First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Abhijeet Dwivedi: As a CEO, these times have been a great learning experience. As a husband and a father, this has been a gift. We’ve had more time together as a family than ever before.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ZeroDown.
Abhijeet Dwivedi: In 2017, my wife and I decided to buy a home in the SF Bay Area. We knew it was going to be difficult, but we weren’t prepared for how difficult the process turned out to be… that’s how the idea of ZeroDown was born. Teaming up with Laks Srini and Hari Viswanathan – two remarkable people I knew from my Zenefits days, we decided to build a product that provides an alternative to traditional homebuying. We want to help people own their own home, with more flexibility than was earlier possible.
How does ZeroDown innovate?
Abhijeet Dwivedi: We see a lot of data points when we buy a home for a customer. We keep opening up that data for our customers through our home search product. That means that all of our customers have the same information about the property that we have. This thought process has allowed us to continuously make a lot of data available to our customers. We are interested in a home from a build-quality perspective, from a financial perspective, and a quality of life perspective. And we make all of this information available to our customers! Say you’re looking for homes with a big yard, lots of greenery, natural light, good for dogs, or walking distance to your favorite coffee shop. You can find that using our home search.
Ideally, we want to revolutionize the way people search for homes.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Abhijeet Dwivedi: Our existing customer base has held up quite well during the pandemic — most likely, because we started out in the San Francisco Bay Area, and our early customers came from the tech industry. And, the tech industry, in general, has been quite lucky (since they can work from home) and has done reasonably well during the pandemic.
We also expanded our business to Austin, TX – and looking to grow into more cities in the near future.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Abhijeet Dwivedi: We were a very small team at the beginning of this year, so thankfully, we didn’t have to do any lay-offs. We are very grateful to our team members and investors for helping us navigate the difficult period (March, April, May of this year) with wisdom and dignity.
At the beginning of this year, we had a home search product. But that product wasn’t our key focus. We saw a surge of interest in the home search product during the pandemic, and the team has now improved that product by orders of magnitude! In short, we shipped amazing products during the pandemic.
I am extremely proud of the team for having done that, esp in a short amount of time. You should try searching for your next home on zerodown.com – and you will know what I mean.
We also made a cool little product called Sherlock – it is like an information assistant for homes. Right now, Sherlock lives inside a Chrome extension that allows users to see over 900 data points about a home and the neighborhood.
The biggest lesson this year has been to listen to our users. Understanding what they want, how the market has been changing, and how their needs are evolving has been key to everything we do.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and ZeroDown in the future?
Abhijeet Dwivedi: It’s simple. I meditate, do yoga, go for long nature walks, exercise, and lift heavy weights.
Actually, I do none of these things – even though I wish I did. Look, stress and anxiety are just something you learn to deal with, and having capable co-founders and teammates help a lot. Having people you can call and discuss your problems is helpful. We are lucky to have that. Plus, I’ve found a new love for watching chess streamers on Twitch. I have spent hours watching people play chess – which is weird.
From a company perspective, I believe that we are headed in the right direction. We like that so many people search for their homes on ZeroDown, and we are focused on making that experience even better.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Abhijeet Dwivedi: Zillow and Redfin are the biggest companies that dominate the home search domain. There are tons of other players and wonderful products – like Realtor, Movoto, Estately, etc. In the financing space, we are an alternative to immediate debt financing. We’re obviously in a very early stage but are confident that our approach to home search will make a big dent in the universe.
It is very hard to stay and win in the home search game. Google rankings (search engine optimizations) dominate who gets the users, not just the product’s quality alone. It is very hard to overcome entrenched players.
We think the only way to be relevant here is to focus on radical innovation and changing the competitive arena. We need to build something that doesn’t rely solely on Google rankings for users. There will be more news on that front soon.
Your final thought?
Abhijeet Dwivedi: Please check out our home search product and give us feedback! We are really hungry to listen to people and hear what they think about our search product.
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