Founders Talk: Homeday

Steffen Wicker, the founder of Homeday, talks about the early days and shares tips and insights

How did you get the idea to found Homeday?

I had been looking at the real estate market for a while before founding Homeday after I had had a couple of encounters with unprofessional real estate agents. Talking to other people about my frustrating experiences, I found out that this wasn’t the exception, but the rule. Most of the people I talked to were complaining about agents offering no or at most weak services, while simultaneously charging unjustifiably high commissions. To put it briefly, the real estate market offered a huge potential to change things for the better.

“We believe that having the right people in the right places ultimately makes a company successful.” Steffen Wicker, Founder of Homeday

Besides that, the market has some nice characteristics that make it generally attractive: With a transaction volume of 170 billion euros per year in Germany alone it is huge. On top of that, it is fragmented. There are more than 40,000 agents operating in Germany alone — many of them employed in small brick and mortar agencies that are mostly overwhelmed by the challenges of digitization these days.

What had you done before Homeday and where did your founding team meet?

I founded Homeday together with Dmitri Uvarovski and Philipp Reichle. Philipp and I know each other from school. Dmitri and I met at university. We both studied business administration at the University of Mannheim. The three of us have already been working together for more than 7 years. Together with Philipp, I founded my first company, Simfy, a music streaming service where Philipp built and led the tech department. Dmitri joined Simfy a bit later and became our first “real” employee.

What’s your founders’ story?

We started Homeday in 2014 with the vision to simplify and digitize real estate transactions. Our original idea was to replace real estate agents with a digital alternative. However, a couple of months in, having brokered many properties by ourselves we had to admit that the idea didn’t work out as expected and our approach lacked what you call “product/market fit”. After a couple of sleepless nights and many conversations with owners and agents, we decided to give it another try and changed our model. Today, Homeday is a two-sided marketplace that allows owners to find the best agent to sell their property and gives agents access to properties.

What’s special about Homeday?

We help owners find the best agent to sell their property. However, we’re not just a platform that sells leads to agents. We analyze a large amount of data and base our recommendations on facts and data. This means that we establish trust between all parties (owners and agents) involved. And it doesn’t stop there. Staying true to our original vision to simplify and digitize real estate transactions, we’ve recently started to develop Homeday into a vertically integrated platform offering a range of additional digital services for both owners and agents before and throughout a transaction. Though, in doing so, we do not work against established agents, moreover we work closely together with them.

How do you collaborate with Project A?

We collaborate with Project A on various levels. In some areas, Project A employees take on operational roles, where we haven’t found the right employees yet. In other areas, experienced Project A employees train and coach our more junior employees. Not only do our employees benefit from Project A’s vast experience, but at the same time it frees up a lot of time for us founders to tackle other important topics.

What do you pay most attention to in your daily business?

What matters most to us is our team and our people. We believe that having the right people in the right places ultimately makes a company successful. We’re lucky to have a great and highly motivated team behind us. We spend a significant amount of our time on finding the right people and creating a working atmosphere where everybody can excel. Apart from that, we are very data driven, we measure and track everything. I would say that facts and figures also play an important role in everything we do.

What are the biggest challenges in the initial stage of founding a business?

On the way to finding your product/market fit, you go through many ups and downs. As a founder, you are often confronted with doubt and there are always people that challenge your product, vision or their viability. Sometimes, when things don’t go well or don’t develop as expected, self-doubt kicks in. Overcoming doubt particularly in the early stages of founding a business is what I found the biggest challenge. In hindsight, it’s been my personal experience that in times of doubt a situation is rarely as hopeless as it feels in that particular moment, and being aware of that helps overcome these difficult times.

Do you have tips for entrepreneurs and people interested in entrepreneurship or in founding a company?

First, I recommend that potential founders get things going and get out of their office. What does that mean? Talk to other founders and more experienced entrepreneurs and try to learn from them. Talk to potential customers, test your ideas, start building prototypes. In nine out of ten cases you don’t need a developer to get started and to get a first feel for your market.

Second, focus on building a great team. Look out for co-founders that complement you.

And third, read a lot. There is a vast amount of helpful information out there. A great book that I always recommend reading is “Startup Owners Manual” by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. It is not only interesting for new founders, it also has interesting insights for experienced entrepreneurs.

Check out Homeday’s website at Homeday is our first PropTech investment. If you are interested in the reasoning behind why we invested in Homeday, keep on reading here!