[FH]: What is Unlockit, and what is the problem you’re solving?
Unlockit is a Web3 PropTech & GovTech company that is disrupting the market by making the transactional process of buying, selling or renting a property more digital, streamlined, transparent, collaborative and secure for everyone involved whilst ensuring it is fully compliant with the latest EU legislations (eIDAS, AML6 & GDPR).
[TD]: The property market is not consistently connected and the real estate mediation business processes are considered to be extremely inefficient and opaque. This lack of transparency results in a lack of trust among the different stakeholders, as many of them have conflicting interests. The current process of buying or selling a property involves a wide range of different actors who have different roles and objectives making it hard to guarantee all interests are aligned. These conflicting forces make the business process very inefficient, costly and time-consuming. Because there is no trust among different parties, the process requires the authentication of multiple documents, signing a myriad of contracts that come with high legal fees, the validation of everyone’s identity and a need to closely monitoring the payment of the commission fee, which in case of litigation come with high legal costs. These requirements become harder to overcome because that information is stored in multiple private and public silos which don’t communicate with each other. This is almost an endless process of authentication and validation of each other’s paperwork. The process is paper-based, meaning it is hard to ensure data integrity throughout the whole process.
[FH]: When looking at your background, it’s very clear that entrepreneurship has always been present in your life. How have your past experiences shaped the way you act with Unlockit?
[TD]: I started working in the tech market 18 years ago when it was still a relatively new industry. I was fortunate to be hired into a management position at a medium-sized IT consulting and outsourcing firm. I quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a top producer and a successful manager. I was able to grow my career exponentially, eventually earning the ambitious position of C-Level executive.
After a while, I started to feel like something was missing. I was making a lot of money, but I didn’t feel like I was in control of my life. I was always stressed out, and I wasn’t learning anything new. I knew that I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life. At the age of 32, I decided to make a radical change in my career. I left my job in management and pivoted to the product and technical side of the tech industry. Despite having no experience in the field, I had the courage to start my own companies from scratch. But I was always willing to step outside of my comfort zone. I was one of the three founders of RealFevr.com, the hustler and the first CEO of the project. I was there until 2019 which was an amazing, but painful experience.
I had to learn from my mistakes and start reading about everything. I could improve my skills and knowledge and I learned that real happiness is on the journey of making something meaningful and being better every day. It’s not about reaching a destination, but about enjoying the process of learning and growing.
[FH]: What have been your biggest challenges when establishing the company, and how did you solve them?
[TD]: The first 18 months of the company were tough. We started with four people, but in the end, I had to let the others go. It wasn’t possible to continue like that. I wanted to continue by myself, and it was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made, but it was the right one.
I listened to the feedback from our clients and investors, and I pivoted the company into a web3 and blockchain company. The vision remained the same, but the roadmap was completely different. I kept our existing clients and maintained our relationships with them, while I spent all my time studying the scientific literature about DLT/blockchain/real estate and tokenization. I was following the advice of my mentor, Pedro Roseiro, who had told me that this was the future of the company. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. Everything has changed since then.
Finding the right investor was one of the biggest challenges I faced as a founder. It took me a long time to find someone who believed in my vision, energy, and experience, and was willing to support Unlockit’s growth. However, I never gave up. I continued to believe in myself and my company, and I never doubted that we would succeed. I believe that grit is the most important characteristic of a founder. It is essential to be able to persevere through challenges and to never give up on your dreams and vision.
[FH]: How do you see financial literacy playing a role in empowering individuals to make informed decisions when it comes to buying, selling, or renting properties?
[TD]: I find it strange that people in Portugal feel the need to own a house, especially in a poor country like ours. However, I can understand the emotion behind it. After all, a house is a symbol of stability and security. If you want to buy a house, you should have the money saved up. However, in Portugal, 95% of people use credit to buy a house. This puts them in a financial bind for years to come. I’m 43 years old and I’m debt-free, and I believe that everyone should strive to be in the same position. I think the reason why so many people in Portugal use credit to buy houses is because they have been sold the idea that owning a house is the key to financial security. This is simply not true.
To make matters worse, Portugal is the country with the lowest financial literacy, and that is just dramatic.
On the other hand, there is no single source of credible information. This is one of the things that we are trying to solve. We want to give people the power of data again and to unlock public interest information, such as the real value of transactions. People cannot make better informed decisions without data that they can trust
[FH]: As an entrepreneur in the proptech and govtech sectors, what are some of the key challenges you have faced in driving innovation and disrupting traditional processes? How do you navigate regulatory complexities and ensure market adoption of Unlockit.io’s solutions?
[TD]: The proptech market is one of the most traditional markets in the world. While there are some innovative companies starting to appear, the industry is still largely dominated by traditional players. This is because the real estate market is slow to change, and people are accustomed to working in the same way they always have. Changing the mindset and mentality of people in the real estate industry is a difficult task. It takes time and effort to convince people to adopt new technologies and processes. Even if you have a lot of money, you cannot change the market overnight.
However, I believe that the younger generation will be the catalyst for change. They are more tech-savvy and demanding than previous generations, and they are looking for a more trustable, digital, and transparent real estate process. As they become more active in the market, they will force traditional players to adapt to their needs. I am optimistic about the future of proptech. I believe that the younger generation will change the market forever and make it more efficient, transparent, and accessible to everyone.
[FH]: How has the Fintech House helped you so far?
[TD]: I’m not the type of person who is always around at The Fintech House. Startups are a daily exercise in execution. I only come to The Fintech House when I have a specific purpose, such as meeting with Lince Capital the last time I was there.
The Fintech House is a great experience because it gives me the credibility we need. It connects me with VCs and other people in the industry, which gives visibility to the project. Plus, the team is always available to help in any way they can, even opening doors, which I greatly appreciate.
[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?
[TD]: The fintech industry is constantly evolving, driven by technological advancements and changing consumer behavior. We can anticipate significant growth in several key areas over the next two years: generative AI and machine learning, digital identity platforms, cybersecurity, blockchain, and fraud prevention. Moreover, in the long term, the convergence of artificial intelligence and blockchain holds great potential and could be a critical step forward in establishing more trustworthy, efficient, and transparent markets and ecosystems.