
  • How he expects the way we work will change post-pandemic, and the likely impact upon businesses.
  • How YOO is adapting to capitalise on opportunities coming out of the pandemic.
  • Some of the technologies and innovations he believes are driving the industry forward.
  • The important role that music plays in his life outside of work.
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