In late 2018, AskPorter was all over the news with the announcement that Google Assistant had made a significant investment into the company. They had set out to build an AI-powered property maintenance chatbot but, since the Google investment and with their tech and business development support, have been focusing on expanding it vertically and sideways to automate every part of property management, end to end.
I sat down with AskPorter’s CCO Curran McKay, who explained to me the dual goal of what the company is developing. On the one hand, they seek to automate repetitive tasks for agents. On the other, they want to help property managers manage more properties with less headcount. On top of this, they are developing machine learning capabilities off the back of the data logs they are collecting. This was given a big boost by Adiuvo, one of their first investors, an out of hours maintenance services provider with over 550 thousand units under management, which shared standardized maintenance data so that AskPorter could train their ML capabilities.
AskPorter’s core maintenance product is currently live, and they are working on developing the rest. This development is occurring hand in hand with the company’s target clientele, thanks to the Porter Pioneers program, announced exclusively via this column. The Porter Pioneers are 15 fifteen leading real estate companies across the residential, commercial and specialist sector. Of these the first five – Warwick Estates, F%ur, Let-Leeds, POD, and Wisag – are now actively using the AskPorter platform and working with the company to improve and develop it.
Over the course of the next six months, each of the Pioneers will have their platform customized to their own unique requirements. The goal is to deliver a tailored workflow that is specific to each client and their individual sector.
The program is staged in three phases. The first stage is to ‘Learn and Discover’ key insights on the organizations’ operations, KPIs and how the companies are managed. The AskPorter team will map out their processes in order to understand the Pioneers’ perspective and goals. The second stage, ‘Build and Refine’, will consist of product development with regular client touchpoints, as well as deployment to focus groups with user feedback and a constant series of improvements. At the third and final stage, they will ‘Deploy and Test’ the platform to each partner, which will be followed by a thorough review and final tweaks in order to establish a long-term collaboration.
Stage one is currently underway with this first group of Pioneers.
Colin Stokes, who runs both Adiuvo and F%ur, told me that “As an investor, I was initially impressed with the AI technology but when AskPorter began to build the platform out, it became apparent that utilizing it could also make both of my companies’ considerable savings in time. With the residential property industry having become such a fire fighting industry lately because of the small margins, what you actually want from a PropTech solution is something that can streamline your processes and take away the mundane and repetitive tasks; leaving property managers to manage the actual overall asset and provide customer services to landlords and people living in the properties. We are extremely excited to have the ability to work closely with the AskPorter team as part of the Porter Pioneers program; to have them design and build something that is bespoke to us, which will hopefully allow both businesses to be taken to the next level. We intend to use it to replace all of our in-house systems eventually/in the near future.”
The team at Ask Porter are so confident that their AI technology will save their clients both time and money that they are planning to charge fees, post this initial trial, based on the savings achieved through the use of the platform. It will interesting to see the results of the trial in six months’ time – stay tuned to find out how it went!