According to Property Fox, the recently launched industry disruptor is listing around 10 new residential properties a week, with a total of 313 homes currently listed on its site. With just seven months in the game, its co-founders are excited about the service’s positive uptake.
We chatted to Ashley James and Crispin Inglis to find out what it takes to be an entrepreneur in South Africa, what motivates them, and what the reception has been like to Property Fox since launch.
Crispin Inglis (left) and Ashley James (right)
Crispin Inglis (left) and Ashley James (right)
As an entrepreneur, how can government create a more enabling environment for startups in SA?
Crispin Inglis: South Africa is a great place to be an entrepreneur – there is so much opportunity for success and I think South Africans are naturally entrepreneurial. I believe that the government should focus more on investing in a more bottom-up style approach by creating and investing in pockets of entrepreneurial energy across the country. The trouble we see at the moment is that it’s easier to do top-down investment which doesn’t breed growth. These types of investments, while requiring more work, really ignite local economies and breed startups.
Ashley James: Focus on the various entrepreneurial ecosystems that enable a highly motivated root to the start of new businesses in South Afrcia. Focus on imprinting the opportunities and benefits to South Africans from an early age, i.e secondary and tertiary education.
Do you think anyone can be an entrepreneur or is it something you’re born to do?
AJ: It’s not for everyone, as you can often face challenges that aren’t for the faint-hearted. Withstanding these moments is a prerequisite to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
CI: Everyone has the opportunity to be an entrepreneur, but it definitely takes a certain mindset to get over the line. Some days are tougher than others and it’s about getting through those moments that will get you over the finish line.
Being an entrepreneur is really hard – what motivates you to tackle this head-on each day?
CI: The easiest way I found to do this was to find something I genuinely believed in. In our case, I genuinely believe there is a more affordable and easier way to buy and sell property in South Africa and because of that it makes it easier to get out of bed. It’s often said you must ‘love what you do’, and while there is truth in that, I would say it’s more important to believe in what you do!
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and how have you overcome them?
CI: Finding great service delivery. It’s sometimes tough in South Africa. But I guess that just means more opportunity for anyone hungry enough to do a better job!
AJ: Emotional challenges and pressures. Finding the time to see those that matter most. Still working on it, but time management skills need to improve.
Briefly describe the key differences between your offering and the traditional estate agency model.
CI: Our model is fundamentally different in that we don’t have any physical agents on the ground. The reason for this is because we decided to invest in a more centralised service arm so that we could offer a much cheaper solution, as well as to improve on every element of the buying and selling process. For example, when you sell through us we include a professional photography option.
What inspired the idea to launch a service such as Property Fox?
AJ: The possible vision of the project and the entrepreneurial excitement behind starting a new business with endless opportunity.
What has the reception to Property Fox been like since it launched earlier this year?
AJ: There was a very exciting uptake! We have sold properties in all nine provinces since launch, proving the capabilities of the model. With over 300 properties on board, we look forward to exciting times ahead.
In many cases, when a disruptive model shakes up an industry, many of the older players kick up a fuss rather than adapting to the change. What advice would you give to those clinging to the traditional estate agency model?
CI: As I mentioned, while we are essentially in competition with other agencies, we are fundamentally different without actual agents. Some still like the ‘having an actual agent’ part of the process, but we have found that 99% of buyers and sellers that have contacted us are more than happy to adapt to our new-style offering if it means they can save a few hundred thousand rand.
Many disruptive models distinctly empower the consumers they serve – why do you think this is, and do you think this trend will continue into 2017?
CI: We have challenged a lot of assumptions in the real estate game. Our business looked at each element of the buying and selling process, and improved on each. These improvements ranged from photography to customer service to name a few. But moreover we have allowed the sellers and buyers to be involved in the process every step of the way which they have jumped at with open arms. It’s your most valuable asset after all, so why wouldn’t you want to be involved. So I guess to answer your question, I absolutely think this trend will continue!