Proptech, RealTech & Asia: Jonathan Hannam (Taronga Group)

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Jonathan Hannam (Taronga Group): From Australia to Asia and Back

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Jonathan decided to travel to Beijing in the early 1990’s after finding himself with limited options as a town planning graduate. He studied at the prestigious Tsinghua University (清华大学) and had the opportunity to start his real estate career in China with one of the first agencies in the region, First Pacific Davies (now Savills).

After building a 20 year career across major global markets, including Sweden, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and China, Jonathan returned to Australia in 2013 to work at Mirvac as the Head of Capital, focusing on cultivating wholesale equity relationships.

He then co-founded the Taronga Group of Companies in late 2015 to bring together institutional real estate investment, with technology and innovation. This includes Taronga Ventures and the RealTechX Growth Program that aims to help emerging real estate technology (RealTech) businesses in Asia that are looking to expand across the region.

Hope you enjoy the conversation. To find out more about Jonathan and Taronga Group, please visit https://tarongagroup.com/

Quotes (edited for clarity)

Building a career oveseas in Asia

  • Rather than for [a young person] to go to Singapore or Hong Kong, the real opportunities are if you can embed yourself into the emergence of China.
  • By moving to China, I fast tracked my career…that was risky but the opportunities that it led to were phenomenal. 
Taronga Group + RealTech + Founders
  • The first one or two years tend to be the toughest of developing a new business, [have] the ability to back yourself and be patient…if we’d given up on Taronga after 2 years, it would have been such a waste because we’ve now had such a great run.  
  • RealTech is any technology that impacts the real estate sector and built environment. PropTech for us, is a vertical for a building. But if you think about real estate, it’s actually about mobility, the infrastructure that connects our cities, the way we move about between buildings…
  • We run the founders, with KPMG, a program to understand themselves a little bit more. For us, the key determinant of a success of the business, is the founder’s wellbeing.  
Opportunities
  • 60% of global venture capital in real estate technology is in Asia…the next generation that are coming through in those family businesses are very innovative.
  • If you look back at SARS and the Global Financial Crisis, people are making short term decisions right now based on these events… It will be difficult with COVID-19, but you need to take the chance with the opportunities.
  • We have so many Asian students in Australia that have to become our next lever of growth in the region.

Timestamps

1:10 – Motivation for moving to Beijing, China. Life studying at the prestigious Tsinghua University in the early 1990s.

4:30 – Working for the first real estate agency in China, learning Chinese and moving to Singapore.

8:30 – Moving from agency to investment management and working as the Head of Real Estate – Asia for Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).

10:00 – Moving to Sweden, then back to Australia.

13:00 – Advice for those looking to move to Asia for their careers.

15:00 – On Taronga Group and opportunities in real estate technology.

20:50 – PropTech vs RealTech, challenges for emerging startups/companies, wellbeing of founders.

24:15 – Real estate companies in Asia investing in innovation and technology

27:15 – Thoughts on expats transitioning back to Australia.

29:00 – Thoughts on Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how Taronga is managing the situation.

31:30 – Short-term behaviour of Aussie companies expanding or investing abroad, opportunities in the Asian century.

33:50 – Final thoughts and advice.