Interview – Movebubble, Logan Hall & Aidan Rushby
A collaborative platform, the Movebubble community lets owners and renters communicate directly using technology to replace what was traditionally done by agents. From listing a property, booking viewings, making and accepting an offer, creating and signing a rental agreement to paying rent and deposits, Movebubble lets you do everything in one place without added complication and the cost of a middle person. Once the user finds and negotiates an agreement for a chosen property, a one off £50 fee is paid to reserve it and remove it from the marketplace. We caught up with founders, Aidan Rushby, a former property agent and marketer Logan Hall…
What is the concept of Movebubble?
A: Movebubble is a customer collaborative platform enabling property owners and renters to move, manage and maintain their homes from anywhere in the world and on any device.
The business cuts out the letting agents from the rental market; aren’t you going to annoy a lot of people?
L: We would almost say the opposite. From talking with our customers and a general survey of the market it is easy to see there is a lot of discontent within the industry, so actually we are aiming to make a lot of people very happy because there is a realistic alternative to what currently exists. I don’t doubt that agents will be a little unhappy, but that’s just healthy competition.
You’ve just acquired a further £900k funding from private equity investors in the UK; how are you planning on investing the money into the business?
A: This is predominantly for growth in London, growing our user base and developing the product.
When you heard the news, how did you celebrate?
A: It’s a weird one because securing the funding was one of many things that we were pursuing, and so when you achieve a target (our funding in this instance) it just feels like one more little step on the big journey. We are so focused on our users’ needs that it seems premature to celebrate at this stage.
What do you think investors see in the business and you both as entrepreneurs?
A: Investors want to be able to understand the idea. They need to feel confident that there is a market, and that there is a profitable ‘unique’ business model. Investors are obviously looking for something that is truly disruptive, and that will fundamentally change the way things are done. I think that is what they saw in Movebubble. They are also investing in the people and the team. We are extremely lucky to have a fantastic community, team and investors that share the vision.
What does owning your own business mean to you?
L: “This is about fixing a major issue, and making owners’ and renters’ lives easier. Personally, it is also exciting to be in a fast paced environment with an awesome team, all focused on the same thing: to make moving easier.
A: The opportunity to be surrounded by A+ players, who are ultimately at the top of their game is great, because they challenge us as much (if not more) than we challenge them. One of the biggest influencers of Movebubble is Jack Ryan, our CTO who leads the development team and is doing some truly brilliant work.
How did the two of you come together to create a business?
L: Aidan and I met on our MBA, and ‘clicked’ immediately. Aidan had already had an idea in this space, and developed this with Tony and I into what it is now. However, the idea and business is ever-changing and is now really driven by the enthusiasm we see in the team surrounding us and what our customers are telling us every day.
How do you find it working with each other?
L: Aidan and I work incredibly closely with one another. Having a friendship means we can be brutally honest with one another, which means we don’t waste time and can resolve any issues quickly so they don’t affect Movebubble. One of the great things about working together is that we don’t try and compete for roles. Aidan is CEO, and a great one. I am a CMO and focused on happy customers. It’s important that we don’t overlap as this is a waste of valuable resources.
Have you had any regrets so far or have there been any lessons learnt?
A: (laughs) Many! I think the one main lesson we have learned is ‘think big, deliver smaller, release faster’. If your smaller releases work you can develop them, but don’t run before you can walk. However, having said that, maintaining a grander vision is crucial to getting buy in from investors, team and customers. You have to have that BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)!
What was you marketing strategy to begin with and has this changed at all since starting?
L: This is, I am sorry to say, under wraps; we cannot let the cat out of the bag on this one, but to partly answer your question, it is always shifting. We aim to be as agile on the marketing as we are on the product. We are not sure there is much of a gap anymore between product and marketing, if anything they heavily overlap.
So you’re launching in London; why did you pick this location?
A: London is where 120% of our focus is right now! We have plans for additional global releases, but we’re focusing on London first. ‘Property-wise’ London makes the most sense within the UK.
Personally, what kind of issues have you experienced when renting properties?
L: Oh wow! There are so many. Aidan has worked in property, and has been exposed more than most to the sharp end of the industry. Ultimately I think the main issues always come down to cost, and in some instances poor customer service. Don’t get us wrong, some agents are great, but some are not. We feel that people (renters) want to deal with people (owners) directly.
How exactly does Movebubble attempt to address these or similar problems people may have?
A: Well it’s pretty simple: we have made the cost of moving negligible and we have empowered owners to offer renters great customer service, and be praised for it via a two-way referencing system. If you are a bad owner (or renter for that matter) you won’t last very long in Movebubble. We really want to enable the ideal of self-regulation and let people clean up the market themselves, rather than wait for government intervention.
Once the business is successful and you have enough money to celebrate, what sort of property could you imagine yourselves in?
A: Let’s just wait and see on that one. Again, we have an attitude of ‘let’s walk before we can run’. We have a lot of work to do before we can even think about anything like that.
Do you think the UK is going to experience another housing bubble?
L: (smiles) I don’t think that we will see a bubble in London. It seems that production of property has began to pick up once more, which should ease the supply side issue. Prices will go up; more people are set to be in London by 2020, so demand will keep increasing, but I think in line with standard supply-demand economics. However, all buyers should make sure that they understand the market dynamics, and have a well-read opinion as to what is going on.
A: I think that buyers need to understand the additional burden of increasing interest rates, and make sure that they are going to be able to cope with increased repayments.
What is your view of the future of the UKs property market?
L: We think that it is going to be a healthy one.
A: The underlying dynamics are shifting, with up to 40% of Londoners predicted to be in the private rental market past 2020. Because of the availability of enterprise level cloud based technology, consumers are going to get far better value for money, and be able to engage with products that they understand and are mobile. This will fit with what ‘Generation Rent’ are used to. This is where we believe that Movebubble will be leading the way. So in all, costs are going to be reduced and value added… sounds like a great thing!
London’s population is set to increase to over ten million by 2015; how do you think this will affect housing?
L: As suggested above, it will obviously increase demand, but as long as supply can increase in parity then prices should not get out of control. This is the challenge faced by our business and political leaders.
A: I think that increasing transport links will act as pressure valves, and enable people to live further afield. One of the exciting things that technology enables is more remote workers, and we think that businesses will have to either accept that or pay people more to live in London.
What do you think this will mean for the rest of the UK?
L: We believe that what happens in London will affect the rest of the UK. London is one of the greatest cities on the planet, and is a true international city. There are statistics now that demonstrate ripples in real estate valuations around the UK, based on what is going on in London. So overall, what is good for London is good for the UK. There are many sides of the argument on this one, and some are very interesting indeed, like enabling London to set its own local tax rates.
Okay so what do you like to do in your free time?
A: I am a bit of petrol head and love classical rally cars. I used to do this with my dad when I was younger and he taught me how to drive properly, and whilst driving we used to discuss business a lot. It must have rubbed off! At the moment though I don’t have much time for anything other than Movebubble.
L: I like to box, read and ride my fixed gear bike. I am too far from the surf, which is my main passion, but this will come later in life (I hope). One of my main passions in life is people. Whether it’s meeting, talking to or teaching people, I am very sociable. I find myself speaking at a lot of events these days.
Apart from financial success, what else would you like to accomplish in life?
A: I would just love to be the driving force in growing a business and truly disrupting an archaic industry globally. I just want to know that I have made people’s lives easier.
L: I just want to be a better surfer, learn to play the piano and spend my life with my family.
What can we expect of the business in the next couple of years?
L: Expansion and some really exciting products.
A: All I can say is watch this space!
Finally, can you give our readers some tips on moving house and renting in general (aside from the obvious)?
L: This is a big question but in short, make sure you know who owns the property and that they are great owners. The last thing that you want is to need your boiler to be fixed, only to find out that they don’t care. You can ask for references from them, as much as they can from you.
A: Please make sure you go and check out Movebubble, and if you have any feedback we are all ears. It’s a platform for you after all!
For more information, visit www.movebubble.com.