The Belfast-based Unissu is the result of over ten years’ work by PropTech experts James Dearsley and Eddie Holmes, who have been advising PropTechs, property companies, insurance firms, and banks on how technology is affecting the property industry worldwide.
In existence a little over six months, Unissu is a marketplace that connects buyers and sellers of technology solutions for the property of industry, "That can be anything from the residential industry in the UK to the commercial real estate industry in Argentina, it's a global marketplace, says Eddie Holmes, Co-Founder of Unissu.
Online Marketplaces: This conference theme is 'Disrupt Or Be Disrupted', would you consider your company a disruptor or are you disrupted?
Eddie Holmes: I think that's a question that's very easy to ask but it's a very complicated answer; in any business where you're learning and evolving what it is that you do, and even from a year ago until today, we might have some DNA in it but actually, in terms of the products that we provide, it is quite different. A year ago we launched primarily as an educator, today we run procurement. We don't disrupt or even compete with traditional real estate technology business or proptech companies, our mission is to connect buyers and sellers, and it has an advocacy root, to sort of protect the property industry, to help them embrace technology. In a sense, we are anti-disruption, in that regard.
For the proptech companies, most of the firms we work with, are business-to-business, they are trying to sell to the property industry, they certainly do not present themselves as disruptors, whereas a lot of business which you hear spoken about as disruptors are ultimately chasing the consumer trying to disintermediate... I think it's quite interesting here, at Property Portal Watch where you have the first wave, or some of the first wave of innovators within real estate, the portals themselves, the online classifieds businesses who are in fact in many ways being disrupted more aggressively than many property industry verticals around the world. It just goes to show you that innovation disruption can come to all of us.
OM: Since you have already gone through startup hurdles and challenges, could you please give some advice to others who are thinking of launching a startup or are in the very early stages of a new company?
EH: I just listened to a presentation where the advice given, was to make sure that your sales team is always very closely located with your operations team and your product team, and I can confirm that in a startup they all sit in the same seat. Their advice is good although it will come by default in most startups. I think our lessons for the journey so far are the same as for any startup that makes it through the first year, which is to listen and talk to your users constantly. Everybody should be doing it every day.
Be flexible and don't be focused on a particular outcome which you must achieve, any outcome should be customer-led and certainly for us as a finance-backed business it is, never forget that you have a whole range of stakeholders to take care of as well as your users, because for however long it takes to become revenue-generating and indeed to break even, you are going to be dependent on the investors who, hopefully, will be persuaded by the strength of your story about the business.
The Property Portal Watch Conference in Madrid was Holmes' first conference with us. It was recommended to him by three different people, "Aside from the interest I have as a co-founder of Unissu, I've always been fascinated by property portals. One of our investors is Harry Hill who founded Rightmove, so I spent a lot of time learning, digesting and hearing about tales of the journey, how that all started and the peaks and troughs, mainly peaks, on the way for Rightmove.
OM: Since it is your first time attending one of our conferences... what are you looking to take away from it?
EH: Ask me again at the end of the conference. Mainly, I hope to learn and identify opportunities for our business model, pitfalls that we ought to avoid and meet people who also spend as much time thinking about these kinds of business models as I and James spend.
We did indeed follow up with Holmes after the Conference, and he stated, "My main takeaway [of the Conference] was that property portals are quite old fashioned business models. They aren't sure where the future may go but seem to have become fixated on entering the transactions driven by the rise of ibuyers. I was quite shocked at this approach - it seems the blinkers are on". In Holmes' view, there are numerous other opportunities for property portals when it comes to approaches to innovation which are not being explored.
Over 400 attendees are expected at our next event - the Asian Property Portal Watch Conference in Thailand. The Conference will be held in Bangkok from 26th to 27th February 2020, and it will run for two days, featuring expert Industry Speakers, Innovative Companies at the forefront of the online real estate industry. The Asian Property Portal Watch Conference also offers amazing Social Events, a perfect opportunity for networking.
We hope to see you there.
Join us February 26-27 for the Property Portal Watch Conference Bangkok 2020.