We talked to Juan Camilo, founder of Inmobo, about the real estate market and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Juan Camilo: I had a baby 7 months ago, during the first peak of the pandemic in Colombia. The first months of quarantine were hard, working on the product at Inmobo and preparing for having a baby. Fortunately, it has been great to be able to work from home many days of the week and the real estate industry has not been hit as hard as everybody thought.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Inmobo.
Juan Camilo: I am 35 years old, Colombian, as well as Carlos and Sergio, Inmobo’s co-founders. I graduated as a Business Administrator with a Finance Masters. However, my passion has always been to create new products or projects using technology. I worked during the formation and operation of Tuenti, a Telefonica Group Startup in Latin-America where I met Sergio. At the time I was looking to buy a house and Sergio, just out of curiosity, helped me develop a map of all apartment listings in Bogotá. In 2019, Carlos, a friend since we were kids, called me, because he heard about Opendoor and Loft, two of the greatest prop-tech startups in the world. Carlos used to work as country manager for a big real estate fund investing in Latinamerica. For me, it felt natural to quit my job and form a cofounder team with Sergio (data scientist and AI expert) and Carlos (Real Estate expert).
How does Inmobo innovate?
Juan Camilo: We use Artificial Intelligence to deliver thousands of buying offers to homeowners, in real-time. Our business model relies on buying with a discount and that is why it is so important to be able to appraise and give our customers an offer fast. We also automate every single operative process we can, so we scale the business in a sustainable way.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Juan Camilo: Selling apartments has been difficult during quarantines. Despite the fact that we rely on digital marketing, our website, and digital sales channels, the regular home buyer needs to visit the apartment which they are going to buy. During the pandemic, this was very difficult. Also, the government gave a subsidy in order to increase new home sales and this has been problematic to companies like ours, who sell used and renovated apartments.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Juan Camilo: Yes, we had to slow down our hiring plan and focus a lot on automation. We also had to shut down our physical office. During a crisis, you learn that to run a startup is not a sprint, it is a marathon.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Juan Camilo: Definitely. The pandemic helped digital startups to accelerate customer digital behavior. Now managing the majority of our customers through chat channels and our website is seen as a very efficient way for customers. All the customer management during buying has been managed from digital dashboards that get updated thanks to many automated processes.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Juan Camilo: Is not easy for the government in Colombia to help, in an impactful way, as many governments in Europe and the US can. In the business we run, we are expecting the government will automate the notary and registration of properties, lower the tax for buying a home and eliminate the tax for doing a bank transaction.
Your final thoughts?
Juan Camilo: Running a startup in Latinamerica is hard, especially because we don’t have as many funding resources as in the US. However and because of it, there is a huge opportunity to disrupt the market and grow faster.
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