We are so excited to be launching Symba today! It’s been about a year in the making since we started having discussions about building a software product for the real estate industry. I, Evan Knowles, wanted to take some time to talk about how we got to our launch today and where we are looking into the future. It’s been a rollercoaster ride just like any startup is but we are here and we are pumped to share what we have been up to.
Back in late 2019, Ryan Harris and I began to discuss real estate technology. I had begun investing in multifamily properties and he had begun selling residential real estate. We started bouncing ideas off each other related to software in the industry because we saw how far behind it was. I knew there was a need for better communication tools and so did Ryan. Eventually, we landed on building a CRM for the multifamily space called Touchbase. This CRM would use modern communication tools in order to give property managers a more effective and modern way to communicate with their tenants and provide the level of customer service found in more technologically mature industries. It is a huge problem and the current technology providers are dropping the ball. Unfortunately, they can afford to drop the ball and we ultimately pivoted to our current product. More about this in a bit…
Build a Rockstar Team
With my previous startup experience, I know how important it is to build a team with deep experience in their given roles. Ryan had serious domain experience in real estate after growing up around it his whole life. His family owns hundreds of properties and builds residential homes. After graduating college, Ryan became an agent with one of the nation's top brokerages in Louisville, KY and still builds homes with his father. His understanding of the space and where it is heading is as strong as anyones. My primary experience is around building teams, software, and sales. I have been in the software space since dropping out of college to grow Fooji and I have been investing in real estate since 2018 so I’ve gotten a good understanding of the industry as well.
There was our business minded talent. Next, we needed an extremely talented engineer. Kendall Weihe is that person. Kendall brings the technical talent every successful technology company needs. He’s been developing since he was very young and graduated from UK in 2017 with a degree in Computer Science with a focus on backend architecture and machine learning. After graduating, he worked at two of Kentucky’s top software companies, El Toro and Appriss. He is now building enterprise applications for KFC (Yum Brands) and is largely responsible for building their online order system that is responsible for 10% of KFC’s revenue.
I also believe user experience, branding, and product design are no longer options in today’s software landscape. They are necessities. The days of launching a mediocre MVP to test and iterate are over in most facets of software. Expectations are simply too high. Design and user experience are what separate great products from good products, not features. In order to be good at these things you have to put the customer's needs first. Kendall and I knew this. So we set out to find the best product designer possible to be a co-founder and we found him. Tanner Wilcox is THAT dude. Tanner is a very experienced designer that has designed products for brands like PayPal that have millions of users. He is a major asset to the team not only for his vast experience in design, but also because of his lack of experience with CRM’s. That might sound weird, but I think it is a MAJOR advantage that he has no experience designing or even using a CRM. It allows him to come at it from a first principles and human perspective. CRMs are basically the same across all industries (That is part of the problem) so we wanted to give him the reins to come up with something new to serve the niche of real estate. Our product is a clear representation of user-first design.
To learn more about out team, check out this blog.
As we dug deeper and talked to property managers and other entrepreneurs in the multifamily space, we started to realize how poorly the space was set up for new entrants due to vertical integration and horrible tech stacks (No APIs to work with.) We began discussing a pivot but knew the entire real estate market was in dire need for modern software tools. I mean it is 2021 and we are just now starting to buy homes using 3D tours and platforms like Zillow, Open Door, and Redfin. This slow innovation is due to fragmented data, lack of technical expertise, and the legacy nature of the industry. On top of this, the amount of capital needed to participate and the average age of professionals in the real estate industry are much higher than other more technologically advanced industries.
Sticking to our understanding of the CRM space, we noticed another huge opportunity in the residential real estate market. Agents are being provided mediocre software tools and this is clear in the adoption numbers. You’d think agents would be heavy users of CRM’s. Their jobs revolve around relationships and transaction management. For many agents, we found the lack of adoption is being caused by a lack of technical knowledge, but for most agents it's because of the poor user experiences their existing tools have. After interviewing many agents, surveying the industry, and getting great feedback on product mockups, we made the pivot to residential real estate.
What is Symba?
We are building the only mobile-first real estate CRM. We are taking the clunkiness and complexity agents are used to and replacing it with a beautiful, intuitive, mobile-first user experience that will allow agents to focus on their clients and making money wherever they are. Agents are constantly on the go and busy people. They need a tool that matches that lifestyle. This wasn’t possible when our competitors were founded and it shows in their current execution. Brokerages and teams are forced to buy multiple tools to make up for the fact their agents aren’t using their CRM.
The CRM is where Symba will start. In order to be a successful agent going into the future, you have to have a CRM so we’ll start there and continue to innovate for our clients as the industry changes. To learn more details about Symba, check out our website, blog and podcast.
We are very excited about the future of real estate. Right now, we are seeing the beginnings of major innovation and disruption for the first time EVER. Real estate has largely remained the same over the years. iBuyers like Zillow, Opendoor, and Redfin are working to centralize much of the home buying and selling process much like what Amazon did with commerce. Amazon ultimately never took over the entire market and neither will iBuyers so we have ideas on how to empower agents well into the future similar to how Shopify has for merchants. Even though the days of iBuying making a significant dent in residential real estate sales across the nation are a ways off, agents need to start seriously considering their tech stacks and how they can prepare for the future. We will be their partner in that. Agents aren’t going anywhere in our lifetime.
We Need Your Help
Given how big the market is, just about everyone knows a real estate agent. We want your help spreading the word about Symba. If you know someone in real estate, please shoot them our website or make an introduction using my email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to show off what we are building for them!
Thanks for reading,
Evan and team