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StarBroker is a Poland-based startup aiming to disrupt the real-estate industry by offering a portal with a twist. Whereas visitors to traditional sites will enter criteria and search through hundreds or thousands listings, StarBroker creates a marketplace where property owners, buyers and tenants enter their requirements and brokers compete for the business by responding with suitable offers. Brokers will maintain profiles on the site, much in the same way that sellers on Amazon or Ebay do, so users will be better able to know that they’re dealing with a reputable individual or company.
I spoke with David Rice, one of the company’s co-founders and he told me that, in Poland, unlike in other countries, relatively few people complete real-estate transactions with the help of a broker. By his estimate, 30-40% of all transactions are completed in this manner and a lack of transparency and poor value for money on the part of brokers may be to blame. StarBroker attempts to provide an outlet through which home owners and hunters can do business with brokers who have demonstrated their reliability.
David Rice, tells me that they are bootstrapping for the moment, but are in the process of seeking out investors. The current plan is to finish the end of this seed round by roughly the end of Q1 2013.
The Management Team
The service is free and there are no ads, so I asked Mr. Rice about how they planned to monetize this service. He told me that, while it’s free now, they are going to introduce a subscription fee for brokers and agencies that use StarBroker.
Mr. Rice told me that while they currently only offer the service in Warsaw, they will expand to other cities in Poland. From there, he said that they have ideas about expanding to 3-4 neighboring countries, but they have many ideas at this point and are just beginning to build this business.
There is an iOS app available for brokers, making it easy for them to address new requests. One thing that stood out is the innovative user experience, as the website is quite aesthetically-pleasing and easy to use. The company promises simplicity in the process of finding a reputable broker and a trial-run on the website seems to confirm that claim.
Starbroker may be facing a chicken and egg situation of a marketplace, where the real estate agents may only consider spending time on the service if it would send enough business their way. For the consumers the dilemma is exactly the same: they might spend time completing their requests if they knew that the results will come, and they will be good. This means that the startup will need a significant amount of funding to sign up the agents, and advertise the service to the consumers. Until then, they are more likely to go to the old-fashioned way of searching for houses through Gratka.pl and Domy.pl, two leading real estate websites in Poland.
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