Europe’s first proptech VC Pi Labs expands into Asia

Europe’s first and most active proptech-focused venture capital (VC) firm Pi Labs has expanded internationally through the creation of a new Hong Kong outpost.

Founded in London in 2015 by Faisal Butt, Pi Labs focuses on early-stage investments in technology startups that are digitalising and decarbonising the built environment. Having invested in over 80 startups since inception, with a total gross value of £8.8 billion based on recent company valuations, Pi Labs is the most active VC in Europe dedicated to technological advancement of the built world.

Pi Labs’ new presence in Asia has been driven by its increasingly global investor network and their growing requirements for specialist proptech investment expertise in the region. Coverage of the Asian markets from Hong Kong also brings significant strategic opportunity for Pi Labs’ portfolio companies to expand into the region, capitalising on the local demand for market-shaping proptech innovation. Pi Labs will look to grow its existing ecosystem of founders and investors, bringing a highly collaborative approach to the Asia proptech scene – and with a view to sharing nearly a decade of learnings, while partnering with the Asia-based real estate groups leading the charge for change in the built world.

To spearhead Pi Labs’ expansion into Asia, the firm has brought on board a highly seasoned technology and real estate professional: Ms. Akina Ho. With more than 20 years of experience in real estate, investment, finance, change management, digital transformation, and corporate and marketing strategy from Silicon Valley to numerous global markets, Ho’s wealth of experience will form a deeply connected and well-respected foundational platform from which to grow Pi Labs’ Asia business. Ho – an adjunct professor at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology – previously helped build the venture capital arm at Hong Kong Stock Exchange-listed real estate company Great Eagle Holdings, and was part of the business’ investment committee which focused on cutting-edge technology and disruptive business models.

Co-founder and adviser for the Hong Kong Proptech Alliance, as well as being the co-founder and lead ambassador for Asia Pacific at the AllStarsWomen DAO, Ho is a recognised thought leader in emerging technology including AI, proptech, and the Web3 space, which includes blockchain, NFTs, metaverse, DAOs, and generative AI.

Faisal Butt, Managing Partner at Pi Labs, said: “Built world technology has a critical role to play in the evolution of cities. Proptech is now recognised as a global category that is positively transforming the future of our built world, and is leading the charge on the fight against climate change. We’re really proud of the progress we’ve made since we first launched in London in 2015 – and this step to scale our own business across key global markets is a pivotal, and exciting, moment in the evolution of our growth. While our focus remains on investing in European startups with global ambitions, our plan is to expand into a number of international markets where we can see there is opportunity for our portfolio companies to scale, while continuing to establish long-term strategic partnerships with real estate investors, institutions, and family offices across multiple regions.

“Hong Kong is a key gateway to Asia and benefits from progressive real estate developers already taking bold steps to deploy the latest technology into the built world. We already have partners in Hong Kong including household names – such as Swire Properties – and continue to have meaningful discussions with world-class capital partners who are searching for the connectivity, deep industry knowledge, and investment expertise we have in built environment technology – knowledge that has been acquired over nearly a decade of learnings in Europe.”

Akina Ho, Head of Asia at Pi Labs, said: “Pi Labs was the first ever VC to target early-stage strategic investments in the built environment in Europe – and this clarity of vision from the outset has enabled the business to have had a transformational impact on the proptech market globally.

“I’ve watched Pi Labs evolve into a globally-recognised leader in proptech investment from afar, and their unique selection of portfolio companies allows investors and businesses in Asia to have access to technologies and opportunities that are not readily available anywhere else. 

“With Pi Labs’ expansion into Asia, it will allow investors to have access to deep tech startups that help to digitalise and decarbonise the built world.  As proptech in Asia is moving seriously towards a more ESG-focused strategic direction, it is perfect timing for Pi Labs to enter Asia.  This not only allows investors to have access to great startups outside of Asia but also allows Pi Labs to bring relevant solutions to Asia-based companies that may not be available in Asia.  I do hope that with my involvement with Pi Labs, access to both investment opportunities and deployment of such cutting-edge technologies in Asia will be as easy as just sending me a message. I am very excited that we are opening doors for international exchanges of investment opportunities and adoption of forward-thinking sustainable technologies.”