This week on our Founder Feature series we are talking to Mick Silver, CEO and co-founder of Moovshack – a smart AI-powered proptech solution provider.
Q: Who are you and what is your story?
A: From being a pro musician in the 80s to a tech sales director during the 90’s dot.com bubble, my diverse experiences ultimately led me to a succession of entrepreneurial roles. Recent forays into leading-edge mobile and software businesses, alongside setting up an estate agency, convinced me that these two paths should combine to bring much-needed innovation to the property industry.
Having witnessed the transition from standalone analogue hardware to integrated digital solutions throughout the nineties – I was quite surprised to see that 20 years later, digitalisation was still finding resistance in sectors like real estate. This led me and my team to create Moovshack, a mobile-first, fully interactive and transaction enabled property app that takes the current 20-year old property portal model and makes it fit for 2020 and beyond.
Q: Could you tell us about your company and what you’re striving to achieve?
A: The traditional property portals are focused purely on search and have no stake in seeing their consumer and business customers complete the full property acquisition cycle. Lack of investment in technology and innovation means that these non-interactive web-based portals lack the technical spine to support features such as real-time instant messaging and automated communications & transactions between agents and consumers, meaning that time and efficiency for all parties remains a key issue.
Driven by a mix of consumer demand and younger professionals coming into the sector, many agents are now using platforms like WhatsApp to engage with their customers, but although well intentioned, this potentially creates new problems with GDPR compliance and the possible breaches of Whatsapp’s terms & conditions. Simply put, consumers can’t digitally opt-in when agents persist in using the free version of this messaging app for business purposes, leaving all parties potentially exposed..
But formal email style communication is still too prevalent and acts as a barrier to real engagement and relationship building, as well as being too limited in its ability to support more advanced interactive features. So Moovshack was conceived to apply better use of integrated modern technologies within a GDPR compliant app that is fully dedicated to improving the property journey, for both consumers and agents, eliminating the growing disconnect that has long held back market participants.
Up until now, tech-savvy consumers have had no single application or platform to help them plan, record and manage what could easily become a 6 month or longer experience in finding and securing their new home. For too long they have been poorly served by a sector that has failed to keep up with modern communication trends or to embrace the power of the smart devices that we all carry with us 24/7.
We believe that modern property portals should evolve into ‘lifestyle portals‘ with the home at their core and that these new platforms should support both the consumer and the agent all the way through the protracted home acquisition journey. Longer-term engagement could be achieved by offering access to a range of homelife related services in these new all-in-one platforms, rather than leaving customers to hunt down and piece together such solutions themselves.
By re-connecting consumers and agents directly on one common platform, Moovshack will improve customer experience, reduce delays and duplications and automate low-level tasks, creating more time for the quality human interactions that ultimately make deals happen.
Our mobile-first platform offers everything from property search, chat messaging, e-signatures, home valuations & agent comparisons, to scheduling live virtual viewings, offer management and synchronised sales completions – all achievable entirely in-app if the parties require it.
Q: How has the current crisis affected your business and how have you had to adapt?
A: Similar to many startups entering the market when lockdown hit, it’s been a challenging time. We had just moved into a shiny new office set up, having evolved from being a work from home business and we were still establishing our company culture. But we soon adapted and despite having our team spread across the UK and Europe, the new normal of social distancing circumstances have ultimately worked in our favour for a number of reasons.
Previously sceptical agents are now more open to exploring how tech can help them reduce costs and maximise business opportunity in these unpredictable times. Consumers still want to move home but need reassurance that they can transact safely with agents and the market in general. Arm’s length valuations and virtual home appraisals & viewings are all high on the agenda for both consumers and agents.
Moovshack offers all this and much more so our entrance to the market now is particularly relevant and timely.
Add to this the fact the major portals have all been slow to react and have nothing innovative to offer the market as it re-emerges from lockdown, we believe that the landscape is ideal for a product like Moovshack to gain traction and flourish.
Q: What made you decide to take on the PropTech sector?
A: Property is one of the world’s most important asset classes, yet the sector has failed to undergo the important shift to digitalisation, meaning it is no longer fit for purpose for the current market and its participants.
Having owned a traditional estate agency, I know that most local agents are dedicated professionals and work much harder than many give them credit for.- but there is plenty of scope to work smarter and improve customer perceptions by understanding changing consumer trends. For example, over 80% of all property searches are via mobile and apps account for over 90% of all time spent online. So I believe that tech can help agents realign themselves with their customers and that was the initial driver to enter the Propetch arena.
Overall transaction rates are quite low in Estate Agency, with agents typically only generating income from 5% to 10% of the thousands of applicants they engage with and process through their CRM’s each year.
By using attribution tech embedded into our apps we knew we could help agents monetise upto 100% of their contacts, simply by introducing them to Moovshack. My own agency experience combined with a background in mobile and software helped me to recognise the real and viable opportunities for digital adoption in the sector and ultimately, the challenge was simply too exciting to ignore.
Q: What is the core technology driving your start-up’s product/service?
A: AI is the engine that drives the Moovshack platform, enabling agents to get the job done quicker and more effectively while inspiring confidence in consumers who will have access to a more distilled and intelligent breakdown of market information through their smartphone.
Our platform uses AI to automate and expedite the low-level, administrative tasks agents currently handle manually, giving them back precious time to focus more on customer engagement.
We’ve also integrated Computer Vision to analyse property images so that we can create searchable tags to complement our heuristic search capability.
So for example, although you can do a basic search by postcode or place name in Moovshack, you could also create a search by typing in “luxury flat in west London with wooden floors, a yellow kitchen, a ceiling fan and natural light” – the AI-powered software uses machine learning to work out what the property images are showing and then offers the user access to features that may not appear in the written property descriptions.
But to be fair much of the value of Moovshack is derived from integrating tech already used by consumers in many other sectors into an all-in-one property platform. This is important because we are not trying to revolutionise or dictate how consumers or agents should engage – we are simply ensuring they can both access best of breed technology from one app while managing what, for most of us, is our largest financial transaction – acquiring a new home.
Alongside these features, Moovshack is essentially a user content platform that enables consumers to access any property or content of interest anywhere online and then share it into Moovshack for easy access and retrieval – this is an example of a simple feature that offers very helpful benefits e.g. there’s no need to forget where you saved something – or to have multiple property apps on your device – you can simply download Moovshack and share your favourite listings, articles or videos into our ‘My content’ feature.
Q: What’s most exciting about your traction to date?
A: The privilege of any business is to see its true impact on its audience, so by having hundreds of agents pre-register to the app ahead of its launch in the coming weeks and share their genuine excitement about our offering is one highlight of the Moovshack journey so far. It has also been a humbling experience getting the backing from angel investors and hitting our investment round targets and creating an innovative business from an empty space, then watching each new member of the team embrace it and help evolve it.
Q: What are your biggest threats?
A: When introducing any new technology into the market, quality assurance is absolutely crucial. This is an area we take extra precaution with and our developers and QA team are some of the best in the game, so we are confident we’ve got a real chance to succeed in our delivery of the tech.
More importantly, we are service providers to an essential market that depends on wider economic stability to thrive. But so long as there is a need to move safely and efficiently, we believe there will be a place for Moovshack.
Q: Do you see yourself as an underdog?
A: We wouldn’t use that term – we see ourselves as serious contenders in a market ripe for innovation. We have a strong and experienced senior team – and as well as great tech – we also have a unique business model to help us breakthrough. It’s all about delivering value and we believe we can do that for every individual consumer and each independent agency that joins us. Plus we have the potential to scale rapidly and enter international property markets as well as serve our domestic UK territory.
Q: Where are you aiming to be business-wise in the next few years?
A: Ultimately we want to be recognised as the best all-in-one property & lifestyle app for consumers – and the ultimate customer engagement platform for agents. Our interactive design enables us to evolve Moovshack into a complete lifestyle portal over time, as well as to adapt to international property markets and bring better connectivity & outcomes to all home movers and agents.