What is Zoopla.co.uk ?
Zoopla.co.uk is the UK’s most comprehensive property website, focused on empowering consumers with the resources they need to make better-informed property decisions. We help our users make sense of the residential property market by combining property listings with market value data, local information and community tools.
Zoopla.co.uk was founded on the principles of transparency and efficiency and everything we do aims to make the market more effective for both property consumers and professionals alike. Our mission is to provide the most useful online property experience by:
- displaying property listings along with value and price trend information
- providing rich property data and local market information in one place
- enabling users to search for property in a variety of customised ways
- allowing users to engage with professionals via our tools like AskMe!
- building relationships between home owners and local estate agents
What is the business model?
By providing the resources to help consumers make better-informed property decisions, Zoopla.co.uk has become the most efficient platform for estate agents to obtain enquiries for the properties on their books, to build their inventory by obtaining targeted vendor leads and to develop their reputation and build relationships with the community of online property owners who are the vendors of tomorrow.
We offer estate agents a choice of payment methods – they can pay a monthly subscription for unlimited leads or on a pay-per-lead basis – and we’re unique amongst major property sites in offering this ‘performance marketing’ option. We also make money from additional services like auctions (where we take a small share of the buyer’s premium), mortgage leads and data services.
Zoopla.co.uk has some fantastic investors, advisors and management team members, tell us about them…
Zoopla.co.uk is backed by a number of well-respected angel investors and leading venture capital firms Atlas Venture and Octopus Ventures To date we have raised £5.4 million in funding.
The executive team is made up of Alex Chesterman, Founder, CEO & Chairman, Simon Kain, Co-founder and CTO, and myself. Alex is a successful serial entrepreneur, who most recently founded ScreenSelect which became Lovefilm – he’s innovative, commercial, and a great dealmaker – I learn a lot from working with him. Simon, formerly of Amazon and Lovefilm, is quite simply one of the best tekkies in the land. We also have three NED’s and an advisory board. It’s great to have the support of people like Fred Destin, William Reeve, Robin Klein and Simon Murdoch amongst others – every board meeting is an education, and the experience and connections they bring are incredibly helpful in building the business.
You can see a full list of names and bios here.
The online property space is very competitive and dominated by one large player, Rightmove… how do you differentiate yourself and compete?
First-generation property portals like Rightmove have yet to fully harness the power of the web by providing consumers with the tools to help them make better-informed decisions. Property search is about much more than simply showing you a list of properties. Zoopla.co.uk brings together richer, more intelligent content about properties and their local areas to create a more useful and inspiring property research experience.
As well as free instant property value estimates, which is probably what we were best known for when we started, our unique community features like AskMe!™ and TemptMe!™ differentiate us from competition and allow users to gain an insight into the market and discover information they won’t find anywhere else. Our rapid growth has been fuelled by the differentiated services we offer, and we continue to lead the sector in innovation with new services like property auctions.
The product is important – but it is also about being smart about marketing. We don’t outspend Rightmove on TV ads, but we do punch above our weight in areas like PR, online marketing, partnerships, CRM and word of mouth.
Why did you acquire PropertyFinder last year? The two businesses had different business models and pricing strategies didn’t they? How have you addressed this?
The PropertyFinder Group (Propertyfinder.com, UKPropertyShop.co.uk and Hotproperty.co.uk) was a well respected business, which had strong traffic, solid revenues, a great reputation with agents and a good team – all of which complemented our strategy in this market. PropertyFinder’s biggest weakness was a lack of local in-house technology expertise. Combining the innovative services of Zoopla.co.uk with the long-standing industry position of PropertyFinder was the perfect fit.
Our acquisitions, including Guardian Media Group’s Thinkproperty.com which we acquired in July ’09, have helped us deliver on our strategy and accelerated the scale of the consumer audience, property inventory and the exposure we can give agents on Zoopla.co.uk.
On pricing, we now offer a unique choice of pricing structures, giving agents the flexibility to choose between paying a fixed monthly fee for ‘unlimited’ leads or paying on a ‘pay-per-lead’ basis. We are happy to let agents choose the model that best suits their business. Our aim is to become the most efficient marketing partner for UK estate agents by providing them the widest possible exposure and best value online marketing services.
What do you think will happen in the online property market over the next twelve to twenty-four months?
2009 was a year in which the portal landscape changed and consolidated quite dramatically, largely driven by us, and agents have started to concentrate their marketing spend on the market leaders.
From our perspective in 2010, we will continue to work towards our aim of making the market more effective for property consumers and professionals, by continuing to create a differentiated experience and launching new and exciting features that will benefit both.
What impact has the credit crunch had on Zoopla.co.uk? Do you think we have seen the worst of it now?
Zoopla.co.uk was started at the beginning of the housing slump and during this time we raised £5.4m in funding and completed our acquisitions. Raising a VC round of £3.75M at the end of 2008 was a fascinating experience – we proved that it is possible to raise money in almost any market with the right concept, team, traction and supportive existing investors.
Often the best time to start a business can be in the middle of a market meltdown. This was certainly the case for Zoopla.co.uk which has thrived as a result of the downturn rather than in spite of it. We have proven that incredible businesses are built in hard times.
We have just come out of recession, but we are by no means in the clear. Signs of growth are appearing but this will be a slow recovery.
When did you join Zoopla and why?
I joined Zoopla in May 2008, 4 months or so after the site first launched. I had talked to a lot of startups in London, and this was the one I most believed in – plus it had a great, proven founding team and blue chip investor profile which for me was a must. A lot of people I knew thought I was crazy to join a property startup during a downturn, but there are advantages of recessions: they accelerate change in industries and force people to re-evaluate where their spend is most effective, which worked in our favour – as did the constant media buzz around property prices.
How did you find yourself in this role? Tell us about your background…
Immediately before Zoopla, I was Managing Director of Gumtree.com, the UK’s largest classifieds website, which I had helped eBay buy and then spent 3 years building up through a period of extraordinary growth. I’d really enjoyed the small company feel of Gumtree, and after 5 years in total within eBay, I wanted to flee the nest and help build something new from the ground up.
Before eBay, I worked for Bain & Company, Unilever and also did a couple of early-web entrepreneurial stints. I have an MBA from Kellogg, an English degree from Cambridge and am a qualified accountant. My career so far has been a journey from large companies to small and from finance/strategy to general management – chasing the stuff I find fun and rewarding.
What do you think are the main ingredients of building the best team?
Shared vision and belief in where you are going, and the team spirit that goes with that. Keeping hiring standards high – don’t settle for second best, especially in key roles, even if you are desperate for extra hands it is infinitely worth it in the long run. Don’t take too long to cut and run if things aren’t going to work out. Help your people grow and blossom, try to get out of their way and let them make decisions – hard sometimes when you’re running at a hundred miles an hour but it has to happen as a company grows. A culture of ownership and responsibility.
What is ‘hot’ in the online world right now?
I’m far too busy focussing on Zoopla to know the answer to that but here’s what I hear in the pub … Groupon clones seem to be springing up all over the place. Local continues to be interesting on both the web and mobile, from Foursquare to Qype – in general, smartphones seem to be driving a whole new set of interesting consumer technology apps and solutions. Dating seems to be due a second wave – watch out for Jane Thompson’s hellopulse. I also like Peopleperhour.com, a the UK-based freelancers marketplace that just raised a round of funding from – great place for small companies to find cheap temporary resources [I’m an angel investor in PPH – shameless plug].
‘UPDATE – Doug is now Co-Founder of Adzuna adzuna.co.uk a search engine for jobs and classified ads.’