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Conversation with StreetEasy Team
I had the opportunity to meet with the team at StreetEasy yesterday. StreetEasy is a NYC-based company which is trying to make it easier for people to find homes and rentals in NYC. NYC is the worst place in the country (I bet the world) to find a place to live. The brokers and agents hold back as much info as they can and many lie and have little knowledge of the area. It's so easy to get into the business and the lure of large salaries and commissions draws in just about anyone. One of my close friends said that after the third day looking for an apt, she went home and cried all night. This is exactly what StreetEasy is trying to fix in NYC before expanding to other cities. Henry Blodget calls them a "cool" company.
Here are my notes from the discussion:
- The team is made up of all non-real estate people – about seven total, in a "coworking" space (it's actually a great looking space, see pics below)
- Michael Smith, CEO is a serial entrepreneur who most recently founded an analytics firm which was acquired by 24/7 Real Media
- The goal is to create a super-safe environment where home buyers can remain anonymous
- The site works for both renters and buyers
- They are the first company to take the nearly impossible to read city sales directory and make it consumer-friendly
- They released a development directory earlier this month – this is hot – you can see everything going on in a building – see what the person above you paid, gives you more negotiating power
- Competition in the Web 2.0 space comes from Trulia and Zillow – both show listings only
- StreetEasy gets listings from several places: some agents manually enter their listings, data feeds and they scrape listings from other Web sites
- They offer a premium service which is $10/month and provides additional features including name lookup (i.e. find out where x movie star just bought a condo)
- Monetization comes in two forms: advertising on site and featured listings (similar to SimplyHired's job featured listings)
- The search feature is very advanced including a "time to commute" feature which works on train and walking commute times!
The site is build on Ruby on Rails and uses mashups with Google Maps and HopStop. They have a mobile version and an iPhone version and are working on a GPS version once the technology catches up.
Marketing is mostly word-of-mouth as they are in the early adopter stage. My suggestions to them for marketing include hang tags on apartment doors with surveys (including prizes) and inserts in new home welcome gift bags. And expansion of their rating opportunities – add a "rate your agent" option. They must get out (offline) to really push this product, online alone might not be enough.
StreetEasy is looking at incorporating video along with more enhancements on the data side. We discussed the importance of making sure they keep people coming back to the site even after they bought/rented a home. Online kits on moving in would work well along with roomate options.
I enjoyed meeting the team and I could tell they are very passionate about what they are doing. The developers all sit very close to each other in a small room and you get the vibe that they are building something great that they all believe in. Lots of 24" macs with massive lines of code on each screen. As they gain traction in the market, it will be interesting to watch the reaction from the real estate cartel here in NYC. It's always great when a bunch of Web geeks creatlively destruct a market!