CEO of Domaina real estate technology company disrupting residential real estate, making closures immediate and affordable.
Every founder must embrace a nerve-racking truth that demands a new chance: the tremendous courage, endless conviction and reservoirs of resilience it takes to move forward. And this goes for any industry you’re trying to disrupt, from food delivery to machine learning. Success is a fine line between founders who outsmart, outsmart, and outsmart.suffer the competition.
Take the proptech industry, for example: The vertical sprang from shifting consumer expectations with an unprecedented demand for speed — the so-called “convenience economy.” Consumers now enjoy unparalleled power to get what they want, when they want it. Over the past decade, it became apparent that all aspects of the real estate industry were lagging behind consumer expectations. Buying real estate remained frustratingly slow, procedural and painful. Consumers showed little tolerance for major gaps in the convenience and speed they enjoyed and took for granted in other aspects of everyday life.
The result: big change. Companies are entering the digital real estate market, striving to help people find their dream home without entering a physical home, thanks to sites like StreetEasy and Zillow. They could apply for and receive a mortgage pre-approval (e.g. Rocket Mortgage) in just a few clicks. Companies that were unknown and even unformed a decade ago now rule the residential real estate industry – with big changes ahead.
The idea: What has always been done is not what should be done.
Traditional methods of doing things can create barriers to innovation, so much so that sticking to what has always been done has led to the downfall of some companies (think Blockbuster). This leads us to the idea, the one idea that no one thought about or thought about, because the current process is “as it has always been done”. Netflix has adapted to the changing demands of consumers and the technology of the day by delivering DVDs to your door and then to your electronic device. Netflix recognized the next-generation consumer and developed the idea that the future was the easier way to watch your favorite movie or TV show.
The idea is the first step to any disruption. To be clear, not every idea is a good idea. Having an idea is the easy part. The idea must solve a real challenge with an unparalleled belief that there must be a better way. I think the real key to success is sticking to the idea despite opponents at every level.
The Relentless Pursuit: Make the decision to keep going no matter what.
Good ideas usually come from personal experience. That’s where the idea for my company, Doma, started: Buying and refinancing a home is a frustrating, paper-filled process that can bring back bad memories when the good is supposed to begin. And that’s the point. Your idea should not only solve a real problem, but you, as an entrepreneur, should fully invest in it to move it forward. Without this relentless quest and unwavering belief that your idea is the answer everyone has been waiting for, there’s little chance the idea (or business) will get off the ground.
Relentless pursuit means pushing through the noise and focusing on the end goal anyway. This doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts – I certainly do – but it means you listen when it matters and ignore when it doesn’t. For example, I was told that getting property insurance was nearly impossible because the market was dominated by age-old incumbents. But this is the turning point for any new venture: You have to make that one decision to keep moving forward and selectively choose what advice to take, or you might as well stop before it starts. I received support from real estate leaders who were eager to work with me and who shared the belief that there had to be a better way – and I was the one willing to do it. You have to be all in.
In the end, you know you’re on the right track when the decision to move forward is a difficult one. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But if you have the purpose, the conviction, the vision and the right team behind you, the reward can outweigh the risk.
Resilience: Challenges can bring disruptors down, but never out.
Now that you’re all-in, it doesn’t mean things are going smoothly. There must be an understanding and acceptance that your business must adapt based on unforeseen challenges that may arise, as well as the ever-changing expectations of consumers. This can be anything from market volatility to competitor challenges. This will no doubt fuel the fire of skeptics; but success is achievable with conviction and a proven vision for the future.
Overall, I’ve found that the new ventures and ideas that prove resilient share three common principles:
• Technology that not only responds to a problem, but also solves it: While technology has ‘disrupted’ many industries in recent decades, digitization does not equate to disruption. The technology should help solve a problem that few thought needed to be solved.
• Meeting and exceeding rising (and evolving) consumer expectations: Each new generation expects something different. It is important to recognize the changing expectations of consumers and follow their lead.
• Leadership (and a team) that is diverse, determined and aligned with the vision: It’s important to have a core team that believes in the business as much as you do and understands the problems and trials that can arise when it continues to grow. It is also important to have a diverse team (i.e. thinking, culture, etc.) as diversity has been proven to drive innovation.
Transforming a complicated and established industry does not happen overnight. It takes one idea, one decision and the determination to make it happen and that can make or break a successful new business. I think it’s clear that while some companies are responding to an immediate problem, those known for disrupting an industry, pursuing a vision for the future, and being true to their word that the long game is the winning game.