OBI Property entrepreneur Will Lewis is “racking his brains” to get into the property tech – or ‘proptech’ – space in Manchester.
The founding director is known for his straight-talking and enviable contacts book, which includes former Manchester United footballer-turned-property developer Gary Neville.
Speaking at BusinessCloud’s Property Hotseat event held at Watch This Space in Manchester, he outlined his desire to use technology to improve the property industry.
“I think if any tech expert still came into our business, they’d be shocked about how backward we are,” he said.
“I think were a few steps ahead of most conventional property companies because the property world is very archaic, in terms of the tech world, this proptech market, it’s got so much growth and I’m really racking my brains to try and get into that space.”
Since launching the business in 2010, Lewis has turned OBI Property into the one of Manchester’s most respected and successful names.
He specialises in advising landlords and occupiers in office consultancy, and described recent changes he has seen in the city.
“We’re in a world where banks are managing costs out of their real estate portfolios.
“Most lawyers have moved in Manchester, and if people have noticed, they’ve taken less space – they’ve downsized. They’ve paid a bigger rent, but they’ve probably cut their occupancy costs because they’re more efficient.
“The accountants have all moved, and they’re streets ahead in terms of how they work.
“You look at Birmingham, their market is fuelled on Government and banks saving money coming up out of London. [Manchester’s] is big businesses and businesses growing, so for inward investment Manchester has always scored really high, but if you look at this e-commerce, tech, digital and creative sectors, we’re trying really hard to stay in that space.
“We’re working with the likes of Rentalcars, NCC, AO, the HUT Group, a firm called CarFinance247, and they all use technology to grow their businesses, and they’re growing at an unbelievable rate.”
One project Lewis has been heavily involved in with Gary Neville is the controversial St Michael’s development.
If passed, it would see two huge skyscrapers erected on Jackson’s Row, near Deansgate.
He added: “You see schemes that excite you, and that’s one of them. You look at it and it’s a real international development – and that’s something which Manchester needs. Some people make comments, which I don’t think they can substantiate.
“I just think it’s an international development. It’ll help Manchester carry on progressing, and I think the buildings look great.
“We still need a proper five-star hotel. It needs to be in the middle of Manchester. There’s lots of residential, but the quality of that residential is stunning.
“There is a shortage of supply of new-build offices and you can’t get a better location for it. I just think it’s massive, and great for Manchester.”