The BizSpark startup of the day is The Real Estate Network, based in Romania. They provide business networking and specialized tools for real estate professionals.
Interview with Stefan Negritoiu, Co-founder and Director of Product Development
Tell us who you are and your role in the company.
Co-founder and Director of Product Development; I’m responsible for developing the products that automate the business workflows, for making the products easy to use and accessible to novice computer users, and for strategic innovation that keeps us ahead of the competition.
What did you do before creating your company?
Prior to relocating to Romania and starting this business, I used to work for Microsoft in the US.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
I feel great that we accomplished something worthwhile and took the business from idea, to business plans and specs, to prototype, working code, and finally customers! Not many just yet, but certainly greater than zero.
What is your company’s mission?
Our mission is to aid real estate professionals develop more business partners, broker more transactions and better serve their sellers and buyers of real estate;
By connecting professionals with similar specialties and interests as business partners; by creating a community of professionals that will act a reference point for trust and reputation in the market both among professionals as well as between professionals and their clients; and continued education and training for ever higher value of the services they provide.
Success is measured by a higher number of business partners and transactions, a better perception from buyers and sellers of brokering services and correlation between higher reputation of real estate professionals and their ability to sign more exclusive contracts.
Our mission is to shorten the time required to match supply and demand, to increase efficiency and transparency of real estate transactions;
By centralizing, verifying and continuously updating information about the supply on the market, by having a common set of rules.
Success is measured by reduced time in finding a buyer, reduced time in closing a transaction, smaller number of frauds, compared with transactions happening outside the system.
Our mission is to enable correct and rigorous valuation of real estate properties using market generated data as basis and not hearsay and personal opinions, to introduce a quantitative, objective measure in the price negotiation process, and to record and observe trends and directions in the real estate market;
By accumulating real market data to create a statistically-relevant valuation basis for the Romanian market and creating valuation reports that explain what makes up a price and what the trends in the market are.
Success is measured by one’s ability to value a piece of property pre-sale within 20% of its sale price, by the absence of drama in the negotiation process and the ability to explain more of the market trends.
In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:
Business networking and specialized tools for real estate professionals.
How did you get the idea for the company
Having bought my own home I noticed how fragmented the information in the real estate industry is, how much repeated manual data entry/form filling one has to do, and how many reams of paper are wasted in coordinating transactions by fax. There must be a better way!
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
We first invested the founders’ personal savings, about €50,000 in total and then raised €200,000 from an angel investor. We are currently looking for another €200,000 at whose consumption we believe our revenue will match expenses.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
4 employees of which 2 are developers.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring and where?
Not at the moment; recession-induced cash flow issues.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
ASP.NET 3.5, SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008; it’s a very solid platform with great developer productivity on the .NET side. Just wish the SQL Server team would’ve added an enum data type rather than the obscure new data types it chose to ship.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/internet area?
_True_ software-as-a-service by which I mean not just moving business apps into the cloud, but actually taking advantage of the fact that data is centralized, is ubiquitously accessible, and it can be acted upon by online communities to truly realize the potential of wisdom of crowds paradigms.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
Great initiative from Microsoft (finally!) Although, for it to be truly useful, it might have to extend free access to Microsoft software from the initial 3-year period to 4 or even 5 years given the current recession. It’s doubtful we’d be profitable enough to pay for the licenses by the time the 3 years are up.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
A start-up that involves R&D requires A LOT of bake and growth time until it can achieve a self-sustaining scale. There might be a hockey stick revenue model in your future, but don’t ignore the LONG time it will take to get off the flat beginning. I recommend you either work out a moonlighting agreement with your employer or first build a more traditional business from which you can fund the start-up. It will take a couple of years more to get to where you want to be, but at least you’ll get there.
Who’s your role model?
A cross between Richard Branson and Bill Gates (doubt someone like that could exist; too much to ask from human probably).
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview
If you feel comfortable in your current life, push yourself to make a change and take yourself out of the comfort zone. The learning experience is incredible and you’ll be glad you did it, even if you (are forced to) choose to return to the comfort zone. You’ll be a better person and a better professional in the end for having done it.