Why a Successful Project marketer and Property Developer Divested at the Height of the Real Estate Market

Just a few years ago, David Beard was a Managing Director running a profitable real estate company since 1997 specialising in delivering high density mixed use residential projects including the renowned Alex Perry Hotel in thriving Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. A rare partnership with renowned fashion designer Alex Perry to deliver a luxury designer hotel topped off with a ground breaking panoramic roof pool garden. So why did he call his team together, along with a handful of developers and competitors, and announce, “I’m selling everything”?

On a February afternoon three years ago Mr. Beard told the group gathered at a café in Cannon Hill that he was taking a surprising new direction in the real estate sector. “I’ll never go to another meeting on new apartments or townhouses again,” he vowed. His team had been undertaking focus groups within the disability community on a new generation of smart disability housing and with the announcement of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) and the investment in the Specialised Disability Accommodation, it was time to formally and irreversibly pick a lane.

Announced in 2019, it was a long-overdue $700m expenditure on developing housing that could meet the needs of a rising number of Australians requiring specialised care. The disability sector has been beset with recent challenges, from unemployment to lack of living space to dealing with the worldwide pandemic, but the SDA scheme could be a game changer.

The life saved could be our own

A little-known fact about Mr Beard that many of his own close colleagues are unaware of: The death of an employee Alex Szabo who had become something of a younger brother affected him deeply over the years. The young man lost his life saving two young children on the Gold Coast, and, since 2003, Mr Beard had been working out how to pay homage to his heroic act. Szabo Pty Ltd – named after Alex is our parent company.

“The life we save – could be our own” is a guiding principle for him as he launched several new businesses to support the development of SDA homes. Not only was the new venture a passion project, but his residential real estate background offers a unique perspective. “I recognised they really do need people who can merge good design with purpose-built functionality for the intended user, in this case, someone in the disability space,” Mr Beard says.

To develop the best in SDA housing, he and his team undertook a vast amount of research within the disability sector, including focus groups, polling, test plans and walk-throughs. What they found was appalling — the rundown conditions, space limitations, overcrowding and the physical and emotional toll that inappropriate housing takes on both the patient and carer. The state of disability accommodation gave them renewed motivation.

A house as dumb as a post

Through talking to focus groups across Queensland, Mr Beard had a few ideas about how he could make an impact on the lives of people living with disability, their families, and their care workers, who suffer from the lowest morale of any working group in Australia. In 2020, a fortuitous 5.30am meeting in a Brisbane café with Mark Xavier, CEO of V-TOL Aerospace which specialises in robotics and advanced technology, cemented an idea for producing smart homes for the NDIS.

After their chance meeting, both business leaders realised that advanced technology in SDA homes can help residents have a better outlook and over-worked carers get more assistance. “You can upgrade your phone, but a house is as dumb as a post,” says Mr Beard. To that end, Ariel Care’s hospital-grade homes are outfitted with the revolutionary iSaint platform. It comprises a network of smart “nearables,” sensors recording and relaying information, and an artificial intelligence-based operating system. The intent of iSaint goes beyond assistive health care, offering participants new ways of engaging and communicating through innovations in eye-tracking technology.

Meeting the moment

The purpose of Ariel Care, jointly owned by David Beard’s Szabo Pty Ltd, Mark Xavier, and Jeff Flood, addresses a trifecta of health issues facing Australians living with disability:

  1. A lack of appropriate housing options for SDA participants, which results in over 3,000 young people getting “warehoused” in aged care homes.
  2. The high rate of suicide as a leading cause of preventable deaths for young Australians receiving disability services.
  3. And carers in the disability sector that report a lower morale than even the long-term unemployed.

Together, these challenges create a super crisis that Ariel Care’s Pilot Program was designed to solve. An iSaint-enabled SDA Smart Home, many of which currently sit unoccupied, not only improves short- and long-term health outcomes but increases the likelihood of residents reintegrating with their family and society. For Dave Beard and all of Ariel Care’s team, that equates to a much more meaningful outcome than “just delivering boxes,” as he describes his previous projects.

Do you know someone with high-care needs, or perhaps a support worker or caregiver, who could benefit from Ariel Care’s revolutionary solution? Ariel Care is running a fully funded pilot program and is now taking expressions of interests.

Learn more about Ariel Care’s Pilot Program: https://ariel.care/join-our-pilot/