22nd March 2016

Does failure of firm with sky-high valuation send message to property start-ups?

This was the year that one tech start-up company was meant to deliver. Its founder had, after all, said that it would be bigger than Google or Facebook.

Instead, Powa Technologies collapsed into administration last month.

It had launched on the stock market with a valuation of over £694m and last year founder Dan Wagner said it was worth £1.9bn.

Investors poured huge amounts of money – over $200m – into the failed venture.

Powa, a fintech company rather than a proptech one, is now the subject of an interesting report by the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

In it, he warns of the “wisdom of sky-high valuations for unproven businesses”.

As recently as last October, Wagner told Evan Davis on Radio 4’s Bottom Line that the business had been valued at $2.7bn by its main backers, Wellington Management.

Evan suggested that was a meaningless figure because Powa hadn’t made any money yet.

“We’re a growth tech business,” Wagner replied, maintaining it was other people who had set that value.

It was Wellington Management that finally pulled the plug. It politely declined to explain to Rory Cellan-Jones about the due diligence it had done before pumping in so much investment.

As we say, this was a fintech (financial) company and not a proptech (property) one.

But it’s certainly an interesting story of hype and the over-valuation of a tech company that made no money.