Boomin to Bust: A Comprehensive Timeline of the Bruce Brothers' British Challenger Portal

November 4, 2022
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Boomin was the Bruce-brothers-backed portal that set out to buck the system and end the dominance of Rightmove and Zoopla in the UK.

The challenger launched by the former Purplebricks founders reluctantly called in the liquidators earlier this week, making some 65 staff members redundant and bringing to a close a two-year adventure in property portal growth.

We've gone back through the archives to document the journey of the portal's moonshot from rumour to launch to bust...

 

May 2019

Michael Bruce is ousted from the online agency he founded with his brother Kenny in 2012. Purplebricks had suffered a "disappointing" 12 months which saw "sub-optimal" decisions and the failure to break into international markets.

 

July 2020

Having teased something new to the British industry press and having spoken to several industry players and consultants, Michael Bruce reveals the proposition and the name of his new project... Boomin. The project is to be led by revered industry figure Gary Barker, former CEO of leading CRM company Reapit.

 

August 2020

The Boomin PR machine slips into gear. Along with the potential backing of the breakaway group of agents that formed Say No To Rightmove, Boomin gets the backing of a mystery 'leading agent' who tells Estate Agent Today:

"None of the other emerging portals have any significant marketing proposals - outside of the agency industry nobody’s heard of them. Boomin has wads of cash and so will get eyeballs on the properties and therefore leads. It’ll work"

 

September 2020

Conflicting reports emerge about how Boomin is to be financed. Sky News reported that the portal was actively courting a number of institutional investors. Sky's story was later amended with Estate Agent Today told by a Boomin spokesperson that the company was not looking for outside investment and would continue to be self-funded.

Gary Barker pulls out of the Boomin CEO role citing family reasons while the portal (still yet to launch) hires two high-profile former Rightmove and Zoopla employees.

 

October 2020

A series of press releases proclaim the increasing numbers of agencies giving their backing to Boomin.

By the end of the month, Boomin has signed up nearly 100 branches and is actively promoting each agent signed up via regular releases to the estate agency press and winning plaudits in the comments for its approach. The new portal is also offering a special offer of equity plus free use of the portal until January 2022 to entice agents and build a fear of missing out.

 

November 2020

Boomin's business model is finally revealed with some innovative ideas sprinkled in...

  • As well as a small basic listing fee, there will be a ‘performance fee’ where agents will be obliged to pay extra if they are generating a significant amount of revenue through Boomin.
  • Agents will get “a revenue share for life” of referral fees from tertiary services such as utilities that users sign up for through Boomin.
  • The portal will also feature a ‘sneak peek’ feature where home hunters can see properties that have yet to be marketed as well as those in a chain and, in some cases, those currently being valued.
  • Users will also be able to book a viewing or a valuation via the click of a button 24 hours a day.

The best part for agents is that the portal won't be charging agents anything until 2022 with agents who sign up to be 'Founding Members' given preferential deals until 2023.

 

December 2020

After winning over more agents (including one vehemently anti-Purplebricks figure), Boomin invites agents to join its board. The move is described by Michael Bruce as 'unprecedented in the portal space'.

Despite ramping up the PR charm offensive to good effect, the portal's launch is put back until 2021.

 

January 2021

Boomin wins the backing of The Guild of Property Professionals after Michael Bruce entered into an agreement with the guild...

"that guarantees the integrity of data and its ownership rights, as well as the primacy of the agent/customer relationship".

 

March 2021

The industry is finally given a launch date for Boomin's portal. Friday the 2nd of April will also see a "sustained, entertaining and effective" marketing campaign begin to make consumers aware of the website.

 

April 2021

Boomin goes on the hunt for £25 million in order to become "a household name in record time". Among the touted investors are agency group Foxtons, media company Channel 4 and early Purplebricks backers DM Capital. The post-money valuation is said to be £100 million.

 

May 2021

After securing the services of ex-Virgin CEO Stephen Murphy as Non-Executive Chairman, Boomin follows up with the hire of influential supermarket industry guru Richard Pennycook as a non-executive director and Sarah Edmundson as the new Chair of the portal's strategic board.

 

June 2021

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... In June 2021, Boomin rival OnTheMarket announces a suite of new tools that sound very similar to some of Boomin's.

Meanwhile, the Boomin hype train continues to gather momentum with the portal claiming that it has hit 6,300 listing agentsBelow: the agent numbers of Boomin's publicly traded rivals for context.

 

October 2021

Boomin claims that its ' game-changing' valuations tool SmartVal has generated 10,000 valuation leads for agents in its first month of operation.

SmartVal uses a mix of third-party AVM software and proprietary data and claims to facilitate contact between an agent and a user typically within seven minutes.

 

November 2021

Another innovative tool for the UK market. This time it's Boomin's Chain Maker tool that is generating headlines in the British agency press for its potential to end frustrating vendor chains.

 

January 2022

Micahel Bruce takes aim at Rightmove and Zoopla's practice of making money off the back of mortgage referrals without compensating agents. In an open letter, the former Purplebricks man asks:

"As an industry, how did we ever let it come into existence that Rightmove and Zoopla could effectively sell agents mortgage referral leads, which have only come to them through agents paid adverts on the portals, to the highest bidder?"

"Without agents paying for property adverts, this additional income stream for the portals would not exist. I wouldn’t mind so much if they shared the income, which is pure additional profit to them. But instead they choose to pocket it all.  And it is not that they need the money. Rightmove has the highest profit margin in the FTSE 100 index of Britain’s largest companies and 4x that of Alphabet, owner of Google, a company regularly the subject of monopolistic concerns."

The missive from Boomin (which is now describing itself as an 'agent-centric new business generation platform' and NOT a portal) is part of an awareness campaign for its new Mortgage Maker referral tool for agents which is eventually launched in March.

The agent-centric new business generation platform also claims in January that traffic is up 50% since Christmas. A logical claim that seems to be supported by the data from Google Trends (below).

 

March 2022

Boomin claims leadership on social media. The company has been putting in the work to produce videos for its YouTube channel with influencers and by our count (below) was well ahead of its rivals on the subscribers metric:

British Portal YouTube Stats

 

June 2022

The press releases and headlines have been slowing down. Having made another prominent industry hire and claimed that one in five users who use SmartVal end up listing their homes for sale over the spring, Boomin makes its first acquisition.

Online interior design service My Bespoke Room offers users an interior design platform including digitally designed room visuals, layouts, mood boards, a shopping list, and plenty of pro styling tips. The acquisition price for the 9-employee company is not disclosed.

 

July 2022

Less than a month after making its first and only acquisition, Boomin announces 20+ job losses. Michael Bruce said of the decision:

"Whilst it is fair to say that we would have liked to have retained some people for longer we recognise that in this economic environment we need  to invest to deliver the innovation and high levels of customer service you rightly expect from us, whilst also accelerating our path to sustainable profitability."

 

November 2022

Boomin goes out of business as the liquidators are reluctantly called in. Bruce cites the macroeconomic climate and says that "timing has not been our friend".

November 4, 2022
Edmund got to know the world of portals and marketplaces working at Mitula Group (which became Lifull Connect after the buyout in 2018). He worked directly with hundreds of portals across the world in his role in the content department for three and a half years before transferring to the SEO department to understand the inner workings of listings sites. He joined Online Marketplaces as Head of Content in March 2020.

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