The age old advice for writers is to write what you know, and entrepreneur Azwar Khalid takes a similar approach to forming startups: try to solve a problem that bugs you personally, then take the solution to a wider market.
Khalid’s own frustration with hunting for a houseonline led him to realize the whole process could probably be madeeasier with technology. And since he’s only one of millions feeling thesame frustration, there’s probably a significant market out there forthat type of real estate technology, he decided.
“I’m a big fan of the eat your own dog food (approach),” Khalid says,wherein a dog owner tasting horrible dog food theoretically leads tothe invention of tastier dog food that’s more popular with dogs andcorners the market. “Basically, solve your own problem and you’ll findthat a lot of other people have the same problem.”
Khalid took his home buying frustration and turned it into the idea forHousify, a Web site that lets house hunters do a customized search fortheir dream home based on geographical data of their choice. Since mostbuyers list location as one of their top variables when shopping for ahome, the site searches for homes based on their desired proximity toeach buyer’s variables.
If a buyer wants to find a house that’s less than five kilometers awayfrom their job or their child’s school, for example, the Housify siteautomatically brings up homes within those boundaries that also matchthe buyer’s desired price, size, and other features. It can also beused to find homes within a certain distance of countless otherbuildings in a neighbourhood, from coffee shops to restaurants to gyms.
“The tool will automatically pull all the information together. Whenthe customer logs into the Web site they view the properties and therewill be a section where they can customize to put in what (geographicalsearch data) matters to them,” Khalid says.
Although Google Mapsalready shows the location of everything from schools to coffee shopson its neighbourhood maps, home buyers still have to search real estatelisting services for properties that match their price and locationrange first, then enter all those addresses into Google Maps separatelyto see how many of their desired amenities are close to thoseproperties. They also have to separately plug in other addresses suchas their work office and family members’ homes to see how far they areaway from each property they’re interested in, he says.
On the Housify Web site, users only have to type in all of theirrequested variables once to get a list of properties that satisfy theirlist of price and features as well as how far away they are fromcertain stores, schools, employers or other locations.
“Each time you view any property from the (Housify) map it willautomatically map these three values and load them related to thatproperty,” Khalid says.
Though Khalid came up with the idea behind Housify before the recent Startup Weekend Torontoevent, he took it there, built an instant team with four other techiesattending the event, and turned it into a pitch with their help. LikeSnapture, another startup born out of that weekend, Housify’s teamchose a name that’s already being used, in this case by the Housify social media music site, but Khalid says there may be room for his startup to share the name.
“They’re more in the music industry and we’re in real estate…so we doour best in our domain and they do their best in their domain.”
The Housify team is taking a slow and steady approach to building theirstartup, focusing on building a beta version of the technology thatthey can experiment with and further develop as they go along beforetaking their idea to possible investors.
Khalid and his team thought of developing Housify as a plug in forbrowsers like Firefox but are now leaning towards building it as a Website. They plan to cull the property listings and location-based datathey need for the site from “reliable Web sources” and “display (it) ina way that’s user friendly,” Khalid says.
Housify will be free for users but Khalids plans to generate revenuethrough selling advertisements and sponsorships around the site’sfeatures, such as its online mortgage calculator and even the actualstores, restaurants and other businesses that pop up on itslocation-based search feature.
Khalid is somewhat of a startup veteran, having started up two that are still going strong: online polo shirt retailer Fame and Rumour and Internet media branding and design firm Syndakit Media. He’s also been part of some that aren’t still going, an experience he wears like a badge of honour.
“You’ve got to keep trying and you should never give up. For meit’s more about how many failures you can get under your belt. The morefailures you get, the closer you’re getting to the success part.”
Housify submitted a one-minute elevator pitch video to our $1,000 Minute Elevator Pitch Contest. Watch Housify’s video pitch here and submit your own for a chance to win $1,000 for your startup.