Zach Yeo (CEO) and Andy Lee (COO) began their professional journeys by pursuing a degree in the arts (Graphic Design) where they learnt the fundamental concepts of design.
In regards to design, they said, “The good thing about design is that you get to translate your ideas into pictures”—a skill that would later come in handy when pursuing their own startup.
Despite their art degree, their professional careers in both advertising and design, was short lived. They worked long and gruesome hours with low pay for a whole year and soon decided to make a move.
The Constant Move
They joined forces and launched an F&B store that they later sold. Based on their new-found experience, they even spent time consulting for hotels for a while.
Soon after, they made their way into the real estate industry. In our interview, Zach mentioned that his family was already operating in the real estate business.
They began working under a “big boss” and they soon started their own small-scaled agency in the same industry, racking up about 4 to 5 years of experience as real estate agents.
Meanwhile, Zach’s childhood friend (one of the founders) was working to setup a startup called Parkeasy. They invested their money in the very early stages of the startup, and that was the first time they got a taste of the tech scene in Malaysia.
A New Beginning
For the past 4 months, they’ve been working on a tech startup of their own, trying to reconstruct the experience of property expos online through Prophunter.
Traditionally, if you were looking to buy a house, you’d go to a property expo and speak to the representatives, agents and property developers at different booths. Property developers would set up these booths to showcase newly developed property and to also win over potential clients.
The usual modus operandi would be to show you a model, talk about how lucrative the location is going to be over the next few years and they’d probably also show you a map that highlights how close the property is to a strategic landmark like KLCC.
Malaysia’s Largest Online Expo
Well, no, most platforms list out available properties through a list view. For example, if you search for properties in a particular neighborhood on PropSocial, the platform will list out all of the available condominiums in that area. You can only check out the available listings once you click on the link to a particular condo.
Andy mentioned that this doesn’t allow potential buyers to compare and contrast different properties at ease and it also inhibits discovery. He also added that the listings on PropSocial, iProperty and other related platforms tend to be completed properties and also listings from secondary markets.
On the other hand, Prophunter displays all of its content through a map view.
A map view gives users an overview of all the newly listed properties in a given area that users can use a tool to discover different areas and properties. Once, you enter the name of a particular area and then the platform will display all the available listings in that area.
You can then feel free to scroll through the map intuitively just like Google Maps and you can discover all the available list of properties in that area and in others as well.
Based on their earlier observations, the founders said that most clients don’t realise that there’s cheaper and better property in a given area and they end up purchasing it elsewhere for a much higher rate.
This platform addresses the issue of the clients not having enough information and it also allows them to check out new properties without physically being present in a given area. And since it’s online, they can do so at their convenience.
Image Credit: Prophunter
Not A Threat
The founders also feel that the platform also benefits developers just as much as it does for potential buyers.
Most property developers create websites specifically for each of their projects. Usually these websites have insufficient information, horrible user experience and poor SEO. These factors hinder them from being discovered through search engines.
Also, small and mid range developers may not have enough resources at their disposal to compete with the larger behemoths of the industry in terms of exposure and connections.
Prophunter levels the playing field by aggregating listings from property developers regardless of their stature. This allows them to compete with each other on a much fairer ground.
Unlike some property related startups, Prophunter only generates leads for the developers which they can in turn use to make a sale. Leads can be also forwarded to property agents for them to follow-up with potential clients.
Is This Enough To Convince Developers?
The founders feel that convincing developers to list their properties on the platform is not the complex part. They mention that most developers often allocate 4-5% of their Gross Development Value to marketing, which is often a big chunk.
Developers in turn, allocate 20% for marketing through online channels and the remaining is allocated towards expos and other means of marketing.
They feel that this trend is slowly changing and more developers are allocating more of their budgets to online means because they realise that’s where the Gen Y population resides.
Property developers are seldom loyal to a certain brand of property expos. They’re always willing to attend numerous ones as long as the expos are able to attract interested buyers. And this is the same principle that they apply to digital marketing as well. They list their properties on multiple platforms where users gather as long as the platforms are able to generate leads.
Currently, developers can list on Prophunter for free and if they are interested in better visibility and other advantages they can opt for the premium package as well.
State Of Real Estate
According to both the founders, property prices are indeed on the rise and they say that it’s expensive to buy property. That being said they feel that there’s more than adequate demand that’s often going unmet.
Developers tend to focus their efforts on building expensive projects as opposed to building housing that’s cheaper to afford. And the rise in prices doesn’t help the situation either.
As part of their social responsibility, Prophunter is also building a portal that curates all the information about affordable housing projects here in Malaysia. It’s working with government agencies to educate the public about affordable housing and the often-tedious process to acquire them.
Given that property prices are not going to drop any time soon, their advice to the youth is to not hesitate making a purchase when and if they manage to find property that’s within their budget and their comfort zone.
Prophunter’s team is currently 4 members strong and they’ve been operating for the past 4 months. During which, they were able to amass over 70 registered users; and with minimal marketing, their beta site has over a 1,000 page views.
While these numbers may not be extremely amazing—it’s important to note that they have been bootstrapping the entire project with their own money. A significant portion of their funds is going into product development and they are also dedicating a significant portion of their resources towards their social responsibility project.
The vision behind both the platform and their social responsibility project is to empower the user through discovery and information. This platform doesn’t just cater to developers and potential buyers alone. Investors, property agents and owners can also use it as well to survey the developments in an area and to have an understanding of what’s happening around them.
However, I feel that the requirement of signing up to view the details of each property, a bit off-putting. I feel that adding an additional process to view information like the location, description and price of the property, might chase away potential users.
That being said, the requirement might weed out the “crowd” and it might ensure that Prophunter’s user base is more engaged.
Another key area of concern is definitely the content. While I understand that they’ve only been operating for the past 4 months, they really need to ensure that more content is added to the platform to avoid cases of disappointed users.