Sethebe Manake’s wants to close the information gap in proptech

Sethebe Manake talks proptech in Africa, sexual harassment and future goals

Sethebe Manake‘s story is laced with pertinent lessons, one which inspires everyone to take up their axes and do the actual work. She aims to solve the problem of misinformation plaguing the prop-tech industry, and there are tit-bits about her journey you would want to read.

Manake, who has a BSC in Real Estate at the University of Cape Town, co-founded a real estate research and consulting firm, Go Smart Value, that has made its debut in Botswana.

Starting point

The real estate industry in Africa is estimated to be worth trillions of dollars, largely due to the continent’s fast-rising population and an ever-increasing demand for accommodation. This growth comes with its challenges.

Sethebe Manake, a real estate professional with over ten years experience, observed that there was an information lack and commenced to build a platform to solve the problem.

She set out to build Go Smart Value in 2017 and launched it in 2020.

“The challenge I found in practise and corporate were the same, there wasn’t enough information for us to make certain decisions in the areas that we were investing in especially those areas we weren’t familiar with.

“If, for instance, we wanted to invest in Nigeria or Kenya, we didn’t have information on the property or the environment, and we often struggled with finding any except the investment packs given to us, which we still couldn’t verify if the information contained in it were accurate.

Sethebe Manake

“The sort of solution we had at the time was to either physically visit the properties, which wasn’t sustainable because of the cost involved. It wasn’t an option that was sustainable especially if you were looking at investing at a large scale”.

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The idea is to make it easier for real estate professionals and investors to have access to accurate, verified information about the real estate market.

The information Go Smart Value makes available includes the average earnings of people in the region, the crime rate, the population average amount houses are going for in that region and much more.

“In 2017, it became very clear to me that technology would be a great influence on decision making and it was more efficient in terms of delivery of information for our target market as a business. That’s really how I got into proptech.”

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Go Smart Value: offering proptech solutions?

Manake says that “with Go Smart Value, you can check and get information about price offers and other relevant information.”

For valuers, Go Smart Value offers an efficient way of valuing a property instead of the manual method of using tapes to take measurements and calculations.

“Go Smart Value offers valuers access to required information, such that they do not have to go to remote places to gather information.

“We offer convenience, reliability and accuracy.”

Acceptability

Sethebe mentions that acceptability is always a problem for relatively novel initiatives.

“We have dealt with a lot of negative conception and slow adoption to this solution, especially from real estate professionals some of whom are averse to technology.

“But my view is always that it makes sense and it is for Africa.” She remains optimistic that acceptability will get better.

If I did not believe it would change I would not be in business. Property evaluation is basically about predictive analytics so the technology works out better. Over time, as we gain must trust, information becomes more transparent, and more transactions can be done. It just makes more sense that people begin to move in the direction of logic than the other direction.

Sethebe Manake

On the light side, Go Smart Value has 50% of registered valuers in Botswana currently using the platform.

Manake as a woman in proptech

Manake is the first female to be elected as the president of a real estate professional association in Botswana.

She says her greatest challenge has been language, being able to communicate with the men in a language they would appreciate as she tells it.

As a woman in tech, my greatest obstacle has been communication because people believe women are not tech experts.

Sethebe Manake

Sethebe sadly talks about the bigotry and sexual advances and harassment she has to endure as a woman in the tech space…

I will need to talk about the bigotry and sexual harassment women have to face for men to just sign a document. They usually want to have a conversation different from your work, and it is a major challenge to progress.

Sethebe Manake

She continues, “I sit as the president of the real estate institute of Botswana and as the first female to be voted in. The pushback has been ridiculous and it has not even been about anything. I have had to deal with a group of men who lobby everyone against me and report me to the regulators. I find it unnerving.”

With this in view, Manake believes in taking the path of least resistance.

“I move on the path of least resistance, and whoever is willing to listen, I have the conversation with them and push as much as possible. I will wear you down with my persistence, believing that eventually, someone will ask why are these people not on the platform?”

What she says to Women in Tech

“Stick to your guns,” she says.

“Don’t lean back, don’t give space, take space. whatever level of capability you have as a woman, the man around you doesn’t necessarily have more, so, stop looking at them as the people who need to guide us.

“Women have been taught that somebody else knows more and that person needs to guide them but it doesn’t matter. But, let’s all get in and dominate because we can.”

The future of Go Smart Value

The plan is for Go Smart Value to be operational in at least ten countries within five years.

This year, we are looking to expand to our second country and our analytics tells us Zambia would be next and in two years we should be in five countries. Once we can establish reliable information in any country, we can be able to get in there as quickly as possible.

Sethebe Manake

Sethebe Manake aims to beat all odds and lead in the proptech industry and her challenges are just stepping stones.


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