Backing Women in Tech

Melbourne-based urban-tech start-up Neighbourlytics has attracted the backing of property industry leader and Reserve Bank board member, Carole Schwartz, closing a $1.25 million seed investment round.

Neighbourlytics is a data analytics company that pools together information from sources such as TripAdvisor, Google Maps, Facebook and Instagram to find out how people are living, working and spending within a particular area.

Chief executive Jessica Christiansen-Franks and chief innovation officer Lucinda Hartley founded the company in October 2017, working out of the CE.Lab in Pelham Street, Carlton.

Since then, Neighbourlytics has been contracted by a range of private clients, including property developers Stockland, Lendlease and Frasers Property, as well as public entities such as the Queensland state government and the Scottish government.

“We basically spent the last 20 years of our careers manually doing what can now be done with tech, so going out in to communities and seeing what makes them tick, so that decision-makers can make their decisions,” Ms Christiansen-Franks said.

Ms Christiansen-Franks and Ms Hartley met running a consulting company together called CoDesign. Both of their backgrounds are in urban design.

The pair said that traditionally, information about how people use particular areas would be gathered by experts or consultants conducting focus groups and surveys.

“But the reality is, counting up the survey results of a hundred people really isn’t a sample size large enough to be called 'data'. Any data to speak of would be ABS population census data about demographics, income level, and age, which again, is quite rudimentary,” Ms Christiansen-Franks said.

“So our data is around social life. Rather than looking at people’s income level, and saying, how old they are, how much they earn, and whether they are male or female, our data looks at, what parks are busy? What services are busy? And at what times of the day? All that social life stuff about what people are actually doing.”

For property developers, these insights are of interest because say, if analysing one of their retail spaces, they can help to determine what people are doing beyond just looking at their credit card spending. How are they using the space? Where do they walk their dogs? What are the main cycling hubs?

For governments, these insights can help to measure citizens' wellbeing and happiness, determine what areas need more resources and help to detect and diagnose social problems.

Ms Hartley said their goal is to work with 100 cities within three years, which based on current progress and industry interest, she said is achievable.

Ms Hartley and Ms Christiansen-Franks started Neighbourlytics with a wealth of urban planning and property sector knowledge, but stepping into the heady world of how a tech start-up operates has been a new experience.

“We have a really intimate knowledge with the property sector and this problem, having worked in it and around it for a couple of decades. But we’re relatively new to tech. And what I have learned and been surprised by is that the start-up and tech world works very differently to the property sector – it’s high risk, it’s high pace, and getting used to working with that level of discomfort around that rapid change has been part of the challenge,” Ms Hartley said.

“And then we’ve also been surprised at the rapid uptake in the sector, which comes as part and parcel of a fast-moving, high-risk industry. The property sector has been so responsive to wanting to use this data, which is kind of new in a way. So the level of growth has exceeded sort of anything that we were anticipating.”

Ms Schartz’s Trawalla Group led Neighbourlytics first round of seed investment. This start-up (inadvertently, or perhaps not) combines two of Ms Schwartz’s long-term passions – promoting women’s leadership in business, and all things property.

“We are all women [laughs], which is a complete accident, it’s not on purpose, it just happened that way,” Ms Christiansen-Franks said. “Apart from our bookkeeper and our dog.”