Unveiling Zoopla, our new online real estate play
Just coming out of stealth mode, here's our latest endeavour in the online world: Zoopla!
Founded by Lovefilm / ScreenSelect co-founder Alex Chesterman and Lovefilm CTO Simon Kain, Zoopla! aims to provide "an edge in property" to its users. Many players, including market-leader RightMove or "meta" upstarts such as Extate or Globrix have got the listings side covered. What we aim to do is to provide a set of differentiated tools for every property in the market. There are 26 million houses in the UK of which about 1 million are for sale at any point in time.
In this first release you can find:
- tools to help estimate your home for free
- tools to help you track sold prices easily to access all comparable transactions
- the ability for any user to "claim their home" and add granular data that helps refine the valuation estimate
- the ability for any user to provide data that helps improve the pricing tools and the database
One of the features I am very excited about is the ability for any homeowner to set a TemptMe! price. Let the market know what you think your house is worth or where you might consider selling, and test the market without moving into sale mode.
We are also launching local community features, the first incarnation of which is the AskMe! feature. Find out what locals schools are like or what neighbourhoods have got to offer, or become a local expert and help others find out about your area.
Our aim is to be a horizontal utility for the property market that helps all players do their job better. This includes buyers, sellers, homeowners, "voyeurs" and agents. For example for Agents we add the ability to list for free, to enhance their profile, to get easy access to historical prices, to become a recognised local expert for their coverage area and create a personal link with homeowners and buyers etc.
The team is seasoned and pragmatic. Alex was co-founder of ScreenSelect with William Reeve and later Chief Commercial Officer of Lovefilm, and Simon is routinely described as "the best techie in Britain". He was responsible for succesfully merging the Lovefilm, ScreenSelect and VideoIsland platforms and previously built some of the global product management systems for Amazon. I hope you will agree that for a first release product this one aboslutely rocks ! We are not trying to innovate for the sake of it and a number of features will remind you of Zillow and Trulia. But I think the execution is elegant and optimized for the local market; I am sure it will do well.
We have a great list of high profile angels as well who joined us in the funding which I will talk about a later date.
SO... IS IT ANY GOOD ?
First off, the pricing engine beats the competition flat out of the water already today. We have some serious intelligence on the algorithmic side to make this better than any tool out there. Accuracy is high where data is available.
Having said that, accurate pricing is a difficult job, particularly in area where the housing stock is very variable (such as Marylebone which I used as an example below). This is why the proposition is fundamentally a mix between top-down and bottom-up. We need to be able to mix best in class analytics (which we have) with great user generated data to help us fill in the gaps in the available data.
THE MORE IT IS USED, THE BETTER IT GETS. Inherently this is a very pure "web2" proposition in the original definition of Tim O'Reilly, where usage and contribution keep making the product better.
Users can help improve the pricing of their homes by providing data and refining the pricing estimate. So this is fundamentally community driven, even though there is a ton of immediate benefits such as finding price paid data very easily and so on.
OH WHY DID YOU DO IT ?
I am very excited about Zoopla! Property is an obsession in Britain and the market is screaming for a good data utility and pricing tool. I think this is going to be naturally viral and drive some passionate debate, as what could be closer to your heart and wealth than the value of your home ?
Here are a few screenshots: