Karl Vään , CEO and Co-Founder- BitofProperty
A native of Estonia, Karl Vaan started brainstorming ideas for a real estate crowdfunding business with his co-founders Taavi and Timo in 2016. They also had input from a friend of at a venture capital company in Singapore, helping to make local connections.
After completing his bachelors from Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, he worked for a couple of years at Gunvor. a global commodities trading house. While all this while, he has been fuelling the entrepreneurial spirit in him and been constantly looking for ways to apply it.
On January 27th of 2017, Karl quit his job and stepped on a flight to Singapore to find funding for his idea. Success came to him after a persistent 4 months and about 70 meetings when Spaze Ventures, their lead investor decided to support them. The seed round came in from Japanese real estate information giant LIFULL Co. Ltd, providing its services in 57 different countries around the world.
The CEO and Co-Founder of BitofProperty, a blockchain real estate crowdfunding platform based in Singapore, Karl Vään recalls how his journey, a crazy roller coaster, where the team was focussed on crystallizing the vision of what BitOfProperty is to become in the future. Below are some more intercepts from his journey.
How did you come up with the idea of BitOfProperty?
The idea of BitOfProperty was born when the founders started to look for ways to invest in real estate. What they found was that real estate investing was expensive, legally difficult and finding information internationally troublesome. That’s when they started looking for ways to bring international real estate investments to the masses – starting from small amounts, providing transparent ownership structure and carrying out due diligence process for investors.
As of today we have raised pre-seed round from Spaze Ventures, a Singapore government backed startup incubator, and recently closed the seed round with a japanese lead investor LIFULL Co., Ltd., operating a real estate and housing information site with the largest property listings and one of the largest number of users; additionally focusing on new services such as CRM and DMP to support real estate agents and brokers and running a world’s largest data aggregation site, providing its services in 57 different countries around the world.
How do you go about analyzing a problem/opportunity?
As we are trying to learn from the best and use the newest methods, such as implementing the lean startup approach for problem solving and analysis. Before making any changes to the product having a clear strategy and proof of its success.
There’s no point in implementing something without proof and hoping that it will work. It’s much more efficient to take your time in the planning phase rather than confuse customers with constant back and forth changes. This makes us flexible in our operations while keeping the business on the right track.
How did you manage to fund the business?
In the beginning, we created the prototype using our own money but soon realized we needed to raise funds to really get the business off the ground. It took us about 4 months to receive funding from Spaze Ventures, a Singapore based incubator. We’ve always been diligent with our money so we keep track of each dollar spent and make sure we stick to our budget. This way we can be sure that we have enough to reach all the goals that we’ve set for ourselves.
Once we had the validation that we needed from the pre-seed round, we received interest from strategic investors internationally. Our seed round was led by a Japanese real estate information giant, who shares the same vision as we do. This was a great recognition to us, helping us to take a step closer to our common goal – an international real estate investment platform.
Tell us about your Leadership style.
As a person I am very organized and structured. I believe in information asymmetry and that ‘’team work, makes a dream work’’. When we are all together and have a chance to brainstorm then that’s when the magic starts to happen and great ideas are born. This is of course much easier to do in a small team.
Communication is key when it comes to building a startup. It’s easy to lose focus or get stuck in the ideas phase, therefore I try to spot situations like this, have a quick discussion with the team and provide immediate and honest feedback.
It’s also important to be the moral compass of sorts and remind the team about our values and long term vision so we wouldn’t stray from our path. When we all know and believe in the purpose of BitOfProperty then that makes us able to iterate faster and understand our role in the company.
What are the most desirable and demanded skills required in the real estate industry?
You have to have great local market knowledge to be able to succeed in the real estate industry. For example, properties in the same district might have a huge price difference depending on which street the property is situated on.
In addition, you have to have great data analysis skills and a gut feeling for price fluctuations and long term profitability of the property. Like in any other investment decision, having a rational decision making mindset is crucial. It is important not to let emotions affect our business decisions as that might end up costing us a lot more than not making any deals.
Tell us about your vision for BitOfProperty and future plans to upscale.
Our vision is that BitOfProperty will become a global real estate investment platform, where investors can invest in various properties in different countries. Building up your investment portfolio with properties from Singapore, London, Tokyo, Paris etc and earning passive income from all of these. We believe this will enable our customers grow their wealth with stability and ease.
One of the near term plans for the platform is to add a secondary market where investors can sell their ownership. This helps to make real estate investments more liquid similarly to many other alternative asset classes.