Alex Eid the founder of Homie, a platform to help renters find a home with a help of a personal home finder, is the latest entrepreneur to be featured in our success story. Alex has raised $4 million in seed funding to set up and grow his business. In his story, he discusses workplace culture and advice for any prospective, aspiring entrepreneurs.
What were the initial steps you took after coming up with your business idea?
I came up with the idea of Homie in June 2015 and launched it in June 2016. I had the initial idea when a friend of mine was moving to London and I wanted to help them find a place to rent. It’s when I realised the market lacked a personalised service like that – a friendly person to help you understand the real estate market, find the right property and give unbiased advice.
The initial steps I took included researching the market, customers and network to get a good understanding of the market opportunity. Following this, I began to build a business model to understand feasibility and return, then I began testing the pricing strategy to gauge product-market fit.
Did you have any relevant business experience that helped you, especially at the beginning of your venture?
Before creating Homie, I co-founded a property search consultancy that helps international and local investors acquire development opportunities in London. This experience helped me to understand the property market and what was lacking, as well as the value of entrepreneurship and the journey of building a business.
What was your role prior to being a business owner and how do the roles differ?
I studied Mathematics and Finance at University and originally worked in investment banking. I was an Analyst at Espirito Santo Bank and was part of a launch team, incubating a market intelligence platform to discover, organise and edit the exponential growth of information and news. I’d always been fascinated by the property industry though and had started to shift my interest over to the sector long before leaving banking.
Although there was an entrepreneurial ethos at Espirito, my decision-making was naturally limited in comparison to my role now. The fundamentals of the two roles remain the same and the business foundations are very similar. They’re both research-driven jobs which involve a series of processes that can be applied agnostically across different ventures. However, industry-specific knowledge is key and can impact your strategy.
Some of the main differences now include the fast-paced environment, being able to grow the business, attracting talent and needing leadership skills. Previously I had fewer people to manage and things were simpler.
What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced and overcame on your business journey?
One of the biggest challenges is raising capital for your business. The whole process can be challenging but I found it particularly tricky to book meetings over the summer while everyone is on holiday and dealing with rejections from investors. It is tough to hear ‘no’ many times but when you find the one, they are there to support you along the way.
Other challenges include finding the right people to build the business with and maintaining the right culture as the business grows. Business is all about the team, hard work, perseverance and serendipity. It’s important to invest time in getting to know each other to maintain the culture to inspire one another.
How did you initially attract clients to your business?
Initially, I started gathering clients through my friends, friends of friends and the referred network coming from it. I built a funnel to cater for the people that were around me, so it was fairly easy to attract early clients.
What are the main benefits of being your own boss?
You have the ability to create and impact an industry, marketplace and the livelihood of the people around you – from customers to employees.
You can build on your future in your own terms and express yourself, your personality and achievements through the business. Ultimately, it’s about being able to encourage the best from your employees and inspire others.
You have two family members on your team, what is it like working with family?
Personally, working with family has been easy for me but it really does depend on the people. If you are professional by nature, relationships, family or otherwise are simple.
Louis and Sami (my family and team members) are hardworking, reliable, smart and trustworthy. For me, those are the characteristics, regardless of relationship, that are important and is how we have built the team here at Homie today.
Do you have any tips or advice on hiring for a small business?
It’s important to realise the people you start off with are unlikely to be the same in one to two years time. In business, you need different types of people at different stages. That’s a really key principle everyone should take into account when hiring for any business.
What made you want to fund your business through Seed funding compared to other methods such as bank loans or crowdfunding?
We chose this method because it means you’re not alone on the journey. You have a constant sounding board of advice, everything from expertise, insight, support and buy-in. In comparison to bank loans, there’s also more freedom and flexibility to scale your ideas while leveraging the support and expertise of your investors.
Plus, achieving Seed funding is part of the natural selection process. Being selected means you’re one step closer to getting onto the path that other successful businesses have taken.
What are your plans for the future?
We want to change the way people rent by providing a seamless experience under a consumer brand that champions renters and allows them to manage all aspects of their rental in one place.
We want to become the go-to platform for renters, allowing them to relocate locally or internationally within a few clicks. By giving renters more control and transparency around their decisions, we create more value to renters allowing them to view and rent the best properties in no time.
We currently cover zones 1 and 2 of London, and our priority is to expand into zones 3 and 4 to ensure more of London is benefitting from our service. The priority right now is to solve the renting experience wherever it is needed, so as we grow we will look to offer the Homie service in other cities which need our help.
We’d also like to bolster product innovation because we have pretty in-depth first-hand knowledge of what London renters are looking for; we’ll be converting it into new features and improved functionality over time, all while supporting the ever-growing consumer demand.
Do you have any advice you would give to any prospective entrepreneurs?
Some advice for entrepreneurs that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank, is to bootstrap and focus on a single metric to measure their performance. Research and know your business and industry inside out. Plus, always have a clear plan of how you can scale.