[FH]: What is ProprHome and what differentiates it from other Real Estate online platforms?
[JM]: ProprHome is a residential real estate marketplace that uses web3 technology to reward good, professional practices. We want to improve transparency and efficiency in real estate interactions and transactions, so we’ve developed a marketplace that helps educate the customer, that helps provide good clean verified data for all parties involved, and that helps manage appointments, offers, and negotiations throughout the buying or renting process.
Our whole system is designed to encourage real estate agents and property developers to produce helpful content to educate our customers, so there’s an organic content angle that’s not there with other platforms. We also don’t have a typical paid media/marketing strategy. Our strategy is a subscription-based model where agents and developers pay a low monthly fee and then earn reputational rewards tokens based on these good practices, and they can only buy ad space and boost their awareness, and generate more leads with these rewards tokens, not cash. So it’s a meritocracy if that makes sense.
[FH]: How has your past experience in the Real Estate market shaped how ProprHome is positioned? What bases did you build ProprHome on?
For the last 16 years, I’ve been training, hiring, and developing real estate agents in three continents. I’ve trained over a thousand agents in that time period, which has allowed me to understand how complicated it can be to be a real estate agent, particularly those in a commission-only salary role. And when designing ProprHome, there was a huge focus on making these agents’ lives a little bit easier.
The training course that we created to train these agents over the last 15 years was based on three core pillars – property, knowledge, and empathy – and the scoring metric that rewards real estate agents and developers on the ProprHome platform is based on these three core principles. So we look at the input around the property – we verify documents, we verify images, we verify descriptions and pricing. Before we offer rewards on knowledge, we encourage professional users to produce content by writing helpful articles – if these articles have a high engagement value like likes, shares or saves, we reward on that basis. And then if that content has any unique value to the marketplace, for example, if it’s something that nobody else has written about, it will have a higher score rating. Lastly, empathy is focused on customer feedback – we ask for customer feedback at four different stages of the buying cycle, so you might be buying for a couple of months, and we’ll contact you in different ways throughout the process. Then, the feedback we receive will be fed into the score that the agent will get as a result of the empathy shown towards their customer.
[FH]: How long did it take you to get from the MVP to the final running product? And what were the key aspects needed to make it happen?
[JM]: I’m aware that we may have approached this incorrectly from a development perspective, but we’ve jumped straight from idea to finished product. We didn’t really have an MVP stage. Now, not everybody is afforded that luxury. We got some grant funding from the idea stage that allowed us to just go for it and use the experience and knowledge within the team to deliver. Typically, we would have an MVP tested in the market first, but we don’t. We have a complete product instead.
I started talking about this around six years ago, but life got in the way and I didn’t do anything about it and when the pandemic happened, which gave me the push I needed. I left my full-time job and focused on building ProprHome. We started development alsmost a year ago this week, so we were full-time developing the business model and partnerships for two years, but full-time programming for 1 year. It took some healthy funding, and a lot of industry knowledge to get here. If we didn’t have the background we did, it would have been a very different prospect. It’s not easy to do what we’ve done, I definitely have more grey hairs! So I respect the fact that there are about 35 years of industry knowledge on the team. I’m very thankful for this.
[FH]: You have both studied and worked in several different locations, are you coming back to any of them with ProprHome? And can you give us some insights into ProprHome’s expansion roadmap?
[JM]: So I’m Irish. I lived in the Middle East, and in Asia for a long time before moving to Portugal. Dubai in the UAE is definitely a market that will adapt fast to our product, so it’s one location on our roadmap. We’re looking at consolidating in Portugal by the end of this year and moving into Spain by Q1 next year, and from Spain, we’re looking at the UK, Ireland, and the UAE collectively. The UK and Ireland is obviously a market I know very, very well, and then the UAE is another where I still know a lot of people in the industry. We haven’t made a decision to go to Hong Kong yet, and we probably won’t, it’s not on our roadmap right now. We’ll probably look towards the Americas instead. It just makes more sense for our type of product.
[FH]: Where do you see ProprHome in the next 5 years?
[JM]: We have a 13-country roadmap over the next five years, and we have four more evolutions of the product in the pipeline. So if we have all our wishes granted and we get the traction we’re looking for, we’ll be a gamified hub for search and discovery of homes operating in multiple regions. We’ll offer full transactional management; we’ll be able to plug and play with government land registries; offering full end-to-end transactions. We’ll offer immersive viewings, which a first iteration of is currently being delivered, so ultimately we will become a central hub for search and discovery and managing various aspects of your home.
[FH]: In your opinion, what are the most promising fintech trends that are likely to gain traction in the Portuguese market over the next year?
[JM]: Products and tools like Coverflex, plus what HolyWally is doing with wallets – this for me is the next evolution of our Internet, having that kind of flexibility for our teams and for our staff means a lot. Teams don’t work in the office all the time anymore. We have an office, and we will be around, but the team has a much more flexible environment post-COVID, and I think that will continue to be the norm.
Also, I think right now Portugal has an opportunity to develop as a Web3 hub for Europe. I think nobody has really stepped up to the plate yet. But I think it will take a lot of good decisions on the Government’s behalf for it to become a reality, and that’s not something I have massive confidence in yet. But I think we’re on the cusp of determining whether Portugal will be a major hub, or continue to support other major tech hubs in Europe. I think the next 12 or 18 months will go a long way to deciding this.