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  • Writer's pictureReal Estate Today - New Zealand

Dr Sarah Bell Joins MRI's Executive Team and Unveils Her Vision for PropTech

Global proptech company MRI Software has strengthened its Asia-Pacific team by appointing two senior executives.

Dr. Sarah Bell, co-founder of RiTA and former head of innovation and industry at CoreLogic, will take on the role of director of strategic partnerships at MRI. Audrey Nicoll, who served as chief marketing officer at PropTech Group (PTG) and boasts a 20-year career in marketing, will become the senior director of growth and marketing.

When a job offer arose during a casual conversation, Bell was quick to accept.

“Quite often we see relationships with industry from suppliers, particularly around data, almost being parasitic, whereas MRI has very much a people-first, customer-first approach,” said Bell.

She envisions the future of proptech not as an unhealthy habitat peopled by parasites and prey, but as an “open and connected ecosystem” that facilitates productive competition.

“I’ve sat on all these different islands as tenant and supplier and former agency owner, and what I love about this role is it gives me the opportunity to be the ocean between them, and help bring about understanding across the ecosystem by connecting and translating and pollinating experience and knowledge from so many different actors,” said Bell.

To do that requires doing the unglamourous, behind-the-scenes work of connecting data to solutions. “When I talk about software, I break it up into the plumbing and the electrics. With the electrics, you see it – a light goes on – so people will often work in UX and add lots of features,” said Bell.

“The plumbing is never sexy to work on, but what really matters is the plumbing that’s going to tie it all together, and get rid of the waste, and recycle new running rivers of data in.”

As it currently stands, the greatest problems facing the proptech industry come down to one thing: communication. In any given real estate agency, data will be “fragmented and disconnected” between programs.

“You’ll have a CRM, you’ll have a property management system, you’ll have some kind of plug-ins, and they won’t integrate at an insights level,” said Bell.

The field also suffers from a lack of communication between tech providers and on-the-ground industry players. “The best AI solutions are the ones that address proven problems,” she said.

“You have to talk to industry, you have to be connected, and you have to walk across that bridge and be immersed with the daily life of agents and agencies.” “I think that earnest listening is super important to distinguish great problems to ‘Let’s see what we can get out of these hardworking people’,” she said.

“We want to make hard-earned steps towards making sure every dollar spent on a subscription is spent well.” Finally, Bell noted that stronger communication between start-ups and large tech firms is key to boosting innovation.

“There are so many people in T-shirts and sneakers in garages around Australia building cool stuff.” “Keeping that flowing, and keeping that competition in innovation alive by being open for business, is something I feel really passionate about,” she stated.

Going forward as director of strategic partnerships at MRI Software, Bell is optimistic about the firm’s potential to help solve the communication gaps that riddle Australian proptech.

“It’s a 50-year-old business that wants to be here in 50 years’ time, and they understand that to do that you have to walk with agents and agencies,” said Bell.

“My career has gone from being in a real estate agency, to innovating and building AI solutions for them. Having the global might of a company like MRI aligns to that good mission.”


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