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PTY Auctions - Real Estate, Property Auctions, Bid Online

Today we explore an exciting venture in the Real Estate Industry - PTY Auctions Pty Ltd. It was founded in 2006 by Gavin Stuart from Sydney, Australia.

In a recent email-based interview with Gavin, he gave insights into his venture and how he is progressing with it. This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
I was responsible for the development and implementation of property applications for PTY Auctions. The development and implementation took approximately 2 years with the majority of that time spent working with the regulators to ensure the service complied with each of the State's regulations.

Since 2002, I have been involved in successfully conducting live online auctions worldwide selling ‘speciality coffee’. I also oversaw the development and implementation of a global document storage solution for the International Task Force for Commodities Risk Management – members of this task force include: ABN AMRO, Rabobank, Mitsui, World Trade Organisation, The World Bank and Ministry of Finance; and developed a high availability Federal Procurement Data System for the US Government leveraging Microsoft best practices. The solution handled in excess of 10 million transactions per year from 61 agencies of the US Federal Government.

• Please tell us about your venture/company?
The PTY Auctions service, for the first time, allows vendors the choice of having their property auction broadcast live via the Internet to a worldwide audience of affluent buyers. Breakthrough proprietary technology utilising streaming audio and video allows remote bidders to participate fully in the auction. The bottom line is that we make sure all the bidders are in the room whether they are located internationally or interstate.

• How long it took before it was up and running?
All in all, it took about 2 years to get to market. The software behind PTY auctions was written over about 6 months however, the rest of the development time was spent working with the regulators. Auctioning real estate is very different to auctioning consumer products on eBay. There are many more consumer protections written into the Property Act and for an online model to fully comply was challenging.

• What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
The main objective was to optimise the process of buying and selling real estate across geographical boundaries - for consumers to be able to safely and easily bid for properties they may have previously discounted and for sellers to ensure that every possible bidder is in the room at the time of the auction.

• What services does it provide for consumers or customers?
For sellers, we provide both a webcast and a live online bidding service. The webcast service allows the agent to stream audio and video of their auction through the PTY website. The live online bidding service adds the ability for any of their buyers to register and submit their bids live online during the auction.

Members also have access to practice auctions, online tutorials and a historical database of past auction webcasts.

• What type of customers/people you are targeting?
We have a wide range of registered online bidders. Many are businessmen and women travelling interstate and internationally submitting bids from airport lounges. Many are expats bidding from their adopted home such as London, Dubai and Paris. Some are time-poor families that cannot make it to the auction room.

We also have people signing up who are interested in watching the auctions as part of their research process before entering the market. All of these groups are targeted by our marketing staff.

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
We market to both the trade (principals, agents and auctioneers) and directly to the consumer. We use a mix of trade journals, exhibition marketing, public relations and direct advertising. We are rapidly establishing links with the community of over 1 million Australian expats through specialist organisations.

• How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are there any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
We have targets set for ourselves in the areas of trade penetration and uptake amongst buyers of property. We also use statistics such as memberships, time spent online, viewership of each auction etc.... to track our progress.

• What's your thought on being an aspiring entrepreneur?
As an aspiring entrepreneur, you must ask yourself a simple question. “What is your definition of success?
a) A profitable company,
b) A company with huge growth or
c) Developing cool products.
If you answered a) you are well on the way to being a successful entrepreneur. All successful entrepreneurs know that cash flow is king! If your company is growing too quickly and you don’t have the cash flow to cover your expenses your business will fail. I’ve also seen entrepreneurs fail because they want to keep building software rather than selling their existing products.

Aspiring entrepreneurs must also be a jack of all trades. When you start a new business you are the: accountant, lawyer, HR manager Marketing manager and IT manager. I would highly recommend doing courses in each of these areas before starting your business.

If your service(s) / product(s) are consumer-focused make sure you get several hours of Public Relations training. This is invaluable in refining your marketing message and making sure consumers understand your message.

• What's your thought on the start-up culture and innovation coming out of Australia?
The start-up culture and innovation in Australia is not as good as in other developed countries. The US for example has a number of government-funded mentoring programs which can make a huge difference for a start-up.

• What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation?
Provide more small business loans and grants. Reduce company tax and provide a more efficient medium for young aspiring entrepreneurs to be mentored by successful businessmen and women. An example in the US is the Small Business Administration.

• If you are given an opportunity to change the nation, what 3 things you will do?
  • Education is the silver bullet. Pay teachers more through incentive-based programs that are managed and distributed by the principals of each school.
  • More resources/funding must be focused on alternate energy sources.
  • More resources/funding for the technology sector. Because of our geographic isolation, we need to create better technology to bring us closer to the rest of the global business community.
• 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?
As part of our business, I am regularly speaking with small business owners and entrepreneurs. While there is not a dedicated time or place to meet, when we do talk, we talk business. It is critical to learn from others' experiences rather than trying to recreate the wheel. This is why I believe a government-backed medium for the mentoring of young aspiring entrepreneurs is so important.

• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
  • Do your market research. Research your target market. Not all good ideas create successful businesses.
  • Know your customers and make sure you design your service/product around them and not what you think they need.
  • Make sure you have enough funding to get market traction. In the current credit squeeze, you will not get funding for an idea easily. To get funding in the current environment you will need a growth curve and market traction.

Thanks, Gavin for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for the future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, and tech trends, check this out and our coverage on interviews can be found here


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