Interview: Justin Morris, CEO of Dezrez
Dezrez is a veteran Welsh tech firm. Based in Swansea, it’s been at the forefront of estate agency technology for more than ten years and has won a plethora of awards along the way, including Deloitte Fast 50 and Orange National Business Awards.
We speak to Justin Morris, the company’s chief executive. He talks to Tech Dragons about the company’s long history as a leader in property tech, its journey to success, the things it’s currently working on today, as well as Wales’s growing tech scene.
TD: What does your company do?
JM: We provide the technology that powers a large percentage of UK estate agencies. It’s a really interesting sector because the housing market is affected by the economy and legislation, which means estate agents need to be very adaptable to change.
And of course with consumers putting more pressure on them to open after hours and offer a responsive 24 hour service, and online agents growing very quickly, our customers are looking for answers. We’ve built Rezi in response, and it will transform the way estate agents work and the things they will be able to do.
TD: What makes you unique?
RM: Rezi is like nothing else on the market because it is the only estate agency software that is built on an open architecture. It’s such a big deal because modern agencies can use it as a central platform to connect existing and new systems, and then trigger workflows to automate processes and personalise the software.
We are also independently owned, which is critical because it means we can focus on our customers. They want the best platform to help them thrive in a constantly changing market and conventional software is just too prescriptive to do that.
TD: How does it benefit customers?
JM: With its open API and workflow options, it’s going to transform the ‘home-buying-business’ for both estate agency and consumers. And that’s the key.
This is a vertical market connecting a huge number of sectors from conveyancing, mortgage referrals, removal, property management, lettings, and auctions, for example. Then you have suppliers, be it cleaning services, printing companies, photographers and videographers. They all need to be glued together somehow so estate agencies offer their customers a streamlined, accessible service that makes the whole process smoother and less stressful. That’s what we do.
TD: Why did you set it up and how far have you come?
JM: Estate agency was one of the many things profoundly affected by the internet. Think about how many possibilities there were in the technology world back in 1999. We could see there was a real appetite for change in estate agency and so there was great potential. It was an obvious choice for Dezrez.
Now, we’ve been in this business for 17 years and we’re still helping agents do things they couldn’t do. Even 18 months ago. We’ve grown to 110 employees and partnered with over 1800 estate agencies. And while they have achieved amazing things, there’s still some unfulfilled potential that we can help to unleash. It’s what keeps us interested.
TD: What is your biggest success and your biggest obstacle?
JM: Business is full of challenges and the success is overcoming them. We realised estate agency was changing and a new type of technology was called for. The choice was to follow competitors and re-skin our existing software, which is hugely popular, or to build something that would future proof our customers for the next decade. It took millions of pounds and thousands of man hours to build Rezi from scratch… and it is now successfully serving the market.
TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech scene?
JM: Wales is superb for technology led businesses. We benefit from European funding, innovation driven through our universities, and a burgeoning excitement about possibilities. Together, Welsh businesses, large and small are delivering some really innovative projects that are revitalising our economy.
TD: How is your business contributing to it?
JM: We’re a fast growing national business that pulls money from outside of Wales into our economy and uses this to employ and train home grown talent. We’re Welsh and proud of that. And we want others to feel the same level of confidence in the Welsh tech scene.
TD: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years?
I see Dezrez going from strength to strength and breaking into other related sectors. The world is full of opportunities, and we’ll take them on, one at a time.
TD: What advice would you give to someone looking to set up a tech start up?
JM: From experience, I’d say talk to people about your idea and don’t be scared to roll your sleeves up. There’s lots of support in Wales, from Tech Dragons to the Welsh Government, which not only provides expert advice but funding options. Lots of us have good ideas but it takes a certain amount of grit and determination to bring them to market, so make use of all the help you can get!