The second participant is the Evaluator - Australian Property Reports.

Evaluator is a website that aims to make it simple and easy to arrange property valuations, building reports and pest inspections. If you are buying property anywhere in Australia, it is a one-stop shop for all your property report needs.

Evaluators also offer fixed prices and guaranteed turnaround times on jobs, so you no longer have to shop around for quotes and waste time following up to get your report. All the report providers are professional, accredited and insured professionals. Their experience and professional skills are backed up by Evaluator’s commitment to quality customer experiences.

Evaluator was started by two IT consultants, Craig Brown and Justin Findlay, in Melbourne after working with some major corporations and the IT providers who service them. They saw what services the Corporates were getting and thought they could create a similar quality experience for Joe Citizen. Evaluator partnered with a web development firm in Melbourne called Get Started who did a great job of creating the face of the business via the website.

Let us now learn more about Evaluator from Craig, one of the founders, on various facets of their startup:

Q. How long it took before it was up and running?
A. Because the business was a part-time and after-hours affair it took about a year to go from concept to up and running. In the meantime, Craig had a baby and finished a master’s degree, and Justin got a job as a senior consultant to an online business in Monaco. It’s been a busy year and without the help of several friends, the business still would just be a pipe dream.

Q. What stage of your start-up is, stealth mode, beta mode or fully functional?
A. Our business is fully live, but we are yet to promote it as the funds are a bit tight. In the next few months, we’ll begin a PR campaign targeting our key stakeholders.

Q. What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
A. The main objective of this venture is to provide an excellent experience to people looking for property reports such as valuations. Basically, today getting a valuation organised takes at least a couple of phone calls, and even then you are not certain of the quality of service you’ll get.
Our mission is to increase the customer’s experience when getting property reports.

Q. What services it provides for consumers or customers?
A. Customers can get Valuations, Building inspections and pest reports. These are usually purchased when people are buying new homes, but are also sought when people are considering refinancing, for insurance estimates and preparing to sell.

Q. What is unique about your venture?
A. There are three aspects to our business that we see as unique;
  • We offer a simple and easy-to-use online ordering process
  • We tell people how much our fees are upfront so you can plan your budget
  • We manage the report providers to make sure the reports are delivered on time and to the right quality

  • Q. What market segment verticals you are targeting?
    A. Our primary users will be property purchasers and investors, Joe and Jane Citizen. However, we plan to market ourselves to referrers such as financial planners, solicitors and mortgage brokers. These groups see many property purchasers each week. By offering good value to our clients we hope these referral groups will give us repeat business.

    Q. What type of customers you are targeting?
    A. The site is designed to be easy to use and as useful as possible. If you are buying property you really should be getting these reports. Our site makes it easier and quicker to arrange them.

    Q. What age group of people will benefit most?
    A. Anyone who buys property will find our site useful. Additionally, groups like mortgage brokers, financial planners and lawyers will find value in it as we can help them help their clients.

    Q. How many users are using your services?
    A. At the moment our sales are a trickle, but we haven’t ramped up our sales and marketing activities yet. We have received positive feedback from some of the people who have used the site.

    Q. What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
    A. Well, that’s where we are at the moment. The budget needs some further investment right now. We are also right in the middle of building our advertising plan for 2008. Keep an eye out in the property industry and you’ll hear about us.
    And if you want to invest or help, get in touch.

    Q. How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are there any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
    A. Our immediate success measures are making sure all our customers receive excellent service. We hope that this will help spread the word about our business and help build the brand.

    Q. What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is there any new model, which is being tried?
    A. Basically we charge a fixed fee for facilitating the order.

    Q. Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment? What are the main technologies used behind this start-up?
    A. There are two areas of competition, although as far as we know, no one is offering the same service today.

    The first is from national providers of valuations, building or pest reports, however, none of them really have the online sale thing worked out.

    The second area of competition of from services such as RP Data and APM which provide statistical estimates of property prices. Our reports are physical inspections by experienced professionals, so this is more of an alternative service than a direct competitor, but people do spend money on these database estimates.

    We see there Is a place on the market for database estimates, but think that real estimations by trained and experienced professionals are still important. If your home is an average home on an average street a statistical estimate will work for you, but if a property is at all unique or special the data models tend to show their shortcomings.

    Q. What has been the easiest to use, out of the box and most helpful technology?
    A. Definitely our friends at Get Started made the technology part of our business model painless. We have some phase 2 and 3 plans to increase the back-office automation and extend the services, but at the moment we are pretty happy with what we have.

    Q. How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up. Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
    A. We did enter our idea in the RMIT business plan competition but didn’t make the finals. That was a good place to meet like-minded people. Also as Justin and I work in the IT industry we know plenty of IT professionals and tap them as we need them.

    Q. How much money is needed upfront to start a venture?
    A. These days more money is spent on the business side; IP, trademarks, branding, lawyers, setting up the company and our professional consulting time (which we value highly) so including our time this is a venture that costs upward of $50K, but without our time it is less than $15.

    Q. What are the main barriers in general for people to start their venture in Australia?
    A. I feel there is a real lack of connection between ventures like ours which are probably mid-sized and the VC/Angel people. It feels like we are too small for them, but what we are trying to do does take a few hundred thousand to do well and quickly.

    Q. What are your thoughts on the future trends of your service and the market segment you are in?
    A. I think we are in the right place at the right time. Like the travel industry before us, the property industry is migrating online. Already Real Estate, Domain and others are delivering excellent services for people looking to buy. Now it’s time for the ancillary services to come online; and here we are, delivering three of the key services people need.

    Q. Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
    A. Find others who have started their own ventures (in other industries) and get in touch. Entrepreneurs love to help other entrepreneurs.

    Thanks, Craig for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you on the progress of the Evaluator. All the best for Evaluator and the competition in this carnival.