Anthemis Startup Seeding Ideas: Rent Re-negotiation

This is an idea for a go-to-market opportunity that we think is timely and could grow into a bigger proptech company. We are putting it out there to stimulate discussion, see if anyone is building something related or thinks they can figure out what longer term recurring revenue business this becomes. If you are starting a company that builds on some of these business design ideas, please feel free to contact me at Anthemis:

Bureaucracy exacerbates the asymmetry between the more and less powerful. It creates a form of inequality where there is often a threshold where more disadvantaged people cannot afford lawyers or accountants to take advantage of the, often opaque, legal & financial systems through which bureaucracy is mediated.

Politically, both capitalist and socialist based societies increase inequality through bureaucracy as it is easiest for large scale entities to create and is an inherent, self emerging property of any large organization as process and procedures are scaled. There is no difference between public and private sector (State or Corporation), all that matters is size. Reducing this asymmetry would be a good thing and potentially a sound startup business.

Many early fintech startups were about digitising the customer experience and providing more efficient interfaces for the inevitable form filling that constitutes much of the service that the finance industry provides.

In some ways, fintech was merely a vertical sector industry upgrade for the financial services sector. This is why, at Anthemis, we have pointed out that wider structural changes mean that what is being created is a new financial services infrastructure that allows financial services to be embedded in non financial services applications, whether that is embedded payments in Uber or crop yield insurance in farm supplies.

If fintech was financial services on the Internet, embedded finance is the internet of financial services.

But beneath the veneer of better online user interface design there is a more profound change in the way that bureaucracy works — Natural Language Processing and non algorithmic, Machine Learning based systems mean that forms largely go away as capturing structured data is no longer necessary, and SaaS based offerings mean that enterprise style services can be offered to the masses. And there is no enterprise service that would better level the playing field between rich as poor than access to legal services, and the application of the underlying laws which provide the foundation of a society.

Until recently, however, computers have made things worse as they have made it easier to create forms to fill and data to be gathered & processed, than they have simplified the ability to fill in the forms, fight the need to do so or file forms on an individual’s behalf and for their benefit.

In the legal space a lot of focus on the ability to automate legal procedures has been at the enterprise level and through new technologies such as Smart Contracts. But true mass adoption requires specific use cases for consumer rather than b2b products. Secondly, these products may be more likely to come from adjacent spaces to prices comparison and utility switching services, such as those that claim airline refunds or contest parking tickets. DoNotPay has created a range of services along these lines to position itself as a Robo-lawyer and create a level playing field in the legal space that goes way beyond and avoids some of the pitfalls of class action, which was the only form of collective action which has traditionally democratised legal services.

I believe that rent re-negotiation is a similar opportunity here and that the current pandemic has created the tipping point where large scale rent re-negotiation is possible to scale and offer to millions of individuals and small businesses. It is a sophisticated enough service that it could evolve into a more broad offering in the property vertical, rather than a horizontal legal services offering such as DoNotPay’s. In addition, lower property prices do not mean that proptech is uninteresting from an investment perspective and that the large scale changes to the way people live work and shop, caused by the pandemic create enormous opportunities.

Architect: I used to design buildings, now I design companies.