RealtyForSale.ca (RFS), currently operated under Development Pro Realty Brokerage, is an innovative, new startup from Toronto that looks to shake up the antiquated real estate market. They've been featured on many mainstream media sites, including the Financial Post.
By providing insights on schools, demographics, and crime rates in neighborhoods, along with a rebate program giving up to 1% cash back to customers purchasing a home through the site, they've been able to attract roughly 50,000 unique visits a month in a short period of time. They've even turned down an offer from a group of investors looking to fund $1.5 million in return for 50% equity in the company, a request that felt too rich.
Sayenden Supramaniyam, Thusjanthan Kubendranathan and Savitha Vijayakumar are the visionaries behind RFS.
Sayenden Supramaniyam steers the company as the CEO, with a passion for real estate and numbers. Sayenden has completed his BA, PMP, CPM, and CPA (2015). Sayenden is currently a part-time business faculty member at Douglas College in B.C. teaching two classes in the evenings.
Heading the technical side of things is Thusjanthan Kubendranthan with a M.Sc in Data Mining from Simon Fraser University and a B.Sc in Software Engineering from the University of Toronto. Thusjanthan resigned his role as a CTO of RateSuperMarket.ca eight months ago, and with the use of his data mining background, he crafted the current model of RFS. In addition to RFS, he is a consultant at Points.com.
Savitha Vijayakumar is the COO and Creative Director of RFS and holds a B.A honors from York University and multiple certificates in web-design from Seneca College. She handles the front-end design and manages the operations at RFS and works on the company full time.
We chatted with the co-founders to get some insight into their journey so far.
How did you guys come up with the idea for your product?
Real estate is a large sector of the economy and it is largely antiquated. Recent efforts have been made to modernize the real estate market. However, there is a tremendous lack of information out there in terms of providing buyers with what they are looking for. The idea originally evolved from our personal frustration and inability to find relevant information when browsing for homes online. In this digital age, the real estate industry has lagged in providing important data to homebuyers and sellers. If a buyer is looking to buy a home, he or she can approach a realtor to help find listings in a preferred area, but what about other key factors such as neighborhoods, crime rates, daycares and schools? Our vision is to solve a problem that the real estate sector has failed to accomplish. We feel that there is more to buying a home than just looking at listings. With that in mind, we brought together all the things home buyers consider significant when looking for that ideal home; neighborhoods, school data, crime, demographics, day cares etc. and compiled them onto one platform.
How did you decide on who would do what among the three co-founders?
We believe that in order to run a successful start-up, the team must learn to “wear a lot of hats.”As co-founders we bear the titles CEO, CTO and COO, while juggling all other titles such as customer service rep, marketing manager, programmer, accountant, writer, web designer, office manager and many more on any given day. The success of our business depends on our ability to wear as many hats as needed to keep the wheels turning.
We hear of many startups with multiple co-founders who face relationship troubles, how do you manage your partnership effectively?
Communication! Communication! Communication! We cannot emphasize how important communication is when venturing into a business relationship with others. Before discussing business logistics, we invested time in getting to know one another by having meetings and just talking. Once we were comfortable with one another, we agreed on how the partnership would be run in advance, including any major business decisions which require a unanimous voting process, so that everyone has a say in the decision making. With one of the founders being remote, communication is even more important for us. We have weekly meetings to discuss what we did last week, what we are going to do this week and our upcoming goals. We are firm believers in the age-old saying “two minds are better than one.”(Well in our case three minds are better than one.)
How long did it take to go from idea to the final product?
Idea, research, final product
What started as a simple Aha! moment about a year ago has now launched into a business venture in a very short period of time. After the inception, we did an enormous amount of research and spent countless hours consolidating our business plan and a working prototype. It took us about 6 months of active research, compilation of necessary data, programming/coding, market research, familiarizing ourselves with the rules and regulations of Canadian Real Estate Agency (CREA), obtaining the necessary approvals and finally perfecting a product that would satisfy customer’s needs.
Compiling all this data was not an easy task. With the CREA being a heavily regulated industry, we had to quickly acquaint ourselves with all the rules and regulations of the Canadian real estate market in order to comply with industry standards. This was a challenge for us since CREA imposed stringent rules and regulations that we were not familiar with initially.
We have 3 shareholders/investors on board who have provided us with the seed funding that was necessary to jump-start our venture. Since our launch, we have attracted multiple investors looking to invest their capital in exchange for shares in the company. However, our pro-forma cash flow statements provide us with the ability to continue our current operations and upcoming expansion goals with no additional funds being raised and as such we have turned down those investors. We are currently in the process of growing the company organically using the revenue generated by RFS.
Describe what an average day is like working on your startup.
An average entrepreneur works around 60 to 80 hours a week and this comes as no surprise for us. With two of our co-founders holding full time jobs and managing a business on top of their schedules - the hours are long. However, no two days are ever the same when running a startup. We spend quite a bit of time on marketing online, doing things like posting in forums, writing blogs, testing the site, studying search engine optimization, researching online, making phone calls, handling customer service concerns, liaising with realtors and managing the day to day operations of the business. There are always new challenges and new obstacles that each day brings and we take each day as it comes.
What are your future goals for the company?
Currently we are only listing homes in the Greater Toronto Area. Our short-term goal is to expand nationally and have property listings in every province by the end of 2015. RFS looks to be the industry leader in 3-5 year, as a virtual online brokerage, operating across Canada.
What has surprised you the most so far?
Since the launch, RFS grew at a faster rate than anticipated, tracking well over 50,000 unique visits per month and hundreds of leads. The growth in traffic and the feedback that we have been receiving has motivated us to push our limits further.
Do you think Canada provides the right kind of resources and support for startup talent?
Canada in general has been voted one of the top 5 countries for startups in 2014, in a study conducted by Washington State University. Furthermore, the Government of Canada has taken major steps to create a Venture Capital Action Plan, which looks to provide $400 million in funding for early-stage startups.
Toronto has plenty of open resources, should one wish to tap into them. If you are the right people, tackling a relevant problem, resources will approach you.
What key things did you learn that you would pass along to those interested in launching a startup?
Starting a business is one of the most challenging, yet most fulfilling experience that we’ve faced thus far. In the process of starting and growing our company, every day has presented us with new learning opportunities and new challenges from incorporating the business, managing financials, communicating with clients/realtors, conducting market analysis, facing technological challenges and so much more.
Those wishing to take the entrepreneurial path in life must first make a lifestyle change. It is not an easy path. Starting a business is hard work, requires a lot of time, determination and learning. Understanding the basics of your business from the ground up is a must and remember your product is only as good as what you put into it. So, invest your time wisely.
Surround yourselves with like-minded individuals. Learn from the age-old saying “birds of a feather flock together.”Diligently look for individuals that you want to work with and whose efforts and success you aspire to attain. Don’t let others set your moods and de-motivate you regardless of the mistakes that you will inevitably make during the process. Remember that entrepreneurs are always learning – your job is to advance the skills based on your mistakes and growth, not languish in them, as others might want you to do.
Your real task is to stay focused, always learning and being proactive in advancing your business.