Interview with Oliver Chapple (PropertyPage)
PropertyPage is social networking for property.
I interviewed Oliver Chapple, PropertyPage founder to find out more. This is the hundred and twenty seventh in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Oliver!
Describe PropertyPage in under 50 words.
PropertyPage is like Trip Advisor for Property. It’s a social search Facebook App enabling users to discover, comment, compare and share property. Uniquely, it’s a new way to search for property near schools and transport links. The white label version for estate agents seamlessly integrates into a Facebook Business Page.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
A fish that can swim upstream.
You started your first computer programming business whilst still at school. PropertyPage is now your tenth business venture. Could you tell us more about each of your companies?
That would take all day! I started as a teenager building survey applications for upmarket hotels. I launched an e-commerce website company in 1997, called ForeSite, where I pitched and co-developed the High Street shoe retailer Office’s first e-commerce site, which has continued to be a success. I sold out of ForeSite aged 24, and then launched IdeaUk in 1999 as a digital consultancy. This transformed into Datography which provided systems for digital photos and floor plans for the UK property market. In 2005, I launched Datography Australia in Sydney. I launched ZumbawearUK online clothing in 2009, co-founded and re-launched Datography UK after a buyback in 2008, and Webdadi Ltd, providing estate agency software and websites to the residential and commercial property market in Europe.
This year, I co-founded AutoPagini and PropertyPage; both brands are dedicated to search for the Car and Property vertical markets. I also co-founded OCC Finance Technology Ltd, which provides mortgage lead generation and financial services CRM software.
A survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in your twenties, could you tell us how you beat it and how you made up for a decade of your life lost to cancer?
When I was really ill in Texas, needing a stem cell transplant for cancer, I set up a website forum for people with my disease; a place where people could provide each other with practical help rather than just emotional support. My intention was just to help others but what it led to was a wonderful irony, by helping others it saved my life.
After being told I had just a 5% chance of survival, one of the visitors to my website’s forum told me to get myself to Germany for advanced experimental treatment. I travelled to Bavaria to receive pioneering embryonic stem cell treatment and molecular diagnostics; I was the first person in the world to have this treatment for my condition, and this is what saved me.
I asked my mother to help me look after my body, and I would take care of my head. I kept myself going by creating lots of ideas and developing business concepts. I also learned how to fly helicopters, and, aged 34, passed exams to be a ski instructor, despite having lost one third of my lungs. In the past seven years, I’ve worked hard to make up for lost time!
What led you to start working on PropertyPage?
I knew it was only a matter of time before we saw property in Facebook; I wanted to lead the way, not follow behind it. I have always had a vision of what the market looks like technically two years in advance, so I wanted to be there with something mature in two years when the estate agent market will be really ready for it.
Why does the world need PropertyPage?
We have moved from the information age to the collaborative age.
Websites and portals today are still stuck in the information age. People want to have their say on websites about their property. People want to find property not just in a specific area but near places or points of interest that are important to them. It’s inevitable that social media will allow us to do more with our personal online profile, so why can’t we be shown property near things we like, not just in an area we have heard of? Our roadmap has so much more to offer now and in the future; we are changing the face of property search thanks to the advances in social media, and the team I have around me.
How did you meet co-founder, David Murray-Hundley? What do you each bring to the table?
We met towards the end of 2011 when I was a client of his at Adaro Red. I needed IT project management services and some real operational input, as I’m quite happy to admit I’m much more of a creator and inventor, rather than an operator/manager like David. That’s where we are so good together – because David gets things done and I come up with tech solutions, monetise and can sell them, and that is maximised by David’s highly experienced operation management skillset.
What main lessons did you learn from your late father who you helped build Equanet, a firm which sold for millions to PC World in 2000?
He told me, “Oliver, if you work for someone else, always plan for your redundancy. If you work for yourself make sure how much you earn isn’t linked to how much you work, so don’t be a consultant long term.”
My old man made sure the left hand knew what the right hand was doing, which he learned from my mother’s father as a grain salesman. He knew in order to really know his product he would do the buying and the selling, which is what we did when he founded Equanet; as the buying was as important as the selling. I mostly did the buying in the early days, and I remember I always particularly liked buying from a girl called Siobhan at Northamber!
In your opinion, are entrepreneurs born or made?
I think to be a successful entrepreneur you need to be a problem solver. You can’t just find problems – you have to solve them as well. To do it on your own, you have to be able to sell your solutions, as well as create them. I believe that you can only learn to sell; meaning that element of entrepreneurship is made, but you can, I think be born a problem solver. So, I believe that it requires a bit of both to become a successful entrepreneur.
Where do you see PropertyPage in 5 years time?
I see PropertyPage as a heavily used website and go-to property search application in both the UK and Australia. With the right injection of funding, it will expand to the US.
Has PropertyPage got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
Yes it has; it has a 35% month on month growth rate, and we are predicating an 85% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over 3 years with €500k of funding. We had excellent feedback from our focus groups and we have attracted an enviable client list of major agencies since the beginning of the year.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Playing music. I play jazz keyboards and some Spanish and acoustic guitar. I am a thrill seeker; since learning to fly helicopters, my latest hobby is gliding, and I’m looking to fly gyrocopters as well soon.
I also enjoy spending time with my partner Bridget, at her magical ice cream and chocolate shops in Richmond called Danieli, and running with our speedy greyhound, Milly.
What is your favourite app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I like Evernote, it’s so easy to capture notes wherever I am, on whatever device, and it’s available on all my devices.
Which entrepreneurs do you most admire?
When I am trying to decide what to do, I look to those at the top who have similar traits to those that I possess as a creator. I say to myself “what would they have done?” I am not yet as successful as Branson or Jobs, but I can do things they can due to creative and business traits we mirror in some way. So as a creator, I most admired Steve Jobs, as he was the consummate geeky inventor, and, like me, Richard Branson is a fish that swims upstream with all his businesses and ideas.
What keeps you motivated?
Wanting to achieve something successful; light a fire and see the results of your work bear fruit. I am a problem solver and so long as I see a problem I can solve, I’ll always be motivated. When the problem goes I lose interest!
What key goal have you yet to achieve?
I am now mentoring young entrepreneurs and my goal is to accelerate their start-up businesses to great things and success, alongside David Murray-Hundley and with government support. I also want to live in the country with my partner Bridget and our dog Milly.
As a serial entrepreneur and start-up investor, what one piece of advice would you give to startup founders?
Be sales led not tech led. You can build all the technology in the world, but to be successful, the trick is to learn to monetise, market and sell it. Focus on that first, as it provides you with the funds to further develop the tech. Don’t do it the other way around!
What are you most excited about at the moment?
I am loving mentoring and judging young start-up businesses; thanks to the track record of successes I have been lucky enough to get under my belt, I felt it was time I put something back. I also find helping people with a project they are passionate about is infectious and their energy feeds my own creativity. Along with giving me drive and determination, helping others during my illness taught me that when you help others it often comes back to you.
We just learned that PropertyPage received the Special Recognition Award for Startup Product of the Year 2012 from Techworld. That was a great achievement and really exciting for us – I’m looking forward to the future more than ever before.
Finished reading? Check out PropertyPage!