Property investor leads £25k PropTech Innovation Challenge

Budding entrepreneurs invited to stake a claim in £25,000 prize 

Edinburgh businessman Shaf Rasul, a commercial property investor, is inviting budding entrepreneurs to take up the ‘PropTech Innovation Challenge’ – in partnership with the University of Strathclyde – and stake a claim to £25,000 in start-up funding.
Rasul, who was named the University’s Resident Entrepreneur in February, is sponsoring the Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network (SEN) property technology competition, in which five winners with the best business pitches are set to land prizes of up to £5,000.
Together, he and the University are laying down the gauntlet to innovators looking to see their technological ideas take off and provide breakthrough property market solutions across the likes of software, hardware, and manufacturing.
It’s hoped that university students, staff and alumni will take up the challenge and enter their submissions before the deadline of 17 May, before a shortlist is drawn up and final panel takes place on 14 June.
Rasul, who is a Strathclyde graduate himself, says he will be leveraging his experience as a former member of the BBC’s online Dragon’s Den to lead the university panel and put the competitors through their paces during their five-minute pitches.
The “heavyweight” panel of judges and enablers will include Glen Gilson and Matthew Gray of law firm Gilson Gray; Les McAandrew, Managing Partner of Graham+Sibbald, and Alex Watts, Director of Kingsford Estates.
Also joining the highly experienced panel will be David Alexander, Managing Director of letting and estate agents DJ Alexander, and Allan MacKenzie, Head of Regions for Lloyds Bank’s Commercial Real Estate unit.
Rasul, founder of Edinburgh-based SRA Ventures, has a significant investment portfolio across a range of sectors and says he is aiming to inspire and nurture the University’s ambitious PropTech entrepreneurs as part of the competition.
He has already worked closely with Edinburgh-based Property Technology Ltd, providing mentoring support and early stage fundraising advice. The start-up has since been handed £150,000 by the Scottish EDGE fund and IBM after noting the high-growth potential of its Apply.Property software.
The serial entrepreneur and published author said: “The PropTech Innovation Challenge is a huge opportunity for the best technological minds at the University of Strathclyde to get their leading ideas off the ground with a significant cash injection.
“I believe that my philanthropic donation of £25,000 may be the spark that ignites some startling home-grown PropTech breakthroughs, and we look forward to finding out what budding expertise the university has to offer – the kind that we hope will be capable of standing out on an international stage.
“The competition promises to be excitingly contested, from initial submissions in May to discovering the best of the best in June. Of course, having a great idea is only half the battle – it’s how you pitch it that often matters, and it’s a vital skill that we’re looking to hone at SEN.
“The University of Strathclyde continues to be a pioneering institution of global standing within a leading international technological university, and competitions like this can only enhance that reputation.”
Fiona Ireland, Head of Enterprise at the University of Strathclyde, said: “When the idea of the PropTech Innovation Challenge was first mooted, we were excited by the possibilities of where it might lead.
“We’re now confident that we’ll see some fantastic examples of high-performing technology that will solve genuine challenges in the property sector in a long-term, sustainable manner.
“The eventual winners will also benefit from Shaf’s invaluable and enduring link to the world of business for emerging entrepreneurs.
“As an entrepreneurial university, Strathclyde is committed to cultivating entrepreneurs who can effectively pitch their innovations and ideas to any audience – and that’s why competitions like this are so vital.
“It’s also a huge opportunity for students, staff and alumni to put their innovations in the shop window for enterprises who might want to come on board and further develop their ideas, providing significant start-up support in the process.”
All students, staff and graduates of the University have access to SEN, which offers expertise, support and industry contacts to those looking to form and grow new businesses. The University is consistently ranked in the UK’s top 10 for company creation, and was named UK Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2013/14.