Singapore-based Greyloft has raised $1.1 million to build out its vision of what a real estate agency should look and function like in today’s digital era.
Wait! Estate agents? Aren’t they the bad actors that spoil things for everyone?
It’s true that many startups attacking the real estate have chosen to disintermediate agents on the premise that their motivations are misaligned with those of the consumers they represent. At their worst, their goal is often to maximize their take-home of a deal, rather than satisfying their client 100 percent. India’s NoBroker, which raised $10 million earlier this year, is probably the best example of that ‘direct-to-consumer’ model.
Greyloft believes that it can solve the problem by bringing agents under its own roof and this seed stage financing, which was provided DSG Consumer Partners, Wavemaker, Cub Capital, Tigris Capital and JFDI, will help it build on its early promise.
The startup was founded last year by ex-bankers Siddhesh Narayanan (CEO) and Archit Agarwal (CTO), who explained the vision as more of a ‘real estate 2.0’ than online property portal. In its system, it works with a selection of closely affiliate licensed agents who are incentivized to put the customer first, changing a dynamic that many believe is broken.
Left to right: Greyloft founders Archit Agarwal and Siddhesh Narayanan
Greyloft focuses on two pieces for its business: giving consumers — buyers and sellers — a platform for home rentals and sales, on the other side it generates leads and business for real estate agents.
“We are doing every single thing an estate agency does, but much smarter,” Narayanan said in an interview.
The company aims to attract agents by offering a CRM system that does some obvious things that real estate professionals don’t currently get access to using their existing setups, which are predominantly offline and analog. That includes software that manages multiple deals, transitions clients between colleagues, keeps track of paperwork, and can track client requests, meaning that agencies can take requests months in advanced.
“Once they get used to the backend systems… it allows them to focus on customer service not being a push salesperson as agents are sometimes known for,” Agarwal said.
Narayanan admitted that it is challenging finding the right brokers in Singapore since there is a small pool who are licensed, and Greyloft’s own approach takes some explaining. But, all things considered, the startup’s founders see the right kind of agents as essential to the process.
“Buying property is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life, and rent is also one of the biggest items [of expenditure] out there. You need an expert to advise you,” Narayanan argued.
With its new funding secured, the company is aiming to “step on the pedal a little and get more customers to know us.” That will involve the creation of a dedicated sales team in Singapore and potentially exploring possible overseas expansion plans. Right now, Greyloft outsources its technology in India while it has a customer services team that is based in the Philippines.
Singapore is no easy market to win, however. More establish rivals include iProperty, which was bought by News Corp for over $500 million, PropertyGuru, which raised $129 million in its most recent funding in 2015, while there is also 99.co, a startup backed by more than $1.6 million from investors like Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.