Introducing zoomsquare – Tech All Stars finalist and one of the startups to gain exclusive membership to the GTEC Lab. Read about the other GTEC Lab startups here. To be selected for the GTEC Lab, startups must be working on a technology-driven idea with global potential, in any technology-related industry. Applications for the Lab are open throughout the year. Any startup looking to profit from the powers of German industry and Mittelstand should apply.
The nuts and bolts
zoomsquare is the first real estate search engine matching your property wish-list with what is available on the market, founded by Christoph Richter and Dr. Andreas Langegger in 2013. Using advanced technology, zoomsquare searches the internet for all properties on the market and sends links to the relevant ones for you, along with detailed information on location and local area. Sitting between meta-search engines and paid-for portals which charge to list a property, using it is free. Launched in Austria in 2013, zoomsquare now has 200,000 visits a month, with 20% month-on-month growth. In June 2015 its team of 12 were finalists in the European Commission’s Tech All Stars competition where they won exclusive membership to the GTEC Lab.
We talked to co-founder Christoph Richter about how zoomsquare is set to conquer the German real estate market.
What was your journey to becoming an entrepreneur?
“As a kid, I always wanted to know how things worked. But I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. I started my career as a developer for a local company and then moved to derStandard.at (the first German-speaking newspaper on the internet). In the five years I worked there, I helped build a lot of cool stuff. Two years before RSS, we were making banners rolling with the latest news – we had the idea but missed the chance to take it international.
Then I spent five years at bwin.com, an online betting platform, developing their mobile app in the very early days of the mobile internet. That was a real challenge because every mobile provider had their own language for optimizing their websites. It was great experience, but in a big organization like that getting things changed was pretty slow. I started exploring the Vienna startup scene – looking for something new. That’s when I started working on iJoule (a mobile health app) and from there met Andreas (co-founder of zoomsquare).”
Where did the idea for zoomsquare come from?
“I met Andreas at a Startup Live event in Vienna in 2012, whilst I was working on iJoule. But I was starting to realize it wasn’t going to become what I wanted it to become. Andreas, who has a background in semantics and geo-coding, said that there is a big opportunity in real estate, as the searcher is pretty much left alone. I totally could see that, as searching for my flat in Vienna was an awful experience and for most of our friends too. It was obvious that the demand was there. The idea for zoomsquare was born.”
What was the evolution from idea to business?
“When starting with zoomsquare in 2012, we first made big mind-maps of all the players in the market and the value of the money flowing around. Next, we did interviews with people looking for a home to find out exactly where the pain points are. What we found out was that people wanted a listing of all the properties available in one place, not on different sites; and they wanted to know exactly where these properties were on the map (most estate agents don’t give away that information, especially in Austria), the local transport links, and what was in the neighborhood. That’s what we set out to build, focused on Vienna, but ultimately for the whole of Austria – removing as many buttons and clicks as we could to make it better than other websites.
Getting into INiTS (one of the best incubators in the world, based in Vienna) gave us enough money to fund a lawyer and the first developer, plus office space and expert help. We kept it lean – with all three of us developing. Three months later we had our first prototype. Our goal was to include the first two big technologies – semantic extraction and geo-coding. Once we had proved our assumptions with our users, we started to develop the search engine with the first estate agents we got. Some state financing in December 2012 meant we could extend team to six and develop the full website and search engine.
We launched in October 2013 and then started to get real traction. Early 2014 we raised our first angel round from three business angels: Wolfgang Bretschko (former board director of Austria’s biggest media group and founder of willhaben.at, Austria’s equivalent to Craigslist); and Marinos Yannikos (CEO of Geizhals, one of the biggest price comparison platforms in the German-speaking market) and Robert Lenzhofer, business angel from Berlin. We increased the team to 12, got more government funding and started working on the mobile app which launched in August 2014. Some structural improvements later, in December 2014 the growth phase really started.
“Tech All Stars was brilliant to raise our profile in front of investors outside of Austria. Right now, we’re preparing the technology to go international and for that we need investors who think global and did go global.
First up for us is Germany – and that means Berlin, where the startup scene is. Berlin’s different to Vienna in that you already have people who know how to be in a startup and how to scale it. Creating a team here is going to be great. GTEC offers us an awesome opportunity to be based and supported here. It is the perfect platform for accessing people and investors”.
We are currently preparing everything to launch in Germany at the end of 2015, and by the end of 2016 being Europe’s biggest real estate website poised on going worldwide.
Thanks Christoph – we are delighted to have zoomsquare in the GTEC Lab.
Check out zoomsquare’s video: