Renting property can be a daunting experience. Many people looking to lease property often face major hassles like finding the right property and sometimes, finding that the property does not meet their expectations.
Last year, entrepreneurs Justin R. Melville (28), Ruark Ferreira (32) and Rudolf Vavruch (36), set their sights on the local property rental market in Cape Town, hoping to provide a solution for renters woes. The trio created a mobile app to assist tenants and owners with renting and leasing space.
Ekaya.com helps property owners rent like professionals without involving costly rental agents.
We speak to the three founders about their decision to tackle the property market, and the highs and lows of their startup journey.
Ekaya was formed in 2013 as technology design firm focused on the real estate space, but in February 2014 we began work on what would become Ekaya.com, a next generation rental marketplace.
The idea is quite simple, we want to make the world of renting better. Our systems can vet tenants before they even apply to rent a property, which means the property owner only needs to deal with quality applicants that match their requirements.
For would-be tenants Ekaya offers a best-in-class search, discovery experience and great tools to help them get noticed and ultimately get the places they really want. Ekaya is currently in testing and only available in Cape Town but there are immediate plans to expand nationally and beyond.
“Learning how to make a good business out of a good idea is the key”
All of us have been on either side of the renting experience (either as tenants or property owners) so we know what it’s like in the marketplace on a personal level. It’s rough. Moreover, there’s been very little innovation in this space in the last 10 – 15 years both locally, and on a global stage despite a huge macro-economic growth trends in the amount of people renting. For us, Ekaya is the result of the intersection of a massive, underserved global market opportunity and our talents and expertise. We feel like we have a rare opportunity to be in the right place, at the right time with right products backed by the right people.
With Ekaya, we were more interested in the people than the properties. Renting brings together two parties with very different priorities to form a relationship that can span multiple years and involve hundreds of thousands of Rands. For these relationships to work, the parties need to establish trust and that’s the commodity we’re most interested in.
South Africa is not a fertile land for new business, especially in the tech space. Governmental red tape and regulations as well as our banking institutions have made starting, funding and operating a business difficult. On a more practical level however, finding your first customers and figuring out how to solve their problem and making them happy is the generally the hardest thing you’ll have to do as new business. But, finding the right solution is immensely satisfying and makes the hard work worthwhile.
We have been lucky enough to attract both interest and capital from some truly amazing angel investors both locally and abroad. As much as their funding has been critical to our startup, it is their support and influence that we value the most of all. Ekaya also participated-in and received funding-from the 88mph Accelerator Program (Summer 2014), powered by Google, Microsoft and Samsung.
“Never be afraid to say ‘OK, that didn’t work’ “
The Silicon Cape startup ecosystem has really started to come of age and the individuals and organisations working within it have formed a valuable support base for us as entrepreneurs. There has been a significant amount of blood, sweat and tears poured into the initiative and we’re starting to see and benefit from the fruits of this labour. One of the most exciting vitals signs that we’ve seen and experienced is the emergence of a legitimate base of angel investors who come from a technology startup background. Their experience and expertise is a vital component in building an early stage venture.
Within the next two years we hope to begin to expand to cities in other countries. Our goal is to become the dominant global brand in making renting easier by wrapping all the things property owners and tenants need into one simple, stylish and super-amazing service.
Be adaptable, don’t get precious about your idea. Chances are everything you think you know today will be proved wrong by experience in the marketplace, and that’s OK. Never be afraid to say “OK, that didn’t work.” Rather ask “what do we know now and how can we leverage it to move forward?”
Brilliant customer service is one of the most powerful forms of marketing and costs you nothing. Talk to other entrepreneurs. Real entrepreneurs never lie to one another and you can learn many lessons without making the same mistakes.
There is a difference between a good idea and good business. Learning how to make a good business out of a good idea is the key.