GetAgent: Sebastien Powell, Peter Thum-Bonnano and Colby Short
Co-founder Sebastien Powell on adjusting the business model after customer feedback and why they're considering crowdfunding over another angel round
Name: Sebastien Powell, Peter Thum-Bonnano and Colby Short
Company name: GetAgent
Date launched: 01/05/2015
Tell us what your business does:
Our service uses property sales data to help homeowners maximise the re-sale value of their home by finding the best estate agent for them.
Owners provide a few basic details about their property (postcode, number of bedrooms, type etc.), which we then use to shortlist the top six agents for them, based on performance metrics (such as the number of properties sold in the past six months, average time of sale and percentage of asking price achieved).
These six agents are then invited to submit a fee quote to the homeowners.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
A person’s home is invariably their largest financial asset. Choosing an estate agent to sell that home is an important decision but with more than 5,500 agents in London alone, and with most of them saying the same thing, it is almost impossible to choose the best one.
We saw an opportunity to use property portal data and Land Registry sold prices data to create a transparent and accurate indicator of an estate agent's performance. This benefits both owners and agents. Owners can feel confident that they've made the right decision and save a lot of time talking to the bad agents, whilst the good agents are able to prove their worth.
How did you know there was a market for it?
There was an obvious need on both sides of the marketplace for a service like ours.
On the one side of the market, you have homeowners who are desperate to maximise the money in their pocket after the sale of their home, but grossly uninformed as to how to do so. Some homeowners assume that all agents are the same so they choose the cheapest one, whilst others get duped into paying way over the odds on the promise of a high sale price that never materialises. This coupled with the fact that all the agents they speak to claim to be the best or have the most local market experience makes choosing an agent a very painful task.
On the other side you have good estate agents that invest time and money in ensuring they do the best job for their clients yet they often do not reap the rewards. Currently they have no way of proving this good performance and all agents, regardless of performance, can claim to be the best.
What were you doing before starting up?
Short previously worked in sports hospitality, as former country manager of SMG Worldwide in Sweden.Thum-Bonnano ran a property portal called FindProperly, which he later sold to property search company Nestoria, and I worked as head of design at ad-tech start-up Adbrain.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes. We're all driven and entrepreneurial. This isn't our first venture and we're excited to build a successful business together.
How did you raise the money?
We raised a small amount of start-up capital from an angel investor. We're now raising our SEIS round, and are in discussions with various angel investors and early-stage VC funds. These are people we've either worked with previously, or been introduced to by other people in our network.
We're also considering the marketing benefit of using a crowdfunding platform such as CrowdCube or Seedrs.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We introduce homeowners to the best local agents through our platform. Once the user has decided to work with an agent, we'll charge that agent a commission on the property sale price when they sell the property.
Our service is free for owners, and we even give them £100 cashback as thanks for using our service.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
We initially struggled to get our value proposition right. We made the age-old mistake of building a product that people should want as opposed to listening to what they did want and therefore we over-complicated things in the process.
We took a step back and adjusted the model to reflect the customer feedback we had and have had great success since.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Getting our first customer was obviously very exciting. Also last week, our data was used by The Telegraph, Guardian, Express and City AM as part of big pieces on how the election had affected the property market.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Finding product-market fit isn't easy and most of your assumptions will probably turn out to be wrong. Talk to your users as early as possible in the process, and get feedback from them, plus make sure you spend your time and energy building something that people actually want.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
Although the UK property market is huge, estate agency fees are the lowest in the western world. Also, whereas in the UK estate agents are part of companies, in many other countries agents are freelance, magnifying the pain points on either side of the market.
Therefore, once we have a solid foothold here we hope to expand internationally into markets such as France, Australia and the USA.