Real estate from any location in the world in 30 seconds
Theeye: the success story of a startup that shows real estate online in any location. We talk to the founders of the service, Zakhar Shatrov and Veronika Alus (Ustinova).
– We had a real estate agency in Moscow. When the pandemic hit, we came up with the idea of creating a service that would show real estate remotely in any part of the world. We filmed all the commercials in the Moscow Downtown. When a person called through the marketplace, they reached us and watched the property in real-time. We quickly launched the service, but we couldn't attract investments. Therefore, we decided to realize our dream of making it global and moved to Dubai. This is how TheEye became the product that you see now. We are in the second round of investments, registered in DIFC, and have joined the Google accelerator for marketing support. We work with 29 of the largest developers in the UAE," says Zakhar.
– Do you plan to scale the product and expand beyond the United Arab Emirates?
– We are aiming to enter the markets of Persian Gulf countries, and within 6-9 months, we plan to scale up to 107 countries with populations of up to 10 million people.
– Sounds ambitious, what is the wow factor of your platform? I think such a thing is available to all major developers in one the mature proptech markets like Russia?
– Theeye is a marketplace of instant live streams from anywhere in the world in 30 seconds. As a customer, you can be anywhere and watch real estate directly from various developers. In half an hour, you can see 10 properties. We started with the primary market and work only with developers. They subscribe to the service for $3,000 per property - tower, villa, or village - and can upload unlimited properties. The fundamental difference from video on the developer's website is the diversity and choice, as well as the fact that these are live broadcasts with real people, not pre-recorded videos or 3D tours. In a live stream, you can see all the nuances that you won't see in the finished materials.
– Interesting trend, especially against the backdrop of how developers are actively working on virtual tours and renders today. Do live streams increase conversion more effectively than other tools?
– Developers need customers first and foremost. And we deliver them. If we talk about the UAE, developers are even more interested in direct customers and want to move away from the 5-10% commission for brokers. At the same time, our model does not exclude agencies: they can use our marketplace as customers and send links to live streams to their buyers. For the developer, this is an expansion of their network and an additional advertising channel.
– How are other marketplaces organized in the world and what is your unique difference?
– We have analyzed 995 marketplaces around the world and know how each of them is structured. It's all the same everywhere: realtors are the key consumer. Accordingly, these marketplaces take search engine traffic, and buyers come there who are forced to reach the developer through agents. Thus, customers and developers become hostages of the system. The funnel for each deal on the market starts from the display.
– Do you plan to move further down the funnel, and in your opinion, what should be the path that has emerged online?
– For now, we simply hand over the customer to the developer. Approximately 60 live streams a day. We expect that 0.5% of them will convert into sales. That's a total of 1800 views per month, which translates to 9-18 deals. Of course, we are looking further than just display. That's why we started working with the Joy platform, which can communicate with customers in messengers, recognize and send voice messages, and in the future will replace sellers. We also want to develop transactions in the global market through our platform.
– From the customer journey perspective, is this designed for the buyer to be in the same country as the developer, or can the process of searching and buying real estate not be tied to location? Are you planning to integrate with banks for transactions within the platform?
– We plan to interact with banks through investors in the next round. The location of the customer does not matter. Currently, 60% of remote deals are taking place in Dubai. But it should be noted that this is a pilot, these numbers will grow. Our marketplace already supports 168 currencies and 10 languages, which change depending on the location and personalize the offer for the customer. Accordingly, you can not only view but also initiate a purchase from anywhere in the world. What happens next? The story is still behind the scenes. But we are thinking about it.
– You are creating a real success story. What would you recommend for foreign startups to do if they want to enter this market like you did?
– If you want to open an IT company in Dubai, you have three options: Silicon Oasis, Internet City, and DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre). We chose DIFC because it is where all the financial organizations in the Emirates are concentrated, key funds and the hub itself are made to help startups communicate and grow faster. Based on the experience of other startups, I can say that spreading offices across financial centers is a good strategy because it is easier to attract investments to a company registered in DIFC. As for funds, these are primarily people, and you have to have coffee and talk to people in person. Then something can come out of it. To get personal meetings, you need to endlessly write letters. We wrote 50-60 letters manually per day, then automated the process. You need to aim for 3-5 meetings with investors per week, and then you have a chance to succeed. Plus, now we have decided to create the Proptech. One community, and together we are rocking the market in terms of trends and collaborations.
– DIFC is well respected authority, but according to you, the entry process doesn't seem that difficult. At the same time, you quickly created a product and entered the market. Do you have a large team?
– There are currently 6 developers in the team plus two co-founders with management and sales functions. The main team is currently working in Russia. But we plan to relocate because it is important for the next investment rounds to have the team here. In general, we see the team as universal and try to automate business processes so as not to depend on people. Therefore, we don't need to expand the staff. Our capacity is 15-30 people to work on the product at full capacity.
– Tell us about Proptech.One. This is a platform supported by DIFC that brings together participants in the real estate market. Why does it exist and how did you get involved?
– We proposed to DIFC a concept in which Dubai could become the capital of proptech through the formation of a community. They really liked this idea. Accordingly, in November, we will have the first summit. Banks, developers, investment funds, and technology companies from all over the world will gather to discuss the development of the market. Why do we need this? As the founders of this platform, we want to have access to all resources and investments, communicate with our clients - developers and partners - banks and other IT companies. Plus, this is a strong marketing move. The summit will become annual. Based on this event, we will form a community. Its goal is to teach developers to invest in proptech startups.