I caught up with Stephen Geran, Founder of Homible - the admin hub for your home, giving your bills, online accounts, documents, tariffs, council tax and paperwork - a new home on the web.
What does your company do?
In a nutshell....it's facebook for property. An online network that finally represents your home online.
What made you start your company - was it a personal passion, or a problem you identified, or a market opportunity?
I bought my first property in 2004 and have, therefore, seen the migration of property related processes from the real world to the web. This in itself was great. More choice, stuffy industries disrupted. But I also noticed a problem; once these processes became commonplace online, they spread like wildfire. Countless different companies offering the same products and/or services. The 'digital property market' has become fragmented, complicated and too difficult for us normal folk to efficiently manage or perhaps more accurately, take full advantage of. As a consumer, I stepped back and tried to find a solution. Once I saw a solution, I couldn't unsee it. Why isn't our home represented on the web I asked myself? That's where everything related to it is taken care of after all. It didn't make sense, so I decided to do something about it and Homible was born.
What funding have you received so far?
We're just finishing off a due diligence process for our first round of £120k.
How did you find your investors, and were they angels or VCs?
It was a classic case of a warm intro to an angel investor which acted as a catalyst. We made a conscious choice not to carpet bomb the investment community as we wanted to actively engage with investors, rather than just cold call. This was for two reasons. Firstly, nobody likes cold calling. The end. Secondly, our launch product is just the beginning; we are planning to be a reset button for the property industry. But we want to take logical steps in our disruption and as such, didn't want the 'master plan' available for everyone to see. It was a risk though. If any of our investors decided it wasn't for them, we would have to start the process over again, wasting time. But fortunately, it was a strategy that worked. We spoke with 3 investors and all 3 are investing, a record we're very proud of. Two are UK Angel Investors and one is an overseas VC.
Do you think your investors invested in the idea, the product, the founders, or the team?
It's tricky, but I would like to say all 3. To get investment in time for launch for first time founders can't be easy, so our investors' must not have seen a weak link or if they did, they must have thought the other elements were strong enough!
Any advice for the perfect pitch deck?
Yes.....get feedback. When launching a product you have so much to do and can get wrapped up in a little bubble. It's easy to become cocooned from the real world and you can lose a little perspective. Investors are generally very busy folk, and they may have never heard of your concept. So it's important to show the deck to people who would not understand it before reading. Then if they 'get it' after a quick read, then you've made a good start.
What was the hardest thing about doing your funding round?
Ours has been pretty complex due to the way our overseas VC works, so it has been a real eye-opener. But we're hoping that managing to attract a VC for what is quite a small round will benefit us as we scale and move through our following rounds. Also, having a VC onboard makes it very easy for other investors or Angels to come into subsequent rounds due to how thorough the VC's (our lead investor) due diligence process is. No stone is left unturned!
If there were three things you could tell a founder looking to do their round, what would they be?
i. Be bold yet humble. Contradiction? Perhaps. But in that statement lies the required duality of a CEO in waiting. It goes without saying that you have to believe in your idea, but there is so much you won't know (or at least that was the case for me). So it pays to listen and know when to ask questions. It's equally important to know when to stand your ground. The majority of unicorn companies are launched by first-time founders, so there is something to be said for thinking differently when it comes to your concept. But some things are common amongst all startups, and appealing to investors is paramount.
ii. Your network and warm intros are everything, if you don't have a network, build one. I have not come from a traditional founder background, (if there is such a thing) but once I met my first Angel things started gaining momentum. He introduced me to his network and the rest is history. Do anything you can to get in front of that first investor. If they like the concept and/or you, you're heading in the right direction.
iii. You have to have 'skin in the game'. I have a wife, kids and all the things that make it difficult to make selfish decisions. But I believe so vehemently in the business, that I still pushed ahead. This speaks volumes to investors. It's not about being reckless, it's about taking calculated risks.
How did you hear about SeedLegals, and how was your experience?
I read about Seedlegals in a Seedcamp bulletin and when it came to raising our first round I thought I would check it out. Customer service has been exemplary. It has been a great tool to better understand the process. Our round would be much more difficult if it weren't for Seedlegals.
What’s next on the horizon for Homible?
Launch and close our round! We're very excited about our launch and are looking forward to helping out the millions of households in the UK. It's well worth signing up. It's free, it's useful and it will change the property landscape for the better. Create your property profile today :)