Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Damian Bright from OpenAgent.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.
OpenAgent.com.au is a free-to-use comparison service that gives people the opportunity to select the best real estate agent to sell their property, based on customer reviews and their track-record of securing sales. The platform is independent, agents can't pay to be listed or recommended. Every active real estate agent in Australia is continually analysed against the criteria of sales performance and customer satisfaction.
Searching is quick and easy: Users input some basic property information and within seconds the platform gives the user local real estate agent recommendations based on the most current and comprehensive information possible. Users also get complete use of our client service team, who monitor the responsiveness and performance of agents, to ensure our clients get the best service out of the best agents.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
We've been focused on being profitable and generating cash flow from the launch of OpenAgent. The sooner a start-up can reach breakeven the greatest chance it has for success it has as it reduces reliance on raising funds. That is about being disciplined on costs, measuring the impact of every dollar spent, and seeking continual improvement in how we do things. That said, in order to go fast and grow, we have taken investment from a professional investor, and will do that again at the right time if it is needed.
What's the biggest challenge facing your business?
There are challenges every day! Often technical, silly things, that can take a lot of time to resolve but are important (like, my client service team's VOIP is broken!). Probably the hardest thing is about knowing where to prioritise; we have a huge vision and getting there always takes longer than you want it to.
How do your differentiate your business from your competitors?
There are some similar sites out there, but none with the same model as ours. Some try to compare agents based on price, or allow agents to "subscribe" to their system.
We are different because we provide quality, transparent information, reviews and data for free for our clients. Our independence also sets us apart. We are not about the lowest price or the cheapest real estate agent, but for the best agents who will deliver a great result at a fair price, which maximises value for our clients.
Additionally we have strong network of advisors and colleagues who have experience in creating similar start-ups overseas. This allows us to learn from their mistakes so we can give our users the best experience ahead of time.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
The CRM Stream plug-in for Gmail was invaluable to start off with; it is free, simple yet effective and helped us keep track of a lot of issues in the early days. Moreover Jira (team task management system) from the boys at Atlassian is a super powerful product that really helps our business.
We are all also on Macbook Airs. They are lightweight, quick, extremely transportable and powerful enough. It allows our team to be able to work efficiently wherever they want, whenever they want.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
Everyone in the company talks to customers. It isn't just my job or the client service team. Our tech lead called customers in his first week on the job. Embedding that culture means we are all focused on solving our customers' problems.
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