Virtual Commercial: Andrew Vertes
Noticing a change in the commercial property industry, this entrepreneur decided it was time he offered consumers more control...
Tell us what your business does:
Virtual Commercial is the UK’s first dedicated online commercial estate agent.
We provide the tools and support of the traditional agent to allow anyone to sell or let their commercial property throughout England and Wales. All for a low fixed cost with no commission fee charged.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Having worked in a commercial property agency for many years, I witnessed the way that the internet was changing the way commercial property was being marketed and searched for.
In addition, the rapid success of online residential agencies proved that sellers were happy to start taking more control over the process in order to benefit from lower fees.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We felt that the residential online estate agencies had really proved the concept of online property disposals.
We did a lot of research into our market and identified there was a large segment of knowledgeable property owners and occupiers who felt they were either stuck using a traditional estate agent or left using one of the free listing services.
There was no option for those that wanted to run a thorough professional sales process whilst respecting UK regulation without high commission based fees.
What were you doing before starting up?
I have worked in commercial property my whole life. I ran the commercial agency department and was a director of a successful central London property company.
I then left and set up my own management and agency consultancy, then came up with this idea and realised I had to make it happen.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
No. There was a time I wanted to be an astronaut, but then I grew up and since then, without a doubt, knew I would be running my own business one day. I am however very jealous of Tim Peake!
How did you raise the money?
I think our successful raise was really down to our team of co-founders, having a detailed business plan, financial forecasting and a working product
As we believed in the concept we decided to self-fund the development of the platform prior to raising capital.
This meant that investors could use our platform and see for themselves what we were building. We ended up getting investment from multiple investors at our target valuation. However, it was by no means easy.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Our clients pay a fixed fee up front for an inclusive package which is much lower than a typical estate agent’s fees. We also offer all the additional services offered by estate agents.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
I think our two biggest challenges have been:
- Working out a successful and cost effective marketing strategy with a completely new business offering.
- Creating a bespoke platform that would be able to cater to the nuances of commercial property disposals whilst ensuring user friendliness for our clients.
We dealt with this:
- We are using part of our raise to pay for a marketing team to advise us on these matters.
- We spent a year developing the platform to ensure it met the needs of the market.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Early on we did a demonstration of our platform to a significant commercial property investor. He understood immediately what we wanted to achieve and pledged to invest.
This was fundamental as it ratified our belief that there was a market need for our product.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
One person can’t do it all, especially if you are looking to raise outside investment. Put together a strong team with suitable levels of experience and clearly defined roles.
Investors had obviously seen the pitch and liked the concept, but the fact that all co-founders had known each other for many years both professionally and personally convinced investors that the team behind the idea was worth investing in and would stay united in good times and bad.
Investors are not only investing into the product, but also into the team running it.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Is it arrogant to say I would want Virtual Commercial to be the largest commercial agency in the UK? Perhaps, but you have to aim high!