The UK’s property portal market might just be the most interesting in the world. It has a massively dominant market leader under pressure from its customers, an agent-owned challenger and new portals and alternatives springing up all the time, some of whom are challenging the traditional pay to advertise model. We thought we’d take a closer look at some of the challenges in the market and see what makes them different and why they think they can take a slice of the market in a series of profile interviews.
We start the series with a look at OpenBrix. We interviewed CEO Adam Piggott about his company.
OMP: How did you get into the challenger property portal game? Do you have a background in data, agency, or at another portal?
AP: I started up my own Estate Agency brand (CHK Mountford, based in Surrey) in 1989 and sold my three offices to Countrywide in 2014. So with 25 years at the coalface, I fully understand the issues that Estate and Letting Agencies go through. I then helped start up two successful proptech firms (makeurmove.com and creditladder.com). I became a founder member of OpenBrix in 2018.
We know that building something new is incredibly time-consuming. How many hours do you put into this project per week?
AP: This is a full-time job for me and my core team put in at least 70 hours per week each.
What is your company’s USP?
AP: OpenBrix is the worlds first Property Portal built on a public community blockchain. OpenBrix has decentralised the portal industry and given control back to the UK agents.
How many employees does OpenBrix have?
AP: 10 Fulltime, 9 part-time.
What is your biggest challenge?
AP: Getting agents to understand the control blockchain gives them.
How do you build an audience?
AP: Our partnership offerings will enable agents to receive income from many differing revenue streams by simply pairing an end-user (prospective tenant or buyer) to a property. The partnerships/suppliers then deal directly with the end-user and the agents receive FULL commission (no share of this taken by OpenBrix) for simply placing the end-user on the platform. The partners sell OpenBrix to the agents, the agents sell OpenBrix to the end-user. Agents can place their current rented portfolios on OpenBrix, so all parties can further benefit from these facilities on the blockchain. We are also working with many Build to Rent Landlords and Student Housing entities. Soon, OpenBrix will have the largest active tenant database in the UK. Social Media is our main focus.
Do you think that the ‘pay to advertise’ model on portals needs a rethink?
AP: Yes, absolutely. However, nothing is for free really. Free – implies no value. I think it is essential that all new portals are transparent on their earnings. Some new portals say they are free to list but take a cut of “other” revenue streams. How much though? Where is this published? Most also sell covert and overt data, again, how much is made? At OpenBrix, we do not take a cut of any of the “other” revenue streams. This way we can maximise the agents’ commission. Plus we do not capture data. If we can (which we are looking into) then this revenue will be shared transparently with our agent community. So, all OpenBrix does is work for the agent community. We work for them and they pay us a monthly low-cost subscription. That’s a simple model.
What do you think the incumbent portals have got wrong?
AP: Their products were groundbreaking and brilliant. So brilliant they were able to attract massive investment. With investors and shareholders comes the inevitable maximising of the return in investment. There is the problem. The portals now charge far too much and innovate little. Already OpenBrix and the other new challengers have brought far more innovation to the market.
Why do you think we have seen a proliferation of startup portals and alternatives to the big 3 portals in the UK and perhaps not so much in other markets?
AP: OpenBrix took three years to design and launch. If we had wanted to create another listing only portal, it would have taken 3 months. There are some very clever challenger portals and we all talk together frequently as a group. However, some others bring little or no innovation and those portals seem to have just jumped on the bandwagon. They will not survive!
Is there room for all of the challenger portals in the market?
AP: Some will survive and surge forward. Some will not and I think it is fairly obvious which 3 or 4 will make it. The rest will either wither away or be bought up.