In late September a UAE startup called Nomad Homes announced having raised $20 million in Series A funding. What makes this news interesting is the point of pain this new startup is supposed to solve. You see, not every country has an MSL system to help individuals buy or sell homes. Nomad Homes wants to fill this void for markets with hundreds of millions of potential buyers and sellers. Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Now let’s see if they can do it.
Nomad Homes founders Daniel Piehler, Helen Chen and Damien Drap say they are creating a personalized real estate buying experience for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, a region worth $20 trillion in potential real estate transactions. And no, I do not know why someone has not already thought of this. Here in Greece, for instance, my friends who are agents constantly quiz me as to how a multiple listings service can help them. Now Nomad, which is headquartered in Dubai and Paris, is not “just” plugging people into an MLS, they claim they are really innovating. Pause, take a breath.
Nomad Homes quizzes to match their criteria with properties that suit their needs and desires. Then the platform acts like a buy-side agent for negotiating prices, doing the documentation, and performing all the necessary functions for buyers. But read on.
The current funding is by 01 Advisors, a fund co-founded by past Twitter execs Dick Costolo and Adam Bain, along with The Spruce House Partnership, Goodwater Capital, HighSage Ventures, Abstract Ventures, Partech, Class 5 Global, Precursor Ventures, and Alta Park Capital. TechCrunch quotes Dick Costolo, managing partner of 01 Advisors:
“Nomad Homes has built an incredible platform that is shaping the future of real estate across EMEA. What the team is building is increasing market liquidity and simplifying the consumer experience. We have invested in similarly transformative companies in the U.S. and are excited to partner with these founders and the entire team as they expand.”
Shaping the future, hmm. According to the news, Nomad Homes is currently expanding operations to southern Europe, and building out its teams in the United States and across Europe. I know my Greek real estate friends will be thrilled to hear this, since the current home search process is something like archaeology, or digging endlessly to find the right property. Here, finding a legitimate price or listing is needle in the haystack work. I know, because we are searching for a house sifting through agent sites that are not maintained properly. But, wait until the end.
I signed up to the platform just so I could show you a few screens from the system. I chose Paris as my desired area of search, and after my phone was verified, the system started offering me choices based on the area and my budget. “No rocket science yet,” I thought. So, right away I found some major problems with the platform as it exists. First, the system is suggesting properties based only on price, area, and size, which makes the user experience only slightly better than using Google. Secondly, even though my language selection on the platform is English, the listings are in French. And since I avoided foreign languages in high school…. Well.
The current platform is amateurish in my opinion, especially given the $24 million bucks already put into the startup. Users get a few images, some basic data, and almost no in depth description on the properties listed in the system. No maps, pertinent locality information, tax or other expense related material, nothing but a connection to the pertinent real estate company associated with the properties. To be fair, I switched to the Dubai website (which is another strange hiccup).
The platform there is better, with properties listed in traditional form on a map, and in a matrix of browsing. Still, the Nomad Homes platform development seems to be in its infancy. And they take another hit since the system appears to be WordPress, but I could be wrong? Crappy images aside, I did manage to find a huge apartment overlooking an empty Dubai marina for about $27,000 a year (image above).
Nomad Homes could be successful even with this, but it would require a massive database of listings, and further filtering options. Even so, this is not what is being advertised via TechCrunch and other media. In my professional opinion as a former PR and media executive, whoever is doing the pitching for this new startup, he or she has one heck of a lot of clout to get TC and other media to report, sight unseen on such limited tech. Sorry, it has to be said. I’ve pitched the reinvention of the wheel to TC authors, and an “idea” in the making gets coverage? Come on guys, $24 million smackers!
Before expanding to leverage trillions in real estate deals in the region, I suggest the developers fix the glitches, navigation, interactivity, data analysis, and other key facets of the platform first. Any halfway decent tech guru can start scraping Europe listings, and a small team can verify validity. What will make this a stunning new development, will be the three founders doing what they say they are doing, and leaving off the PR until the right time.
My takeaway: Can they do it? Of course, but they need to get busy, very busy.