Wikipedia for the property market. That’s the sell for Zoopla.co.uk, the first community property website in the UK. And like all sites of its ilk, it relies on users to build it fast. Its natural advantage is to be first mover.
So what is it? Essentially, Zoopla has a page for every one of the 26 million residential properties in the UK – ready for you to build. With a voyeuristic, addictive quality, the site enables owners, buyers, sellers and agents to share knowledge, add content, compare house prices and gain a value estimate on properties, calculated using the site’s complex proprietary algorithm – a tool that learns with the more information a user provides.
You can check how much your neighbour got in return for their three-bed semi, ask an owner a question, list your house for sale, add photos and make offers. Alex Chesterman (above left) and Simon Kain (above right), who were part of the team behind LOVEFiLM.com, are the founders. Chesterman created ScreenSelect.co.uk, which was part of a merger of DVD rental subscription sites, and remains a shareholder.
But he felt the itch to go it alone again. Influenced by US sites Trulia and Zillow, the pair decided the UK was ripe for a model with mass appeal beyond the estimated million active property-seekers. That’s exactly why venture capital outfit Atlas Venture invested £1.5m. “I’d known Atlas previously,” says Chesterman. “The area of online property that had the potential to be transformational was something they’d been looking at for some time. We’ve also raised £200,000 through a clutch of business angels.”
Former head of Europe for Amazon.com, Simon Murdoch, and co-founder of LOVEFiLM William Reeve are on Zoopla’s stellar board of directors. Its advisory board’s not bad either, boasting industry veterans with outstanding credentials.
It’ll all mean nothing, though, without traffic. “We’re focused on providing tools for other sites to access the information. We want to get the information, which is all free, out there. We can provide a format for the data to sit within other businesses’ sites, such as the property sections of AOL and Yahoo featuring a Zoopla-style widget,” says Chesterman.
Revenues will mainly come from advertising and monetising through traffic. Additional funds will be generated by offering legal (home information packs, conveyancing), financial (mortgages, insurance), moving (removals) and local (builders, landscapers) services. In future, users will be able to procure a professional value report or portfolio revaluation for lenders.
Chesterman and Kain are clearly thinking big.
Founders:Alex Chesterman and Simon Kain