The CEO of Ukrainian-based homebuying platform Homsters.com says advice he received from the 2016 PPW Pitch Club in Madrid helped motivate his team to further pursue their mission in pushing towards a transactional business model.
Last September, Homsters CEO Andrew Olejnik was standing on a stage in the Spanish capital pitching his business idea to a panel of the property industry's foremost leaders, including PPW founder Simon Baker. Less than six months later Homsters is living its dream.
Within two months of Pitch Club, which returns to Bangkok in March, Homsters took a major step in its development and on top of a successful pay-per-lead model, it added a transactional pay-per-deal monetisation model that has allowed it to provide true value to homebuyers, home-sellers and property developers.
The model has just launched in its test market – Kazakhstan - with the intention to expand across other emerging markets. Olejnik says there is plenty of room for a tech-enabled service for homebuyers which would cover the whole customer journey, especially in the new developments sector.
“Our goal is to give customers the best experience both online and offline,” he says.
“We got a much bigger response than we imagined. Within just two months, which included the Christmas and New Year break, we began operating as an "agent" for 10 per cent of new developments which are out on the market; technically that now makes us bigger than any traditional brokerage out there.
“This allows us to truly give a fantastic search-to-purchase service to our homebuyers. The developers see how much value we provide to the buyers and how much we know about them, therefore even though we are still very early in our growth some of them are already bringing up the topic of exclusive sales rights.”
So, what are the key pieces of advice Olejnik garnered from Pitch Club in order to successfully take Homsters to its next stage of development?
Be able to summarise your idea concisely
Being forced to summarise a technical business idea in a short amount of time can definitely help you to focus on what it is you’re trying to achieve, Olejnik says.
“To me the most valid experience of Pitch Club was the format, which was very rigid,” he says.
“You have five minutes to explain to people who don’t know anything about your business what the hell it is that you actually do.” Olejnik says this is an especially difficult task, particularly with a complex industry such as real estate tech.
“The whole exercise of preparing for Pitch Club made me really think about the value we’re providing and what it is that we should be focusing on. Just the format forces you to think about that.”
Expect the unexpected
In a fast-paced environment subject to change, as is often the case in a start up environment, you have to expect the unexpected. Olejnik says Pitch Club Madrid definitely prepared him for an element of surprise.
“The Pitch Club panel was very good and the questions panelists asked were really to the point,” he says. “You may not be ready for them and that’s the whole point, I guess - it puts you on the spot.
"Even as a founder and a CEO, I walked away with a lot of a-ha moments; as in ‘how did I not see this before, it seems so obvious now that someone has said it’”.
Focus on one product
“One of the best pieces of advice I received from Pitch Club was to really focus on the product,” Olejnik notes.
“That’s why, for the last six months, since the last Pitch Club, we’ve been focusing purely on Kazakhstan to get the best experience; this has been a big stepping stone for us, the fact that we’re ticking the boxes and really able to handle the whole customer journey.
“Working on a start up you have so many ideas – so many things you want to do, could do and should do; a thing like Pitch Club really makes you focus. For us, the big takeaway was that we were told that we have an interesting business model, but in order for it to work we really need to get it right before we think about expansion, not the other way around."