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Visions From A Tech Startup – How to be Different…when Different is the new Normal – By Kathleen Chan

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Author: Kathleen Chan, Founder of Homies

As a founder focused on disrupting an industry your day is filled with answering a million questions about your purpose, your vision, your experience, your end game, etc. As a founder, I can’t help but feel like all these questions stem from the same root philosophical question; How are You Different from the other “Different” companies I’m going to meet this week. As a founder, you cannot dilute the true meaning of this word. Having a different name and thinking you are better than your competition does not make you different.

We set out to influence an industry that is ripe for disruption, real estate… but it is also a crowded space as technology and automation become the driving force for millennials that are becoming a larger percentage of the rental and housing consumer market. Our company is called Homies and we believe it is a modern way to manage residential properties. We’ve taken the most tedious aspects of the process and distilled it down to simple actionable tasks so you can do more, faster. It’s a great mission statement right, but does that make us different enough?

Homies was built out of a combination of frustration and just the simple passion of using technology to make our everyday lives better. I had a personal need and set out to solve a problem. I had to take over my parents properties in Hong Kong and I was looking for a solution. Is there a better way to manage this property rather outsourcing to a full property management firm? Not that I could find.

Where were the turnkey solutions that were tailored for individual consumers? I’m a millennial…and all I could think was “there has to be a way to automate this process.” Property management is expensive for people who manage less than 5 properties so we set out to solve the problem.

We wanted to give landlords back time, money and power…if you are managing properties your options are limited. What if I could keep the profits for my properties and do it in a cheaper and faster method than currently exists.
We know it’s an uphill battle in a space as convoluted as real estate tech, but Homies is so much more to us than software. We see it as a way to change the very nature of how homes are managed and as a way to modernize an age-old industry. Like most startups, we started Homies with a mission to fill a gaping hole in a highly fragmented industry. We saw a problem that needed fixing and set out to build a solution we thought people would love.
There were several key problems we set out to solve.

First of all, to my surprise Property management is still a paper, paper, and more paper industry. There is so much opportunity for technology to add efficiencies and processes to Property Management. More sites are popping up that help with publishing your property and helping tenants find new properties. Now I’ve got my renter…what’s next? A boatload of paper, mailing, printing, faxing, but keep in mind that most millennials have never faxed anything in their life! Then it’s time to pay and much of the market is still using paper checks…do people still use these things?? Have you ever seen someone under 25 try to write a check…hilarious! This is 2015…there must be a better way.

Secondly, it is a very expensive industry, everything is hard to use, clunky and in this time where rentals are on the increase more than ever we needed to solve this problem. This industry is one of the most valuable in the world…again isn’t there an app for this? The problem solving in this industry is in its infancy, and I’m not talking about the enterprise solutions, I’m talking the DIY solution to property management. What about your parents, your friend who has one rental property but not one free minute in a day.

One of the biggest reasons this industry will face disruption is because Real Estate Technology is what we like to call an open market. Everyone is either buying a house, knows someone who is buying a house, renting, selling, etc. The housing market touches every living soul on the planet and we need to find a way to make this better.

So how are we different? That’s a valid question. Almost every hackathon pumps out some sort of app for this industry meaning the novelty kind of fades away after a while. So when someone pops this question, it’s not taken lightly. We’ve given it a lot of thought and I could answer it in many ways. I could say it’s because we moonlight as property managers, or that we’ve been in the tech space for a while, but really, it truly boils down to our core focus -and that’s building products that people can get behind.

Looking back on our journey thus far, everything we’ve done revolved around that truth. We obsessed over finer details for days on end and spent a quite lot of time deciphering the needs of our users. We’ve iterated on our product more times than I can count, slowly distilling it down to solve the main pain points of our users. Sure there were challenging moments, but with every major learning, update, and hurdle, we became more and more confident that Homies would be making lives easier for a lot of people.

So what makes you different when different is the new normal?  It’s being more than a flash in the pan.  It’s in how you identify and approach a problem you see, how your solution stands out from the crowd, it’s still about customer service, and it’s about taking action on it all.  As with most companies that are striving to be different, Homies still has a long way to go and we can’t do it alone.

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Kathleen Chan

About Kathleen Chan

Kathleen Chan is the Co-Founder & CEO of Homies, a startup that makes it easy to grow and manage your real estate properties.