Before fintech disrupted financial services, the industry was infamous for its conservative and outdated approach to customer service and efficiency. As cheaper, easier and better ways to secure financing, transfer money, and make payments began to emerge and gain popularity, healthy competition kicked traditional players into action, setting the tone for today’s highly competitive and customer-first financial landscape. Property technology (proptech) start-ups seek to do what fintech did for that sector in another outdated and red-tape-covered industry; the property market.
One of the newest proptech start-up to make waves, Settled, has grown rapidly since its launch in 2016. The start-up has sold £250 million worth of homes, saving customers over £5 million in estate agency fees.
Settled’s founders are brother and sister team Gemma and Paul Young, who talk to GrowthBusiness about their start-up journey.
What does your business do?
Settled is B2C online property platform which transcends the estate agent model by simplifying the home-selling and buying process empowering consumers to sell and buy with more autonomy.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The early seeds of Settled were sown when we were both young; our father has been involved in the property industry for as long as we can remember; this certainly influenced Paul and I in our early careers when we both spent time working in Estate Agents. It was here that we saw some of the limitations of a business (rather than consumer) focused model.
Our careers took a different course when we both developed an interest in the then ‘emerging’ Internet industry. Paul joined one of the biggest advertising agencies and later worked for a tech startup. I worked at Google where I stayed for many years, working across many different markets from Europe, North America to Africa.
Throughout this time we saw the Internet’s profound impact on so many industries, everything from the online travel sectors impact on the high street sector to, later, on demand TV’s effect on the movie rental industry. Pretty much every industry has been profoundly impacted by the invention of new digital solutions and mobile applications.
Due to our earlier influences, we were particularly plugged into the property sector. We continuously witnessed our friends and family go through common and seemingly unavoidable stresses and strains when buying and selling homes. We felt passionately that this process could be improved and we decided this had to be our cause, so we took the plunge, leaving our jobs and starting Settled.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The property sector is one of the most obvious ones in need of modernisation and we saw the opportunity to develop an online platform that provides people with more control of their property sale or purchase.
Quite simply; buying or selling a home should be more joyful so our mission is to make 1000s of people feel more ‘Settled’.
How did you raise funding, and why?
We raised funding to support the growth of the business and to bring in expertise. We’ve received backing from some great folks including Sir John Hegarty, American VC 500 Startups, and more recently VCs Connect Ventures and Piton Capital.
Describe your business model in brief.
Our B2C property transaction platform transforms the purchasing and sales of homes via a seamless, blockchain like flow of connected processes. Homeowners pay to list homes on Settled’s platform with a one-off fixed fee of £499 and no further hidden costs. For this, homeowners get all they need to sell a home from start to finish saving an average homeowner of £5,000 in fees. Settled also recommends services (including mortgages and conveyancing) to sellers and buyers. These services aren’t traditional, they’re digital; customers can get a mortgage or do their legals whilst sitting on their sofa. They also won’t pay any extra (we don’t believe in ‘introduction fees’); Settled makes referral revenue directly from the service providers.
What was your first big milestone and when did you cross it?
One of the most exciting milestones for us, in the early days, was when our first customer completed on their sale – they went completely through Settled’s process and they called us after to say thank you; they were sat on their sofa with their buyer having cracked open a bottle of champagne! It was an amazing moment that we’ll never forget.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Focus on developing a viable business model that connects with your passion and solves a real problem. This passion and your ‘why’ will drive you and help you focus your team on your reason for being.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Settled has already helped many people sell their homes and assisted buyers to find their dream home. Since launching in 2016, £250m worth of homes have been sold through the platform, saving customers an estimated £5m in estate agency fees. Throughout the process we have focused on reducing the financial and emotional cost for sellers and buyers, and we will continue to focus on our mission – to make moving easier and to help more and more people feel more “settled”.
If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…
Working to help solve big problems with technology.
What is your philosophy on business or life, in a nutshell?
Be passionate about solving a genuine problem you are personally passionate about. Staying true to your mission will keep you energised, positive and will help you to make a difference.