In The Silicon Tropic

By South Florida entrepreneurs, for South Florida entrepreneurs. All things tech in the sunny Silicon Tropic.

Meet: Olivier Grinda of Home61

Olivier G

The real estate industry may be cooling down in Miami, but Home61, a Miami startup’s website, is heating up. This experienced entrepreneur has plans to change the way realtors rent and sell real estate. If you’re looking to rent or buy, simplify your life and find a great realtor at Home61.

Who are you and what were you doing before this?Olivier Grinda of Home61. In 2009 when I graduated from UM, I met an investor who was looking to invest in a for Brazil which led to the creation of brandsclub. Later, we also opened a Groupon style website in Brazil called Clickon. I partnered with Redpoint and Accel to open a model similar to Shoedazzle in Brazil, Shoes4you. We ended up selling 2 of the companies and closing one, all virtually at the same time.”

Why did you start Home61? “I wanted to do a new challenge, in the US. I wanted something that had a high average ticket, but was not necessarily winner takes all and in an industry that needed disruption. When we took all of this into consideration, real estate really popped out of everything. Further, my business partner also had some experience in real estate; he founded a b2b company that enabled video tours of properties based on their pictures, Previsite. We looked at what was happening in the market. We saw two or three main things: people don’t like real estate agents because they don’t trust them; there isn’t any transparency; and the system is very nebulous and complicated.”

What problems are you solving? “To close a real estate deal, realtors need to find the client, organize the client’s requests, do the showings, etc. Because of this, the market ends up with companies consisting of agents doing the job of five or six people and because of time constraint, they had to focus only on the richest clients. It looked like a terrible experience for 80% of the market.”

What did you do to get started? “We asked ourselves ‘what can we do to improve things?’ We need to add more transparency and control from the get go, explain what’s happening, what are the key dates, and how to liberate time for our agents. After 1 year operating, we have over 230 transactions with our agents performing 7x the average and we are the fastest growing real estate company in Miami.”

 What is your job? “CEO, but the reality is my partner and I split most of the responsibility.”

Where and when did it launch? “We launched in March of 2014 and went live that September. We’re only in Miami because it’s a hyper-local play.”

Tell us about your team. “We’re not real estate people doing a tech play, we’re tech people doing real estate. The team consists of my cofounders, our realtors, and me. We just increased team to 17. We’re always looking for more and more agents.”

Who is your target market? “Very often it is first time buyers or first-time renters because the market is very opaque; it’s hard to find a good real estate agent. When they find one, they don’t want to switch. I think the trend will change once we get bigger. Like Uber, we are able to get in a stranger’s car because we trust Uber. More and more people will switch because they will trust us.”

What type of realtors do you look for? “We’re looking for people who are starting and who really want to increase their business. We know that agents work on every part of the deal themselves. There are many repetitive processes that are time-consuming, so we automated them. We do add a human touch where necessary. We also have a team of administrative assistants and lawyers to closing documents. We give our agents about 20 active leads a month.”

Where is your office located? “Midtown, but our team is international. We have real estate agents here, developers in France, Romania, and Ukraine and a marketing team in Texas.”

Have you raised money? “Yes, we raised money with investors from Europe such as Kima VenturesTA Ventures, and 500 startups.”

Who are your biggest competitors? “There are people who are working towards the same goal such as RedFin [improving the experience and increasing the transparency for renters and buyers], but they have a different approach. Instead of being hyper-local, they’re a bit of everywhere, and therefore a bit of nowhere. They are tech-enabled but their platform is a little bit dated. There is also TripleMint in New York.”

How is your model different than the standard realtor’s model? “In 10 years, I believe most real estate companies will look like us. The number one real estate company in Miami only has 3% of the market. It is likely that companies like ours will consolidate the market and it will not be uncommon for companies to own 5-10% of the market. On the buying side, in addition to offering all properties that are for sale in the city, we give our clients the opportunity to rate their agents after each showing to give them total control. I think we’re the first people to do that in the real estate industry.”

Have you been working on any projects or new features? “We just launched a dashboard that gives the clients that list their property full transparency on how many visits we organize, how and where we market their property, what comparatives are as well as a constantly recalculated their suggested price point based on market movement, all in real-time!”

Why do you think you’ve been so successful to date? “Our clients and agents love us and they’re already doing 5-7 closings per month, within a few months of starting. When you have clients that really like you, it’s a business that has potential. It is basically the accumulation of those two.”

How did you acquire your first users? “Google. We did SEM, the phone rang and my cofounders and I looked at each other to see who would answer. The first call was a guy named Jeremy. We talked to him, took him on a showing, made an offer on the third home, and actually closed the deal.”

Who made your website? “We did it in-house; our CTO (Cyril) did most of the code. I take care of product management and wireframing and our team in Romania maintains the design.”

What has been your biggest challenge for your startup in Miami? “Explaining, ‘why Miami’ [referencing why they launched here]. I believe that in a few years, people will say ‘obviously Miami.’ There are billions paid out in commissions to realtors and brokers in this market now. However, when I was first starting in Miami, the market was not this hot; TechCrunch wasn’t publishing articles about the city. Miami is now really becoming a tech hub.”

Did you create any partnerships with other companies? “Yeah, several–but not tech companies. Other than the third party companies we work with (our dev team, etc.), we also have partnerships with property management firms, contractors and so forth. We don’t actually make any money through these partnerships, we just vet them to make sure that the clients are taken care of and the partners have the same philosophy.”

Best Happy Hour in Miami:Blackbird.”

Best place for a business lunch: “Midtown, because you can have something fancier at Sugarcane, or quick and easy you have Lime.”

 Best startup advice you’ve ever received: “What matters is not intelligence, it’s not who you know, it’s not how much money you have, the main driver to success is grit and determination.”

Finish this sentence: I wish a Miami startup would create an app that “can not only track my outtake of calories but also automatically gather my intake.”

When will you expand to different cities? “Hopefully 2016.”



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