“You can never have too much of a good thing” is a phrase that most, if not all of us, will have heard before. Whether or not this is true is a matter of opinion, but if you’re in business and you’re onto that good thing, then you surely stick with it. After an extended boom period for Australia’s residential property market, which some experts suggest is set to continue, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our ‘go to’ search engines for real estate have been heavily prioritising their residential property advertising. Former Customer Relationship Manager at Realestate.com.au (REA), Andrew Brown, told Dynamic Business that in his experience, the commercial property side lagged behind in terms of innovation.
‘There was a problem and no one was paying attention to it’
“REA prioritised residential property advertising because it brought in 93 per cent of revenue,” said Andrew.
“Commercial property portals were simply retrofitted versions of the residential sites. They did not supply the level of detail needed by prospective tenants and investors.”
It was apparent to Andrew that there was a problem and no one was paying attention to it; that was until he discovered two colleagues, Max Sim and Serge Kotlyarov, who shared his views. With their experiences in customer relations, marketing, and technology respectively, they had the perfect skill set to do something about it.
“Several years passed before we decided to collaborate on a solution. In the interim I cofounded the real estate CRM Agent box and spent five years developing that business. Our technology guru Serge completed an MBA at the London Business School and started a fintech start-up while Max worked in Asia for SEEK and REA.
“When we exited those ventures we were eager to create something truly ground breaking in an industry that we deeply understood,” said Andrew.
‘The trio were geared to disrupt the industry’
Informed by the abundance of criticism levelled at commercial sites by real estate agents and owners, the trio were geared to disrupt the industry that Andrew says, generates $6bn per annum globally and $100m in Australia alone. Launching in beta in April 2015, JAGONAL, was born. Promising to be Australia’s most advanced office space search engine, JAGONAL officially launched last month after hugely successful beta trials. Perhaps ‘proof of the pudding,’ JAGONAL has already secured 6,000 listings of offices for sale or lease, which equates to 65 per cent of Australia’s total vacant office space.
There are a number of aspects that make the user experience uniquely ‘JAGONAL,’ according to Andrew. Unlike other online commercial property platforms that charge on a ‘per ad’ basis, thus making it cost ineffective to advertise smaller properties, JAGONAL has introduced a pricing model that scales based on the size of the office advertised.
“We are bringing previously unadvertised office space to the market,” said Andrew.
‘A more convenient, accurate and engaging search experience’
Compared to other platforms, restricted by the parameters of re-cycled residential search engines, Andrew said JAGONAL offers “a more convenient, accurate and engaging search experience” for tenants and investors. JAGONAL offers over 50 searchable features including: building grade, street location, office layout, bike racks, and views. Arguably their best ‘party trick,’ the website also offers ‘Google Streetview’ style virtual office tours.
Andrew said “companies are realising that office space is a key lever in the war for talent. The office with the better bike racks, views, natural light and location will help you attract better staff and make your business more competitive. JAGONAL brings all this hidden detail to the surface.”
Just as they set out to achieve, the team have given an an unprecedented level of attention to the once neglected commercial real estate sphere. Commenting on the 6000 listings secured by the platform ahead of their official launch, Andrew said the business has invested heavily in the data and business development teams.
“Our BDMs did an extraordinary amount of leg work in forging relationships with major industry stakeholders in order to get their listings aboard the JAGONAL portal,” he said.
‘Sourcing growth funding is currently our biggest obstacle’
To date, JAGONAL has raised $2.3 million in seed capital through friends and family who believe in their concept, and has opened its next round of Series A capital raising to fund expansion into Singapore and Asian markets.
“We are on the verge of entering the Singapore market where we aim to replicate our Australian success.
“We intend to expand our marketing team and take on a Business Development Manager for Asian markets,” said Andrew.
Proof of concept has been achieved; but the JAGONAL team are not oblivious to the challenges that lay ahead; growth being the largest and perhaps most common of those start-up challenges.
“Sourcing growth funding is currently our biggest obstacle,” said Andrew.
“Venture Capital markets are so competitive that we have had to push hard to get in front of investors despite having metrics that many start-ups would envy.”
‘There are 300 million people on our doorstep and that’s a lot of businesses that need offices’
Ideas are not in short supply; they’re simply on a mission to find the fuel to feed them.
As part of their longer term strategy, Andrew and his co-founders aim to use Singapore as an entry point to the burgeoning Asia Pacific market. There are also plans to expand the product offering to include industrial and retail property.
“As the recent $751 million dollar REA-Group purchase of iProperty attests to, the region is growing – there are 300 million people on our doorstep and that’s a lot of businesses that need offices,” said Andrew.
“Some $73 billion of Chinese investment are expected to flow through our sector by 2019 and we want to be positioned as a one-stop-shop for comparison of commercial property deals in the region.”