He’s responsible for one of Europe’s leading Direct Debit providers, processing in excess of £1 billion of payments each year. But now, GoCardless co-founder Matt Robinson has started afresh with Nested, a new property technology company that promises to sell your house in 90 days or buy the property itself.
Robinson got the idea after feeling he needed a new challenge – and he felt the housing market was ripe for disruption.
‘I started GoCardless about five years ago, and we were always really lucky to have a wealth of management talent,’ he says. ‘The business was growing and running fantastically well and i didn’t need to be there on a day-to-day basis. I was simultaneously thinking about particular problems I might solve next, what was the next big thing and this was an area i found exciting.’
Robinson realised that, in a market where cash buyers have a huge advantage in bidding for a house, there was an opportunity for a service that gives all bidders a better chance to secure a property. ‘It must be the worst position to be in: You see the house you want, you know you can afford it, but unless you sell your property, [a process] which you have zero control over, you miss out,’ he says.
Nested gives sellers a guaranteed offer on their house from day one, and if it hasn’t sold within 90 days it purchases the property itself with the aim of selling it on. If the house eventually sells for over the Nested valuation (which is based on market data and advanced technology), the company takes 20 per cent of the upside with the seller keeping the rest.
‘That’s transformative because on day one you can go and make your offer and know that, no matter what, you’ll have the cash, and suddenly you’ve vaulted above all other bidders.’
Ripe for disruption
It’s an industry Robinson sees as ready for a shake-up. ‘I wanted to go into a space with room for improvement in technology and innovation. Estate agents are much-maligned; they charge a fee and don’t add much value. I want to add more value to justify those fees.
‘We’re taking people from a position where they would normally miss out on a property they want and put them in a position to get it.’
Robinson has paid his dues when it comes to lessons learnt in business. He remembers the early days of GoCardless: ‘We literally made every mistake you could in those early days. That’s powerful because the only way to learn about starting a business is by doing it.
‘First time round, you don’t know how to do things so everything takes so much longer. It took us so much effort to, for example, secure an accountant or lawyer when we should have focused our time on innovating the product and for everything else, just doing what works.
‘I see a lot of start-ups that are really well run except for the fact that they are prioritising the wrong things.’
Robinson advises founders to make sure they give themselves enough time to get the idea off the ground. ‘A lot of people start something and have a runway of three to six months which makes it so hard to get any traction. Give yourself at least a year and try to do it full time.
‘Considering the amount of energy you need to create something from nothing, it is almost impossible to do when you’re not invested 100 per cent.’
Hence, Robinson’s biggest tip would be, rather than do something in your spare time, spend a year focusing on your day job, making extra money if you can, and get yourself to a point where you can go for it ‘full tilt’.
‘You don’t get many chances to do this, and the worst thing is if you try it and know you didn’t give it everything. It’s really hard and it takes a massive slice of luck, so give yourself the best opportunity, so you can at least say you gave it your best effort.’
Matt Robinson is Key Note Speaker at the British Small Business Awards, taking place on October 20th at the Grand Connaught Rooms, London.
The British Small Business Awards event is the leading celebration of the UK’s small business sector, recognising the nation’s best sole traders, micro businesses and small companies – as well as the service providers, financiers and advisers that support them. For more information, please visit the British Small Business Awards website here.
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