RAZER chief executive Tan Min-Liang is poised to shake up traditional real estate development with a new startup he backed that aims to incorporate artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, and other next-generation technologies in real estate projects.
Named Echo Base, the Singapore-based digital real estate startup was announced on Friday as Razer, a gaming peripherals company, marked the ground breaking of its new South-east Asia headquarters in one-north, which is expected to be ready by the middle of next year.
Echo Base is backed by Singapore Exchange Mainboard-listed Boustead Projects Limited and Moor House Capital, an investment holding company that is majority-controlled by Mr Tan, who is also Razer’s co-founder.
Razer will also be adding another 600 more staff to its Singapore headcount of 400 employees over the next couple of years. This is why the company needed a new headquarters, Mr Tan told staff, investors, government representatives at Friday’s event.
It was during the development of the new headquarters that Mr Tan and his former Raffles Institution schoolmate, real estate investment banker Bryan Lim, saw an opportunity to disrupt the real estate industry with digital technologies.
Echo Base, named after a hidden rebel settlement in Star Wars, was so-named as both were fans of the movie franchise.
Mr Tan told The Straits Times that the move also stemmed from his personal interest in the property sector. His father, Tan Kim Lee, is a semi-retired real estate consultant and is now an adviser to Echo Base.
“I’ve always been interested in any sector where we can bring additional digital infrastructure across, and an understanding of design,” said Mr Tan Min-Liang.
The company’s South-east Asia headquarters, for example, will feature Razer’s Chroma lighting technology on the exterior. The same technology can be found on Razer’s own gaming peripherals such as keyboards and mice.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, Singapore Economic Development Board chairman Beh Swan Gin and JTC Corporation chief executive Ng Lang were among the guests-of-honour at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Mr Heng lauded the move, citing what he had told property developers at a Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore lunch recently.
“Either you are disrupted or you make use of tech to open new frontiers. Tech can enable disruption, but I think too many people have become too defensive,” said Mr Heng. “We should take a more proactive stance.”
Razer said that Echo Base, which has been operating in "stealth mode" over the past few months, will focus on the development, investment and management of smart buildings and integrated developments in the Asia-Pacific region and selected global gateway cities.
The platform will be led by Mr Lim, who has over 16 years’ experience working and leading in the regional real estate investment banking franchises of Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.
Mr Lim said: "Traditional real estate is ripe for disruption. There is much we can do at Echo Base to provide next-generation services for smart buildings and cities of the future."
Echo Base’s maiden project will be Razer’s new headquarters here.
Mr Lim and Mr Tan also hinted at its first smart city project in the region that will be developed over the next few years, adding that details will be released soon.
Razer's new headquarters will be one of the company's two global headquarters, with the other one located in San Francisco. When ready, the South-east Asian headquarters will boast a 19,300 square metre landmark building with office space, research and development labs and design studios, housing more than 1,000 employees.
THE STRAITS TIMES