Breaking Ground: Propertyfinder Group Founder And CEO Michael Lahyani
"I strongly consider that behind every frustration, stands a probably nice resolution.” This assertion by founder and CEO Michael Lahyani could seem reasonably simplistic, however the premise it places ahead is, in impact, a reasonably correct summation of how this entrepreneur went about establishing (and succeeding with) his aforementioned on-line actual property classifieds enterprise. “Each enterprise, and extra importantly, [every] tech enterprise begins by figuring out a problem, a problem amongst finish customers or inside companies,” says Lahyani. “In 2004, after I first moved to Dubai and began on the lookout for a house, my solely choice was Gulf Information’ Labeled section- fairly restricted for a booming actual property market. There was a transparent situation round shoppers trying to lease or purchase an residence, and an apparent want for a search engine that permits you to discover your residence in a few clicks. The enterprise was due to this fact targeted round fixing that ache initially.”
Lahyani began up his enterprise in 2005 with the launch of a UAE-based property print journal known as Al Bab World, and in 2007, its on-line portal AlBabWorld.com had 51% of its stake purchased by the Information Corp Australia-owned, Melbourne-headquartered on-line actual property promoting firm REA Group. This acquisition additionally marked the rebranding of the corporate as and the web site continued to achieve reputation as a simple and handy approach to take a look at actual property alternatives within the UAE. In 2010, whereas the market round them was coping with the consequences of the recession, Lahyani and co-founder Renan Bourdeau purchased again REA Group’s stake in propertyfinder, and the corporate quickly broke even. Shortly after, propertyfinder determined to develop past its UAE borders- 2012 noticed its worldwide operations start in Qatar, and that was only the start of its growth within the area. At the moment, propertyfinder Group operates in seven markets throughout the MENA (UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco), with its websites boasting of multiple million visits monthly.
In fact, if these figures alone weren’t proof sufficient of its success as an enterprise, then check out propertyfinder Group’s US$200 million valuation earlier this yr, following its elevate of US$20 million in capital from Sweden-based Vostok New Ventures Ltd., which purchased a 10% stake within the firm. This elevate is especially important not simply due to its sheer measurement, but additionally given that earlier than it got here by means of, propertyfinder Group had managed to develop by means of the years having raised solely a relatively low quantity of funds. “We had our preliminary funding from the founding members in 2005, and in 2007, Information Corp got here in about $2 million, and in a while in 2012, additionally injected round $2 million,” Lahyani reveals. “We received all the way in which to 2015 with comparatively minimal funding, contemplating the general valuation of the enterprise, and we wished to ensure that we'd set up our clear management in all of the markets we had been endeavor, and due to this fact elevating a major quantity was needful, so as to gear up for that domination section.”
Vostok New Ventures’ curiosity in propertyfinder Group can be seen as a sign of the transformation and evolution of the one which Lahyani has been part of for greater than 10 years now. “Three years in the past, it was unthinkable that exterior buyers would put money into tech firms on this a part of the world,” Lahyani factors out. “And when Vostok raised an curiosity in our enterprise, we felt it was an actual alternative to herald funding and a know-how to our a part of the world. Vostok New Ventures’ funding is an ideal instance of what we’ve turn into: a model that grew past UAE’s borders. Dubai was beforehand recognized for being a land of alternatives. Any concepts to fill within the many market gaps had been welcome. At the moment it has turn into a hub for innovation. Homegrown enterprises are burgeoning, and increasing regionally and generally globally. These [are] very thrilling instances for entrepreneurs!”
Now, it’s very straightforward to be greatly surprised by the entire clearly nice issues which can be taking place at propertyfinder Group nowadays, however one should keep in mind that each one of this didn't come easy- Lahyani and his group have had loads of testing conditions alongside the way in which, a lot of which can appear acquainted to startups and entrepreneurs working within the area even immediately. For example, when Lahyani arrange the enterprise in Dubai in 2005, it would curiosity you to study that he too was as soon as vexed with deciding between selecting an area associate to begin up the enterprise, or go for a free zone set-up mannequin. (Simply FYI, he went for the latter choice, as “it supplied extra flexibility.”) For the ahead pondering amongst you, who really feel that your superior startup concept doesn’t have a but, know that there was as soon as a time when Lahyani and his group discovered it troublesome to persuade stakeholders that there was a necessity for what propertyfinder supplied. “The most important problem we confronted again within the early days was to persuade actual property brokers that they wanted a special supply of leads for his or her offers, and that they needed to be uncovered to the web,” Lahyani remembers. “It took a few years earlier than we satisfied them, however in the end, when large names began signing up, everybody else adopted!”
As for funds when beginning up, Lahyani dug deep into his personal pockets to get his enterprise off the ground- and he advises different entrepreneurs to comply with his lead. “As an entrepreneur, placing your personal funds at first is a should if you wish to stay a respectful shareholder throughout the journey,” he explains. “In case your first are raised from exterior buyers, you'll naturally undergo a big dilution from day one which you need to keep away from by gathering cash from your personal financial savings or shut household and mates. Getting the enterprise off the bottom with your personal cash is crucial!”
The above examples are only a sampling of the difficulties Lahyani confronted as an entrepreneur within the MENA region- a Google search on his title will showcase articles the place he has talked about troubles with buyers, opponents, and different such parts as he went about constructing propertyfinder Group. “The lifecycle of a startup is paved with unpredictable challenges, and in my expertise, a profitable group is aware of the right way to flip obstacles into alternatives,” Lahyani says. “That’s how we survived at propertyfinder. The preliminary enterprise began 10 years in the past. We got here right into a market fairly early, approach earlier than prospects and shoppers had been prepared for our platform. We needed to educate the market: brokers about and shoppers about on-line and cellular property search. That took fairly a while. We had been really dropping cash throughout the first six years of the enterprise, and solely turned worthwhile in 2011. It took a whole lot of focus, persistence and self-discipline. We're immediately within the consolidation section. The market has now acknowledged us because the main actual property portal within the Center East. And that is what we're doing in each market: aiming at changing into the clear primary.”
Worldwide development is thus a key element of propertyfinder Group’s technique for the longer term. “We're presently working in seven markets,” Lahyani says. “A few years in the past, we had been primary in solely three of these markets; immediately, we've got managed to safe a management place in two further markets. The 2 remaining ones are taking an enormous a part of our focus, whereas probably eyeing an eighth market within the coming yr, the place we consider we are able to additionally safe a place.” In line with Lahyani, propertyfinder Group’s expertise so far stands it in good stead for this explicit objective. “At the moment, we face the identical issues we confronted 10 years in the past within the UAE, however in our worldwide markets,” he explains. “The teachings realized from our UAE expertise is a aggressive benefit for us.” On the identical time, the corporate isn’t averse to creating acquisitions to proliferate its model better- in Morocco, as an example, propertyfinder Group purchased one among its opponents there, Selektimmo, thereby permitting it to get a leg up when it comes to changing into a pacesetter within the on-line actual property market there. Nevertheless, Lahyani makes it clear that acquisitions gained’t be the one approach ahead for the corporate. “Rising by acquisition isn't our sole technique,” he notes. “We’ve established our management by means of natural development, but when there's a nice alternative that is sensible for an acquisition, then we are going to seize it.”
As Lahyani sees it, there’s nonetheless ample room for propertyfinder Group’s additional development within the coming years, and the corporate’s providing will should be frequently improved and innovated upon for it to stay a pacesetter within the market. “Our goal at propertyfinder Group is to launch shoppers from the ache associated to deal with searching,” Lahyani says. “Our mission is evident: to shorten the trail to property for our shoppers. It’s an formidable mission, as a result of throughout the area, there are nonetheless a whole lot of hurdles, even in Dubai. So long as we are able to enhance that course of, then we are able to deliver worth to the tip customers, and due to this fact, to our prospects, and ship them leads.” As for the true property sector itself, Lahyani stays fairly enthusiastic about it- in line with him, the business continues to be place to begin a enterprise on this area. “The actual property house is a tremendous house for entrepreneurs to enter, and there are a whole lot of extra disruptions to return,” he says. “My prediction is that a number of gamers providing providers in several niches will likely be disrupting the business. in difficult ‘ineffective’ gamers. As a pacesetter in our market, we need to see youthful firms enter, and assist us make your complete property shopping for and renting a smoother course of.” And there you've it, people: an open name from Lahyani for actual estate-focused startups that may assist higher propertyfinder Group’s offerings- so, if you happen to match the invoice: properly then, carpe diem, ‘treps!
Michael Lahyani's ideas for entrepreneurs
1. KNOW YOUR MARKET
“Put your head down into the enterprise, and push by means of all of the obstacles which can be forward of you, and ensure that the prize is large enough. The primary query an investor will ask you about your mission is: ‘What's the measurement of your market?’ So earlier than beginning, you could know what the dimensions of the market will likely be, and what are you going after.”
2. BUILD A TEAM THAT COMPENSATES FOR YOUR WEAKNESSES
“It's extra vital to know your weaknesses than your strengths. Encompass your self with individuals who have higher abilities within the areas the place you might be weak; search for complementarity [in] individuals when hiring.”
three. BE PERSISTENT
“Be sure to get pleasure from doing what you do every single day, as a result of it should take at the very least twice longer than you had anticipated, and you will have as a lot power at first, center and ‘finish’ -although there isn't any actual end- of the journey.
four. DON’T BUILD TO EXIT
“Don’t construct a enterprise to promote it, as a result of patrons don’t come if you want them. Construct a enterprise that may maintain booming markets, and in the end, if what you are promoting is strong, you will see a strong acquirer.”
5. PROTECT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
“Lastly, my final recommendation can be to by no means burn bridges. Each relationship that you'll suppose isn't vital immediately could be counting tomorrow. ‘What goes round comes round.’”