Partnership: HBRE and eMoov on forming an alliance

What is eMoov?

RQ: eMoov is an online estate agency. We provide all of the services you would expect but with no high street branches. This allows us to charge vendors a lot less than traditional estate agents. We typically charge a £395 flat fee to sell a property regardless of its value and with no commission. 

How did eMoov come about?

RQ: Estate agency has always been something that I have been involved in. As soon as I left school I joined the family estate agency Quirk and Partners which my grandfather set up in the 50s. I later bought an estate agency business with my cousin, which I ran for 14 years. We had five branches and a turnover in excess of £2m. 

Things were going really well until the market turned in 2008 and we started to lose money. The light bulb moment happened when I closed one of my branches and realised that it made absolutely no difference to the number of enquiries we were getting because people were looking online. That’s when the idea for eMoov was born. 

I sold my estate agency business towards the end of 2009 and launched eMoov that summer. It was a terrible time to sell but I thought it was a gamble worth taking. My wife and I put every penny we had into eMoov, and from nothing I built a website, took up a small office at a Regus building in Brentwood, and started listing properties. 

How has the business performed?

RQ: From year one to two we doubled turnover, and from year two to three we doubled it again. And we’ve done it without borrowing any money from the bank. When I launched three and a half years ago there were only five online estate agents and today there are 40, and we’re the largest in terms of the number of properties listed. 

What attracted you two to join forces?

FB: I started my career in tech, so online businesses are something that I gravitate toward. After our deal with estate agency Ivy Gate was announced there was a lot of interest from the estate agency industry and a number of entrepreneurs approached me including Russell. 

What I liked about Russell is that he is tenacious and resilient. He has all the ingredients of a successful entrepreneur and of course a successful business in eMoov. At the moment, online estate agents account for only two percent of the market. If the market moves anywhere near the recruitment and travel sectors where between 40 and 70 percent of transactions are now online, the opportunity for growth will be massive. All being well, we believe that the value of the company upon exit could be in excess of £100m.

RQ: When eMoov first launched I was looking for investment but as the business progressed and I found out more about venture capital, it was less about the money and more about the expertise that they could bring. Faisal and HBRE have been phenomenal in putting a team full of the skills we need to advance the business in the direction I want it to go. 

What does HBRE bring to the partnership?

FB: Like any VC firm first and foremost we bring investment. That said, I like to think of us as ’smart capital’. In addition to the money, we are bringing our networks, a high profile celebrity investor and HB’s human capital capabilities to build a world class team. 

Russell wants eMoov to be a mainstream business that uses sophisticated technology. When I identified his pressure points I realised that we needed to bring on board tech expertise to ensure eMoov leads the sector as well as a top marketing guy to transform eMoov into a household brand. 

Hopefully, the team I have put together will inject a little rocket fuel to help us to take the business where we want it to go a lot faster. So – I brought in Sheraz Dar, a senior marketing director who built high profile online property brands Findaproperty.com and Primelocation.com; Jonathan Galore, a CTO at Wonga who will help us to develop our technology plan; and Ivan Ramirez, an accomplished tech entrepreneur who has built, scaled up and exited a tech business which he sold to Groupon. Importantly, they are not just advisers that turn up at monthly board meetings but people who have invested in the business alongside James and myself, and want to see it succeed as much as we do.

What are your ambitions for eMoov?

FB: We want to develop eMoov into household brand that is a genuine, reliable and a low cost alternative to conventional estate agents. People these days lead busy lives and online businesses are undoubtedly more convenient. Using the most advance technology, we want to improve the eMoov’s offer by enabling customers to purchase complementary services related to their house move, introducing the same convenience and ease that customers experience while shopping on Amazon into the house selling process.

RQ: eMoov needs to be seen by the public as a genuine alternative to conventional estate agents, whereas at the moment we’re a well-kept secret. My goal is to make online estate agency mainstream. 

Is there anything you would like to say as a final word?

RQ: If I can disrupt a market that in my opinion is the most overdue for disruption in years and then I’ll be delighted. 

FB: eMoov is a successful business providing a comfortable income for Russell. But I’ve seen the ambition in his eyes and want to be on that journey with him. With the team we have behind us, I hope that eMoov can do for estate agency what Expedia.com did for the travel sector. Why not dream – you never know.

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