Startup Radius interviewed JP Bray, founder of Nobbas – a revolutionary real estate search platform for buyers and renters. What we like about Nobbas the most is collaboration tool. Finding the perfect home is a big step for everyone, and collaboration tool allows to do it together with your spouse, friend or trusted expert. Another distinction from other real estate platforms is the interactive map with rich filtering features – basically that’s the first thing you see when visiting Nobbas, so nothing really distracts you from search.
Launched less than 2 months ago, Nobbas now has 1.3 million listings. Learn how they went from 0 to 35,000 visitors in 6 weeks, how they plan to outcompete online real estate giants, why you should never change your marketing strategy every few weeks, and more. Enjoy and read below!
Can you tell us about what you are working on? What is Nobbas?
Nobbas built the first real estate search platform with built-in collaborative tools. We make it easy for buyers and renters to collaborate with their spouse, roommate, and agent to find the perfect home by centralizing the home hunting process on our platform.
We have over 1.3 million listings for sale and rent for our users to browse through. Our goal is to make Nobbas the easiest place to find your next home by having not only one of the largest listing inventory but also by finding innovative ways to collect data and create “user profiles” for our recommendation algorithm (think of Netflix’s Because You Watched XYZ).
Why are you building this? Was there a particular source of inspiration or money-making idea?
Everyone at Nobbas has had the same frustration at least once in the past, if not multiple times. Whether they were looking to rent an apartment with their roommates or buy a house with their spouse, they found the home hunting process to be broken.
There are no tools out there to centralize the the properties buyers like so they had to share listings URLs similar to this one: https://house4sale.com/houses/miami/listing/id/975318642 by email, text messages, Facebook Messenger, etc. It quickly becomes very difficult to find a listing sent by your spouse 4 days ago when you have received 20 listing URLs since then. You have to click them one by one to find the listings you like then read the comments below.
With our collaboration feature, the first of many innovative features to come, home hunters are able to create a collaboration project, invite whoever is involved in the decision process, add listings, remove them as soon as someone doesn’t like it, and also write their comment directly next to the listings.
Time for bragging! How big is Nobbas – traffic, users, anything else?
While we prefer not to disclose too much information about our traction for now, we can say that we had above 35,000 monthly visitors in our first 6 weeks with barely any marketing effort so far. We are planning on making our first marketing hire in Q1 2019 but hopefully reach 100,000 monthly visitors before the end of 2018.
Who are your main competitors, and how good/bad they are?
Zillow and Trulia (both subsidiaries of The Zillow Group) are our biggest competitors. They clearly are the market leaders and have the majority of the market share. Because they have been around for over 10 years, they sit on an incredible amount of historical data and market data which has helped them build their famous “Zestimate” algorithm. The algorithm estimate the price of of a property and also tries to predict trends in future home values.
Not everything that Zillow and Trulia are doing is great. Zillow’s user interface feels outdated and according to some user research we did internally, our user interface almost always ranked above the one of Zillow.
They have also failed to innovate in terms of features for potential buyers and this is where smaller and more agile real estate startups like Nobbas will slowly take market shares away from them. The way the new generation of buyers are used to do things online has changed and their expectations also differ from the previous generation. We really think that we have identified Zillow and Trulia weakness and are working are on turning their weakness into our unique selling proposition.
Who use Nobbas? What is your perfect buyer persona?
We really try to build Nobbas for everyone. This may sound cliche but really it’s hard to profile a typical property buyer or renter. It could literally be anyone aged 18-75, male or female so when we built Nobbas, we made sure it would be and will remain demographic-agnostic.
We are still aware however that some of our features like the collaboration will be adopted by the younger generation at a faster pace but we are trying hard to improve our onboarding with joy-rides for example to explain the advantages of using our collaboration tools.
Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?
Since our soft launch was less than 6 weeks ago, we still consider ourselves as an early-stage startups and are still using many growth hacking techniques. For that reason, we can’t share all of them with you right now but will be glad to do a follow-up interview in a year and share them all!
I will still share one with you. The first week we launched, we posted job ads in different cities across the US for positions ranging from internships to head of finance to full stack developers. This drove a surprising amount of traffic to our website over a period of 2-3 weeks and even noticed that some applicants also contact agents to get more information on certain listings!
Since we are also planning on opening our first sales and marketing office in the U.S., we also used that growth hacking experiment to find out where it would have the most success attracting talent at a reasonable cost.
What were some of the biggest challenges while building the product early on and how did you solve them?
Our biggest challenge so far has definitely been dealing with the huge amount of data that we have. With over 1.5 million listings and growing (we keep historical data) and hundreds of data points for every listing, our CTO and the tech team had to spend a considerable amount of time structuring the data to make sure that we would be able to display search results with multiple filters under 250 milliseconds. This makes the user experience much more pleasant for our users and we did not want to go to market before reaching that sub-250ms.
If you could give a marketing advice to other companies, what could it be based on your experience?
I’m not a marketing expert but coming from a venture capital background, if there is one mistake I’ve seen startups do over and over again is not giving a marketing strategy enough time to collect sufficient data to set the proper goals, measure the ROI, etc. Once settling on a marketing strategy, make sure to stick to it for at least 6-8 weeks.
By changing marketing strategy every week, you will never be able to collect meaningful data to make the right marketing decisions and adjustments. You will end up throwing money left and right and your odds of hitting the bullseye will be close to 0%.
Which marketing channels you prefer and why?
Because we are not directly selling any product, we found that online advertising was the cheapest way for us to bring traffic to our website and start generating leads. So far, our marketing budget is broken down equally as follow Facebook Ads, search engine marketing and display advertising. We decided to stay away from the events and conventions and stick to online advertising for the first few months.
Are you monetized? Why did you choose the current monetization method?
Having launched only a few weeks ago, we haven’t started monetizing yet, thanks to our investors who have allowed us to focus is 100% on building the best product out there and make home hunting more effortless with a touch of fun. We are planning on using our upcoming seed round to release our mobile app, add some exciting features, and bring in our first revenues.
We are slowly starting to make connections with potential partners for different revenue streams but we have so many ideas on how to monetize our website that we want to take the time to fully understand our users and the best way to monetize Nobbas without annoying them.
What are the top 5-10 products/services you use in Nobbas and why do you like them?
- Slack: best internal communication tool and saves hundreds of emails a week
- Google Docs: keeps on documents on the cloud, easy to collaborate (we love collaboration tools), oh and it’s FREE!
- AWS: allows us to scale up quickly if needed with minimal CAPEX and it’s one of the most prominent service providers with a wide range of services available under one hood
- Google Analytics and Data Studio: we truly believe that only with the best data we will be able to make the right the decisions and Google Analytics is a popular but powerful web analytic tool
- Adobe XD: allows us to quickly create different prototypes and test them on our devices before taking them to production