New research from Workthere (full research here), a flexible office specialist that finds businesses co-working and serviced office space, shows that tech entrepreneurs make approximately 17 business decisions each day. We caught up with Daniel Attia, founder of the UK’s hottest proptech start-up, Yopa, to talk decision-making and discuss how they are revolutionising the way consumers buy and sell their homes.
Can you give a brief overview of Yopa and the problems of the market it sets out to address?
A group of us launched Yopa in 2014, I was 24 years old at the time. Before this, I did some interning in the property sector and worked at agencies in commercial property. During my initial time in the industry, I realised the property market was failing to keep up with the digital revolution, and failing to capitalise on the technological potential. While other sectors were embracing digital, property was an archaic industry.
Then, one day, I was trying to sell my home. I thought, for convenience, that I would simply list it myself on sites already out there promoting themselves as ‘digital estate agents’. In truth, though, it was far more complicated than this because they only take brokered properties. I therefore had the inconvenience of registering with a broker just to list my own property myself.
The experience of trying to list my home myself, along with the huge potential for the technological disruption of the industry, made me think that surely there is room here for a truly digital estate-agency that provides a cheap, simple and convenient alternative to the classic high street agent for UK homeowners.
Workthere’s research shows that the most important decisions an entrepreneur can make are those involved in building the brand. How did you make Yopa stand out in a crowded proptech space?
It is certainly a tough marketplace, and establishing Yopa’s name was not easy. The brand is your identity, and you have to work very hard at the beginning to build trust in it. Most entrepreneurs will experience sleepless nights over decisions they make – as did I at the start. I also had no work/life balance – it was just a work/work balance! These are the sort of sacrifices you should expect to make to get your brand and your name out there and build trust in your idea.
The best way to do this is to offer a great product. We were always confident that the product we offered was innovative enough to disrupt the market – and to fill a gap. If the solution you are offering doesn’t meet a market need, then you will find it very hard to stand out.
Most start-up companies’ early trajectories can be very organic, manoeuvring the company as opportunities (or hurdles) present themselves. With that in mind, how has Yopa’s journey been to date, and what is the most difficult decision you have had to make?
Initially, we started off as an online-only estate agent. We quickly realised, however, that a purely digital presence wasn’t going to give us the results we wanted. We would have to offer physical agents with local expertise, as well as digital, to make it work. We therefore had to pivot quite aggressively and basically reinvent the brand after only nine months. We moved from online-only to a hybrid estate agency.
This decision is the most difficult I have made to date, particularly as it was one of such strategic importance so early on. It turned out to be the right one though, and it has made us into a better business for our customers. Don’t be afraid to make the big decisions at the start – Workthere’s guide mirrors a lot of my own experiences, and it is a useful tool for entrepreneurs facing similar problems.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d give a first-time entrepreneur when launching a new business?
There will always be people who question your decisions, who think it is too much of a risk, but you don’t need to give these people too much thought as you know the market better than them and you know the potential of your solution.
As such, the most important thing you could do is surround yourself with people who share your vision, and who you trust – even as much as yourself. Try not to be the smartest person in the room; if you are, then you haven’t hired properly.
Most entrepreneurs believe that hiring the right people is crucial for the success of your business – and for good reason. The most important bit of advice is that the business is the people, and if you get this right you’re halfway there.
What does the future hold for both yourself and Yopa?
Well, we’re expanding rapidly. Last year our growth nearly tripled compared to that in 2016. We obviously want this to continue, and in the next couple of years we want to be one of the top three UK estate agencies in terms of volume.