Bangkok-based, Swedish growth company Diakrit International Ltd. is taking their slogan ‘Seeing is believing’ to the next level with Virtual Reality (VR), and the media giant News Corp on board as their new majority shareholder. As a start-up they have not only managed to survive the first tough years, but also that invisible seven-year barrier, much thanks to constant development and improvement of their solutions that have been game-changing for a traditional sector: real estate.
Celebrating 15 years in business in 2016, the year started with a major step forward for Diakrit as the up to then owners Pegroco Invest and SEB Venture Capital sold their holdings to the international media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia.
ScandAsia meets Diakrit to learn more about the company that is in for an exciting time ahead.
“This is an incredible milestone for our business and a stepping stone towards our vision,” commented a thrilled Co-Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer Mr Fredrik Bergman, as he announced the deal earlier this year. “This is an acknowledgment of the excellent business model we have created, the outstanding team we have assembled and the innovative visualization solutions we continue to develop. We are proud,” he said.
“Joining News Corp will give Diakrit the ability to leverage News Corp’s global presence and resources, and accelerate worldwide adoption of our industry-leading solutions. We see News Corp as the right strategic partner as we continue to expand and grow our business to become the world’s #1 provider of digital visualization solutions for the real estate industry,” he says to ScandAsia.
“The real estate market in Australia [News Corp’s home turf that Diakrit is currently entering], the U.S, and around the world have only just begun leveraging our type of digital content, so the potential is enormous.”
Likewise, News Corp intends to utilise the Swedish company’s solutions and expertise, to further drive Diakrit’s growth in new markets, and in turn, their own property businesses and real estate agent partners will benefit enormously.
“News Corp is the world’s largest owner worldwide of property portals, including the largest property portal website in Australia, via REA Group. They recently acquired one of our current client partners, iProperty, which is a Malaysia-based property site operating in Thailand. We look forward to a closer collaboration directly with them now that we are part of the same family. We are also looking forward to grow our presence in Europe and in the U.S market, and we are establishing ourselves even stronger into Europe.”
“The main reason behind News Corp’s investment in Diakrit is that they saw us as the perfect spider in their global web of property portals, but also to their newspapers/magazines. In Australia alone they own 126 newspapers with weekly real estate supplements,” says the CEO. “Real estate in general is a very big topic in Australia.”
And with this media giant within real estate, Diakrit sees News Corp as the perfect match to their business.
“They believe in us, our values and our long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster. We trust that our knowledge of real estate marketing and digital content, together with News Corp’s resources and global reach, will be a winning combination,” Fredrik welcomed the new majority shareholder.
New strategic partner
Recently, both Diakrit and their previous owners had agreed that in order for the company to continue its international growth, a more strategic partner would be needed. SEB and Pegroco were ready to hand over the ship to a more strategic and globally experienced captain.
“SEB and Pegroco are two great Swedish Venture capitals that joined us back in 2008 and who have been with us ever since, helping us build this company through both opportunity and challenge.”
“Pegroco has actively supported Diakrit from when the company was a small start-up with ambitious goals in Laholm, Sweden, with a strong vision, to today’s situation where they have a vast portfolio of leading digital marketing solutions and services provided to over 2,000 real estate agents, property portals and developers worldwide,” says Fredrik.
He believes that with News Corp’s backing, they will be able to continue their leadership in the industry as an independent, disruptive force that, as Fredrik puts it: “must not just keep up with what is happening, but continue to set the pace going forward”.
“We have to be there in the forefront of development and are constantly working on launching new technology. There are some smaller, emerging competitors with potential in this market, but we still have a pretty long lead after 15 years at the forefront of our industry.”
The VR experience
What is also really exciting for Diakrit these days is Virtual Reality (VR). In late 2015 they launched their VR app, allowing customers to inspect and virtually experience properties that are not yet built.
“The digital experience will only continue to grow and the person looking for a new home online will continue to get better and better online tools to make qualified decisions when they buy real estate online. The VR experience is going to really take off in the next couple of years, and Diakrit is really pushing the boundary within this area. We have already released VR applications for new development, residential resale and rentals, and we are releasing VR solutions for commercial real estate in the next couple of months.”
Northern Europe’s largest developer, Swedish-founded NCC, was first out to offer their prospects this new virtual experience.
“You can do it on the go. By looking at the planned development in your mobile phone, you can just click on the VR app icon and then turn to using the Gear VR,” Fredrik explains.
“NCC featured the VR experience in their sales office display, using Samsung’s Gear VR equipment, which is the first market standard. There is, however, another western standard expected within shortly that makes it very easy to bring VR with you to where the customer is.”
Diakrit’s VR app connects to their flagship online software, the D-NavigatorTM, which is a customized product for new developments. One can experience the development project from a facade or aerial view, to see its surroundings, its interiors and to get a wide range of detailed information about each unit within that development. Users can then visualize their new home down to the finest of details including door panel materials and selection of appliances.
The next step for the VR app is to experience existing homes with it: “We know it can be difficult to imagine any future living space by just looking at a couple of photos and a floor plan. But even after visiting an open house in an existing home, it can sometimes be difficult to remember the look and feel of that particular space. With the VR app you can give a 24-7 virtual tour of any apartment online, by allowing visitors to use the VR glasses to enter an empty place and stand in the middle of the room to get a feel for the true dimensions and space.”
And then there is the Augmented Reality technology (AR), which is a technology that will enable the creation of images within applications that blend in with contents in the real world. With AR, users are able to interact with virtual contents in the real world, and are able to distinguish between the two.
“You’ll have interactive worlds within X years from now. And what that X represents I cannot say but it is very exciting. The technology is advancing very fast,” Fredrik predicts.
“We are very impressed by Augmented Reality, which might become even larger than VR as you combine virtual with reality,” he adds.
The smart phone as their best friend
The company has come a long way since 2001, especially when considering their recent quick development and their strongest growth up to now started to happen with the introduction of smart phones.
Already in 2003, Diakrit, today known for their state-of-the-art technology and innovative software, started focusing on architectural drawings and taking the steps into 3D floor plans, in their strive to revolutionize the presentation and marketing of homes and office spaces (which back then consisted in poor photos and blurry floor plan sketches as the norm).
“We have a powerful real estate engine that affects how we develop and produce our solutions, but it is our continued focus on clients’ and end users’ needs that have made us successful. Combined with technology advancements, our platform has evolved to reach a higher level. The smart phone is our best friend since it has developed a completely different platform for displaying our solutions in today.”
Place that in comparison with the years 2005 – 2009 where they had “fantastic products” but were ahead of their time, due to too slow band with.
“The visualization tools we develop are at the absolute cutting edge. To us, innovation is only valuable if it’s user friendly and makes a real difference.”
“With technology development and digitization as wind in our sails, I see us now continuing our journey into new markets with new innovations,” says the CEO and predicts: “In three years, I see our business as fully mature in the Australian market and ourselves undoubtedly as the #1 provider of digital visualization solutions for real estate agents in Australia. We will, of course, also have an even stronger foothold in our home turf, Scandinavia, and on top of that, be established in several more markets.“
“Since our objective is to continue a high rate of growth and maintain profitability by entering and expanding into markets where the real estate sector is still in an early phase when it comes to using premium rich media content, we will also focus on developing our businesses in Asia, the US and Europe, seeing the same potential for our products as we do in the Scandinavian and Australian market.”
Based on previous outcomes Fredrik is confident: “We bring with us a proven track record of business development, a scalable business model and an offer that provides significant financial value for our customers and partners.”
The world’s #1 provider
Their long-term goal to become the number one provider for digital visualization solutions on all markets will evidently keep the schedule very busy and filled with continuing development of leading solutions for the global real estate market.
Here the founding team plays a crucial role: “What especially Dick Karlsson and I are creating, is the vision forward, with short lead-time onwards to launch new services and products and are very much focusing on the market. Meanwhile, Martin Fritze, is the brainchild behind our products.”
At their Bangkok head office today, there are many Swedish employees, in addition to Danes, Norwegians and Germans, who work within IT/R&D, New Construction/3D Team, HR, Marketing, in addition to customer support. And programmers come from all over the world. There are also around 300 in-house photo editors and draftsmen. In the next coming 18 months their number of employees will need to double in order to manage the expected growth on next markets.
“As co-founder I have always thrived on the customer and consumer experience, and as CEO, I get the pleasure to work with major real estate clients worldwide. I personally find it encouraging when I see that Diakrit is completely self-going, as is the case in the Nordic countries today. It’s amazing to see that the company that we, as founders, started in a basement back in 2001 and put our hearts and minds into, is now up and running as an organization by itself. Our entrepreneurial drive probably still means a lot for the company. We want to stay in the entrepreneurial world since that’s what differentiates Diakrit from its competitors. Our clients don’t just see us as a supplier who works on an operational level to provide them with what they need – they see us as a strategic partner that will go beyond operational levels to help them become successful,” concludes the CEO who also advocates a flat organisation.
“I don’t like building up hierarchies, so we have an open door policy.”
‘Seeing is believing’ – Fredrik’s clarity of vision and entrepreneurial instincts help pave the way for continued growth and success.