How do you know if you are sitting on a unicorn or are about to throw away the next few years of your life on a pipe dream? The truth is, you never REALLY know until you give it your best shot; but taking the plunge and committing to be a startup founder can be the most daunting step of the whole process. In this third article of my #StartupLife series, I selected 12 of my favorite answers to this question: how did you decide to take the leap from what you were doing before, to being a PropTech startup founder? Some are more emotive, others more factual… but it is clear that all of these founders had very strong (if different) reasons to commit to their dream!
Tom Gatzen, Co-founder of London-based Ideal Flatmate, the first flatmate sharing portal in the UK: It took a lot of late nights and weekends working on the idea while I was continuing to run a full-time job. After we launched an MVP and saw that we were gaining significant early traction, I felt it was time to take the leap and dedicate myself completely to making Ideal Flatmate a success.
Will Harris, Founder of Johannesburg-based Gmaven, a cloud-based platform that automates back and front processes for South Africa’s commercial real estate industry: Coming from an analytical, efficiency-trained background, it was madness to see high opportunity cost of time humans doing the work that computers could do. Data is the oil that this industry runs on, and it is inconceivable that the industry is so data-opaque, and that data is either poorly structured, expensive or unavailable. The wasted time doing manual processes was business suicide. If I didn’t evolve or adapt, I would be redundant. So I started working on this project over late nights and weekends from 2006. I got to a point where I was at risk of “chasing two rabbits and losing them both”. I couldn’t continue a successful brokerage without the software and data tools, but I couldn’t do the technology and run a business at the same time.
Peter Mansour, Founder of Strata Alert, a New Zealand property notification and alert platform: When you only have “WOW” moments about your new startup that inspires you to continually innovate and create, you know that your passion and enjoyment has moved to your new venture. The fear of failure is not as painful as regret.
Adam Edgell-Bush, Founder of London-based property maintenance platform Homyze: For me, the (arrogant) feeling that I was able to do it better than anyone else was the primary determinant. And then, it’s just like getting into a cold swimming pool … just close your eyes and jump.
Matt Ellis, Founder of San Diego-based Measurabl, which provides precision software built to help you collect, report, and act upon non-financial data: Couldn’t have two full-time jobs at once.. 😉
Tom Young, Founder of Udrew, an Australian platform to allow homeowners and contractors without any technical skill to design, engineer and manage their own custom building project from start to finish: It was difficult to leave a stable career to have a go at something that has never been done before, but at the end of the day it was like an itch that I needed to scratch and I love to continually push my boundaries with new challenges. At the end of the day, my drive is to solve real-world problems and make something cool in the process.
Robert Cooper, Co-founder at Boston-based Embue, a building intelligence platform that senses and automates every apartment to deliver the best multi-residential experience while lower operating costs: I was leading the system architecture group at a successful defense supercomputing company when I realized there was a serious risk I’d work there until retirement! I had to do something about that. I’d always been interested in sustainability and the built environment so decided to pursue that passion and return to the startup environment I’d enjoyed before.
Daniel Kuczaj, Norbert Apostel, Dominik Schroeter, and Arthur Rehm, Co-founders at Frankfurt-based Roomhero, a digital one-stop interior designer: We really wanted to do something meaningful with our work. Many ‘classic’ jobs are managing the status quo, but they are not creating anything new, they are not adding value to our society. Most of all, we wanted the result of our work to be something you can really see and even touch. With interior design, you create a beautiful product that you can live or work in. Having this possibility, it didn’t take any more convincing to take the leap into founding a PropTech start-up.
Gabe Halimi, Co-Founder of Culver City-based Flo Technologies, a water monitoring and leak detection system: I recognized how crucial the need for smart home water monitoring was to conserve water and protect homes from water damage. Since the average household’s leaks can account for nearly 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year and 13% of household water is lost due to leaks, the problem is much more common than it seems. With my father’s invention and experience working with plumbing companies years prior, coupled with my experience dealing with plumbing product liability claims, we knew our collective experience positioned us expertly to create and adapt a device to fit every homeowners’ need to protect their home.
Peter Moog, Founder of Frankfurt-based Evana AG, which specializes in data exchange using artificial intelligence: My first IT company had a mandate from two major asset management companies. Although these firms were very modern, they also suffered from mountains of paperwork still prominent in the real estate world. It was one of the factors that prevented them from implementing several ideas.
Savannah de Savary, Founder of London-based Built-ID, a platform that digitalizes community engagement: It a was scary transition to make but it got to the point where my responsibility at work was expanding and my start-up was growing, and I knew I couldn’t do both full justice. I tried to stay on at my job as long as possible but in the end, I was lucky enough to have the support of my employers to pursue my ideas. I’m now so glad that I made the decision that I did. It also helped that I’ve previously had a lot of exposure to the property industry through work and study. The lack of technology in property was a mutual frustration amongst everyone that I met, and I think being able to relate to the struggles of my users has helped me build something efficient and effective.
Tom Cartlidge, Founder of London-based PropCoin, an AML and KYC compliant security token built upon the Ethereum network with the objective of tokenizing a property fund: Everyone asked if I was nervous to make the shift from the suited corporate world to the bean bag start-up life. However, when I spoke to people most said ‘best time to do it is when you’re young’. This was also my chain of thought and I knew I could go back to the ‘day job’ of being a Chartered Surveyor if PropCoin was to fail.