Interview: Owen Derbyshire, CEO of Properr

Owen Derbyshire is the co-founder of Properr, a tech start-up looking to revolutionise the property industry. Having just been nominated for young entrepreneur of the year in the Wales Startup Awards, we speak to him about his journey and company.

TD: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your business, please?

OD: I’m Owen Derbyshire, and I’m the chief executive and co-founder of Properr, a white-label SaaS start-up looking to simplify the property purchasing process.

We’ve built a portal that acts as a one stop shop for all partners involved in the sale or purchase of a home, from buyers and sellers to solicitors and mortgage providers.

TD: What makes it unique?

OD: Our primary customers are residential estate agents, but we work across the whole property purchasing process, from offer through to completion and post-completion. That means our customers and their clients are in total control of every element of the transaction, and can effectively track their move from day one.

We’re now working with some brilliant partners across the whole transaction to create a marketplace within the platform, further simplifying the process.

TD: How does it benefit customers?

OD: We’ve got a number of different customers with different needs interacting with the system, so it’s important we add value to every element of the work. For buyers and sellers, we make the process simpler, more transparent (it’s borderline enjoyable!). For agents, solicitors and other partners we create specialist tools and make sure their workflows are as efficient as they can possibly be, automating all we can.

 TD: Why did you set it up, and how far have you come?

OD: As with most ideas, it came from personal experience. I sold a house in 2014 and was stunned by how inefficient and wasteful the process seemed, so I teamed up with some bright minds to see whether we might be able to change the way deals are done.

We’ve since raised investment, we’re halfway through our pilot, and we’re working with national brands to help shape the business.

TD: What’s been your biggest success and your biggest obstacle?

OD: I would say that our biggest success to date has been the quality of the team we’ve built, both from a board perspective as well as employees. We’re very lucky to have attracted the talent we have and, without them, we’d have nothing, so I’m incredibly grateful to them.

I’d say that our biggest obstacle has been the archaic nature of the industry, but this is changing. There’s a definite shift to digital, with traditional agents trying to improve their offering to compete with online-only agents. But, overall, the quality of the technology hasn’t been particularly good to date, so I would hope that we’re doing our bit bringing grown-up tech to the sector.

TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech scene?

OD: I think we have a right to be optimistic about tech in Wales. We’ve got some excellent talent – technical, intellectual and commercial – and I think it’s right that we celebrate it.

I’ve been around the scene for a number of years now, and it’s fantastic to see that momentum building. I feel like we’re on the cusp of something brilliant here in Wales, something that’s driven by the tech community itself, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

TD: How is your business contributing to it?

OD: I’d like to think we’re playing a role. It’s a close-knit community, and we have always found that help has been forthcoming no matter who you turn to. Personally, I’ve worked with a number of entrepreneurs locally to help them close those first few deals.

I find there’s nothing more valuable than talking with your peers when you’re stuck, so I’ll be forever thankful to all those that helped me in the early months.

TD: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years?

OD: I assume I’ll be building businesses in one form or another. I tend to find it’s quite addictive, and I would hope that in ten years’ time, I’ll still be working with good people, trying to solve big problems.

TD: What advice would you give to someone looking to set up a tech start-up?

OD: Just do it. The first step is the scariest, but once you commit to starting something, make sure you’re all in.