[caption id="attachment_20139" align="aligncenter" width="756"] Navent CEO and founder Nicolas Tejerina is a speaker at the 2016 Property Portal Watch Conference in Madrid. Image Credit: Forbes Mexico[/caption]
Launched in 2009 by Nicolas Tejerina, Argentina-based Navent aims to help people fulfill two of life’s most important aspirations; finding a job and finding a property.
With backing from Riverwood Capital and its experienced management team, Navent has expanded throughout key markets in Latin America including Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, México and Perú.
Tejerina, who is also the company's CEO is a speaker at the upcoming Property Portal Watch Conference in Madrid.
He plans to tell delegates at the flagship European conference how Navent became the largest classifieds company in Latam by regional reach, revenues and traffic.
Currently the site presides over roughly 20 million unique users, divided equally between real estate and job searches. Mobile traffic comprises 55 per cent.
“We operate in nine countries and employ 900 people,” Tejerina says, “and since launch, more partners have joined Navent.
“Just to give you a sense 7 per cent of all Latam traffic passes through our websites. Over 85 per cent of that traffic is free, which speaks highly of the way our brands have positioned themselves in each country.”
Tejerina launched Navent with strong industry foundations having joined jobs classifieds site Bumeran.com at a time when newspapers still ruled the classifieds.
At the time the company was owned by Spanish Telefonica who did not consider Bumeran a profitable business unit in Latin America and planned to liquidate its assets.
Tejerina was general manager at the time and saw great potential in the digital classified market.
During his year as a business consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers, multiple internet companies had been launched across the globe, including Hotjobs.com and Monster.com. Argentina became the hub for many regional plays in Latin America.
Tejerina made a trip to Spain to convince the telephone company's lawyers he could help avoid bankruptcy, not an easy task because Bumeran had a debt of $ 500,000.
In the end Tejerina and partner Alejandro Navarro successfully took control of Bumeran. They paid the debt off in two years.
With the support of Tiger Global Management and the management team still on board today, Tejerina says the company achieved its ambitious goals of disrupting the way people search for jobs and building a brand that stands for job opportunities.
Real estate beckons
“In 2009 after careful consideration based on our experience we decided that we could become a major player in the online Real Estate Classifieds business,” Tejerina relates.
But the company’s real estate operations really got going in 2010, with the acquisition of leading verticals ImovelWeb in Brazil, Inmuebles24 in Mexico, Adondevivir in Peru and Plusvalia in Equador.
“My prior experience as CEO of Bumeran helped me understand the complexities of operating regional platforms and the different cultural backgrounds," Tejerina says.
“It meant I was able to bring the right people to the job and interfere as little as possible in their work.”
Early stage market challenge
Tejerina describes most of the markets Navent operates in as transitioning out of ‘early stage’.
“Not everyone is online, not all properties are online, most properties lack adequate information and the major property advertisers still heavily rely on traditional means to advertise their development,” he says.
“In some countries competition is fierce like Brazil for example, and in others we have consolidated a leadership enabling us to improve monetisation, operate with significant margins and invest in R&D to bring in new products for our advertisers and users.”
Tejerina adds Latin America resembles the European property portal market only in so far as it lacks the multi-listing (MLS) services which characterise the United States market.
“Each Latam player is trying to post their own live content,” he says. “Professional brokers pay to advertise their property listings and in exchange they expect to receive contacts.
Getting value for service
“A big challenge in Latin America is to place the appropriate value on the service we provide. If you compare it to some European markets, the spread is significant. Today this is a challenge, but it also points to the opportunity in the future.”
In addition entry barriers in the portal space are low.
“What is a challenge though is to achieve scale,” Tejerina says. “This is particularly true in Latin America where only a handful of tech companies have being able to become public.
“In this sense, I believe, Navent´s products are as good as any other portal, but our main strength is our scale."
IPO opens the way for transactions
Tejerina says either through organic deployment or M&A Navent has been able to expand regionally and attract talent inspired by this colossal challenge.
"Despite being the biggest classifieds company in Latam, we still retain high levels of entrepreneurship within our company.
“We are constantly challenging ourselves to create new services that will facilitate the digital journey of our users.”
Of the future Tejerina says so far Navent is progressing as planned and he doesn’t expect to make any significant changes to its revenue model.
“Long term, we want to understand how we can transition form a media business model to a transactional one based on providing much more integrated solutions to our customers,” he reveals.
“We think CRM, big data among other long term strategies will play a key role in achieving this goal."
Editor's Note: The editor sincerely apologises for the earlier inaccurate version of this article which stated Navent would be listing this year.