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Propseller, a Singapore-grown tech-enabled real estate agency, recently announced a SGD 1.7 million (USD 1.2 million) seed financing. The capital will enable the company to expand its team and increase its investment in technology to further modernize the real estate transaction. Investors in the round include Iterative, Hustle Fund, XA Network, Rapzo Capital, Stein Jakob (Lazada co-founder and former CMO/CFO), Ben Neve (Dot Property Founder), besides three undisclosed “highly strategic investors” and other existing private investors.
Since its founding in 2018, Propseller’s mission has been to offer property owners with solutions to successfully sell or rent a property.
In 2019, the proptech company started combining its technology with in-house salaried property agents. The company offers property owners an end-to-end property agent service, leveraging technology to achieve faster results at only half of the standard commission: 1% instead of 2%, according to the firm.
Founder & CEO Adrien Jorge spoke with KrASIA to share his experience about the firm’s recent funding round, while he also shared some advice for other founders willing to start their own fundraising effort.
KrASIA (Kr): You’ve closed your most recent round during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, did this affect your fundraising?
Adrien Jorge (AJ): The main challenge we encountered was that we had some interested investors before the lockdowns, but then when I went to find them during COVID-19, some people were no longer interested at all. So this is something that has changed quite massively. I’ve had investors telling me “Okay, look, we’re no longer making any investment in new companies, we are focusing on our current portfolio. Sorry about that”. This part has been definitely impacted by COVID-19.
Kr: What was your strategy for the fundraising round?
AJ: Number one, identify as many relevant investors as possible for our round.
Number two, for those investors, try to get as many as possible warm introductions from people I know from my network. It works much better than cold outreach.
Number three, keep track of all the interactions, exactly as if this would be a sales process. I’ve actually built for myself an investment customer relationship management (CRM) which is a tool that helps me to manage my pipeline. I take my notes and I put the next steps to do after every meeting. I’m trying to take notes of what people were thinking, what were their objections? How should I come back to them next time? And then, every week or so, I look back at those notes and I look back at the next steps.
I follow up with people and I try to get to either a yes or no, as quickly as possible. The worst thing, I think, is to keep opportunities open for a very long time. The CRM element I feel that it’s kind of overlooked by some founders.
Number four, create a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out). I have no secret recipe for it. I have no magic for it. You need to balance being always super straightforward, transparent, and you have to always only say the truth and all of the truth. But at the same time, there is a bit of this FOMO component that hopefully gets created.
Kr: During the process of finding these VCs or private investors, what are some signs telling you that they might not be a good fit?
AJ: Within a one-hour conversation, you can usually get a sense of whether they like the model, they like the team, they like the traction. There are some VCs that while I was pitching to them, they were discovering our model and nearly our whole industry with it. I was taking them from zero. Then, there were other VC’s that already know everything about my business. They’ve done all the research. The conversation I had with them was very structured. They knew how to assess the model and how to understand everything, and they were just looking for the champion. So that’s one big difference that helps you to identify whether they like you or not.
Another difference would be how deep the conversation goes. About the model, about why we did this, why we did that, etc. When they are interested, they would usually go deep, they would take time, they would ask smart but difficult questions. The entire set of questions would make sense. When they are not so interested, it feels a bit random and you don’t really understand where they want to go.
Kr: With challenging questions that could come up when you have these meetings, how can you be prepared for them?
AJ: You make progress with experience. The first few times you pitch, you get a good amount of questions that are challenging. Over time, the more you pitch, you start to get questions that you already had before. It’s very rare to have questions that you never faced before. Because you’ve been repeating the same thing over and over again, I would say that at the end of fundraising, having a new question is very refreshing.
The way I’ve done it, is that with those complicated questions, I was taking note of them. I was thinking about them at home. Sometimes, they’ve made me change my views a bit on the strategy, or how to view a certain topic. Also, questions perhaps highlighted either a strength or weakness of our business.
I would say that your fundraising can be quite time-consuming. But you have to remember that as an entrepreneur, when you spend so much with very high profile NGO’s or partners in a VC fund, you spend time with super talented people who you can learn a lot from. If you want to set a strategy, what could be better than meeting fifteen VC’s who ask very difficult questions. After those fifteen meetings, you would have probably covered the entire set of your strategy and all the things that matter.
Kr: How do you think you’ve developed yourself in terms of your approaches and pitches?
AJ: For this fundraising round, I worked on my deck and financial model really hard. I got friends who are associate partners, successful entrepreneurs, and investors, to review it. I really like to assemble a team to review that deck and make it great. When I got it ready, I thought that deck was amazing. Yet, after I started pitching it, it also changed little by little because I was always updating it. I was changing the flow, what’s important, what’s not. I was adding things and removing things depending on the experience I was accumulating. I think that process of taking feedback and adapting depending on what you learn was very important.
The deck and the pitch that we are doing right now is nothing compared with the one I had at the start. When I look at the one I was super happy with, I don’t like it now. I did everything that’s written in the books, I looked at all the blog posts on how to write a deck, looked at templates. But it’s not enough to guarantee that you have a great deck, a great pitch, and something that resonates with people. It’s important to evolve it.
However, at the end of the day, the deck or the story is one thing, but what’s most important is really whether we solve a problem for consumers. If we solve a problem that’s worth getting solved, and we have a really deep understanding of those consumers, the rest comes from that.
I know a lot of entrepreneurs spend days and months thinking about the deck. Yes, we did some evolution to it. But the most important thing is when investors ask you about your insights, when they ask you about consumers, whether you really understand the problem, whether the solution you have drafted is the right one. Why did you draft that solution and not another one? You need to be able to explain all of that. These are mostly insights that I think are the most important part of the deck.