First-principles thinking is crucial when you are working to solve a complicated problem and create something new. It allows you to ignore the noise and previous assumptions in order to deeply understand a problem and unleash a new perspective/product. The idea is to break down complicated problems into basic elements and then reassemble them from the ground up. We are doing exactly that for the real estate industry and specifically for the CRM.
When we first started Symba, we were starting a company based on the FACT real estate is way behind the times when it comes to software. All software. So we wanted to help fix that and the place we wanted to start was the CRM given every successful business needs a CRM to serve their customers. We saw the industry uses niche solutions and those solutions were clunky, confusing, ugly, and not mobile-first. So we took a step back and began with first principles. Below is how we have used first principles to build Symba:
1. Understand the problem:
We saw that real estate teams were struggling to optimize their businesses and keep up with consumer behavior/expectations. The experience of buying a home with an agent has changed very little since the internet was created.
2. Build a team capable of solving this problem:
Having a great team is so important. Evan knew that in order to solve this problem Symba needed to have a very well-rounded team with a deep understanding in their given domains. So the team building began… Ryan was there from the beginning and worked with Evan to identify the problems in the industry. Ryan brings a deep understanding for real estate after having grown up in the industry and working on one of the nation's top residential teams. Evan knew that they needed a technical cofounder so the next person to join was Kendall. He has been an integral part of the digital transformation Yum Brands has gone through and has been building massive enterprise applications that power their online ordering infrastructure used by millions of people. Last but certainly not least, came Tanner. The team knew that the future of software is user experience. More on this in a bit but Evan wanted a cofounder that was an experienced designer. Tanner was the perfect person given he has years of UX design experience and has worked across multiple industries including real estate. He too has designed applications used by millions of people (PayPal products.)
3. Understand why the problem exists in the first place:
Once we had the problem identified and the team built. We started talking to as many agents as we could. We got on countless zoom calls (We were building during the pandemic) and then just listened to agents’ pain points and dug into some of the leading causes of their frustrations. We started with interviewing agents and not consumers because we fundamentally believe that real estate will always be human and consumers will always want a trusted agent guiding them through one of the most important financial decisions of their life. The industry is also fundamentally structured to keep agents as the transaction middle man for the foreseeable future.
Through this research, we found that agent adoption of technology was extremely low ultimately because of their poor user experiences. Their existing options did not match their on-the-go, busy lifestyles and that kept them from wanting to use them. While the feature sets might be robust, that doesn’t do anyone any good if they aren’t being used.
4. Reimagine a user experience from the ground up.
We deconstructed the most common workflows of agents and then designed a CRM from the ground up keeping those things in mind. This led to a few MAJOR changes. Symba doesn’t look like a CRM but it has the same functionality. Here are a few major things we did:
- We went mobile-first. It was important for us to build an application that can be used no matter where an agent is. Most CRM’s started with desktop and then built mobile apps. We started mobile and then designed the desktop.
- We prioritized communication. Nowadays with developer APIs like Twilio, it’s possible to build communication workflows into a CRM. This has never been done effectively until the last several years. Examples being Outreach and Salesloft.
- We abstracted the databases. To date, CRM’s have been nothing more than databases. This does not translate well to a mobile experience. We abstracted the database with intuitive feeds and cards rather than columns and rows.
- We prioritized deal tracking. Every agent tracks their deals. Many of them are using whiteboards, trello, note taking apps, and excel because their current CRM’s are so clunky. We made sure that changing a deal stage or seeing your pipeline was always one or two clicks away from the user no matter what page they are on.
We have some pretty lofty goals and a pretty exciting vision. Building the industry’s best CRM is just the start. Getting to that grand vision won't be possible without first principles thinking.