In July last year, Sydney-based entrepreneur and founder of statistics site NationMaster.com Luke Metcalfe, had his last startup NetComber acquired by United States based Profound Networks.
Netcomber used its technology to identify the links between websites that appear to be unrelated on the surface. It’s proprietary technology scans hundreds of millions of websites identifying thousands of unique features that can be used to correlate website ownership. This then fed into a live query-able database of 253 million sites.
At the time, the startup had an established client base of law enforcement organisations that investigated linkage between websites engaged in illegal activities.
Yesterday, Metcalfe announced that he had officially launched another big data play: a new real estate platform under his existing NationMaster brand that was designed to make it easier for people to make more informed decisions when it comes to property.
The platform has been designed to ‘invert’ the classic property portal model and focus solely on the buyer. Dominant players in the market like Domain and RealEstate.com.au should be worried about what Metcalfe has created here because it eats into their current business model where their customers, namely real estate agencies, are able to collect lead generation data through “free” property reports on their sites.
“Our customer is the customer. We are the automated buyers’ agent,” says Metcalfe. “Everything we do is to improve the experience of property buyers. So they can skip inspections that don’t suit them and get their Saturdays back.”
“My wife and I were in the property market this year and were staggered by how much data was out there about properties that was hard to get a hold of. Not everyone wants to spend their nights digging through council PDFs. So I thought I’d make a site that puts all the data in one place: one report for every address in Australia.”
In 2013, one of the key growth strategies that was introduced across major sites like Domain and RealEstate.com.au was the ability for real estate agencies to ‘own’ suburbs on their platforms. What this meant is that everyone looking at properties on those platforms with certain suburbs would have their details collected and automatically forwarded to a specific real estate agency every time the opted in to receive a ‘free’ property report on the area.
For real estate agencies, it was the start of a new hybrid form of traditional advertising and lead generation. The model worked, and is currently very lucrative for the two major players.
However, they should be worried not only because NationMaster is providing those in the housing market an arguably better online version of those reports, it is also doing so without its users requiring to pay a fee or even opt-in to any sort of lead generation agreement or marketing list.
“We go much further in evaluating the surrounds of a property,” says Metcalfe. “Buyers shouldn’t just be thinking about the smeg kitchen and the landscaped garden. If that’s all you care about, go build your dream home in the desert. What really determines price is the community you’re buying into: the convenience to things you need every week, like supermarkets, restaurants, fast commutes, cafes and gyms. This stuff is bread and butter for NationMaster.”
The platform provides users with scores on areas such as convenience, lifestyle, family, and even out-of-the-box scores on features such as ‘hipness’.
“We boil down buying criteria into quantitative scores. Different properties have different strengths. These scores make it really quick to determine whether an area fits your needs,” Metcalfe tells Startup Daily.
The magic around NationMaster is all around how the in-depth data displays in a very accessible way for consumers; its unique algorithm even allows users to make better decisions about things like schools and daycare by giving them percentage scores. This means parents can make decisions without being bombarded with an array of conflicting information. No property report in the Australian market is currently taking the data and asking these types of questions.
“The site provides demographic data far more fine grained than the usual suburb reports that property buyers are used to,” says Metcalfe. “Within a suburb there are distinct markets. A unit right next to Lindfield station gives you a totally different lifestyle to a bush frontage house on Lane Cove National Park. Gladesville has waterfront mansions and also houses on Victoria Rd right on public housing. This is the kind of detail that NationMaster is providing users with right now.”