6 minute read
August 2, 2020
Leveraging Tech to Enhance Physical Building Viewings with James Owusu of CubicLease
This article originally appeared on www.buildingproptech.com, a retired blog where I interviewed proptech founders on how they were building and growing their businesses.
Hey James! What’s your background and what led to you working in PropTech?
My background is primarily from the banking domain where I have worked within the mortgage business and investment management space for around 6 years.
Throughout this time, I acquired some properties which exposed me to the lack of technology in the property industry especially given the sheer amount of technology available in banking (the industry powering the property industry).
What problem are you working to solve with CubicLease?
CubicLease aims to solve 3 main problems in the industry.
1. Reduce the operational time & money spent on letting & selling a property using our distributed network of electronic keysafes. Agencies spend easily more than £195 per property on viewing expenses. This cost makes more sense when showing tenanted property, however for a vacant property, these costs should be significantly reduced given access and security to the property are both controllable factors.
2. Reduce the risk associated with letting/selling a property from an affordability point of view using Open Banking to pre-verify prospects before any viewing. Many estate agencies & landlords believe referencing is similar to affordability checks, however that could not be any further from the truth. A reference is the same as a credit check for a loan to find out if you have good credit conduct. However, affordability is how banks check that you will not default on that loan. That is the difference between referencing and affordability.
3. Improve & digitize the experience of viewing a property which is the heart of the property industry. The aim is to blend the 2 solutions mentioned above to eliminate the use of physical documents and unnecessary travel for agencies and landlords, and provide a more seamless Airbnb style experience for prospective renters and buyers.
What’s the process been like as you build CubicLease?
It has been exciting and challenging. Given my experience in the banking industry, I am aware that the need for our solution is vital for taking the industry into the future, however I am constantly reminded that for a startup to be successful, there are a number of moving elements which need to be in relative synchronicity.
Elements such as timing; of which we believe COVID-19 has in some respect provided, product-market fit; of which is evidently there given the success of similar businesses in the UK and US and finally team; of which our team is diversely capable of executing.
But one thing we are understanding is some people are stuck in their ways and do not fully understand and grasp how beneficial affordability checks are to the renting sector. To survive these unprecedented times, technology has to be infused into how we conduct property viewings.
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How have you gone about growing your user base and revenue? What has been most effective?
We have been preserving cash by having a controlled marketing budget and speaking directly to prospective customers. From these conversations, we are learning ways to tailor our product to best meet their requirements whilst sticking to our core solution.
What has been the hardest part of the building, growing or monetizing CubicLease?
I would ordinarily say investment, however, although that is a big factor, the hardest part on par is finding a scalable distribution channel. One that has the potential to shift our business development efforts from outbound to inbound.
What insights about Real Estate and Technology have you come to realize whilst building CubicLease?
The real estate industry is built on a personal touch and interpersonal relations. Most of the participants in the industry have a sense of fear that all the technology solutions will nullify their jobs or take away the personal touch. Some also believe it will take away the value added by their services.
History shows that innovation helps society do more with less and the same applies to the property industry. I am not advocating for blindly adopting technology, I do believe estate agencies in particular need to be practical about their business, reduce operational cost, and reallocate resources to business development. The industry needs to automate their operations and focus efforts on marketing & business development to stay alive.
The value of an Estate Agent is in their marketing prowess, so they should double down on that and streamline their operation.