Most homebuyers begin their search online, and there’s no shortage of websites available to help locate the perfect property. Today’s consumer can look for a new home online by researching dozens of criteria that include everything from lot size to local schools.
With so many ways to search, the founders of a scrappy startup named Diggsy are banking on the fact that less is more. Jesse Friedman and partner John Clark have designed Diggsy as a streamlined alternative that emphasizes fast results and an easy-to-use interface over other features.
That focus on usability and design are no coincidence. Friedman began his career as a graphic designer, and he remembers one of his first lessons in design: "Keep it simple, stupid." That principle influences the look and feel of Diggsy’s home page, which resembles Google.com in its minimalism.
Friedman, who opened the Cobbs Friedman advertising agency in Jupiter, Fla., six years ago, was introduced to the real estate industry in 2007 when his firm was hired to create a website for a local brokerage, Platinum Properties.
That project evolved into a business, Brokerage Leader, that he and Clark still run today.
They decided to pare down the website platform they had developed for their Brokerage Leader clients to focus on the essentials and, in January 2011, they founded Diggsy. The site is still in development and is available on a limited basis in Central Florida and South Florida, with plans to go nationwide soon.
I asked Friedman about starting his third business and what’s in store for Diggsy:
Q: Once you had the idea, how long did it take you to launch the first version of Diggsy?
A: The idea for Diggsy was rattling around in my head for a long time, so I knew the direction I wanted to take with it and even how it should look. Initial development went pretty quick — around two months of development time.
Q: Are you doing any user testing or market research?
A: Besides analyzing data nonstop, our market research is pretty grassroots. There is a lot of standing over people’s shoulders while they search on Diggsy and competitors’ websites to analyze user behavior.
Q: What’s your timeline for rolling out Diggsy in other areas?
A: Currently, Diggsy.com is showing nearly 100,000 listings covering both coasts, from Central Florida down to Miami. Within the next 60 days we will be adding the majority of the available real estate across the U.S.
Q: Where does Diggsy get its listings data?
A: Diggsy will initially obtain listing data from ListHub, which syndicates a majority of available listings. While its feed does not cover every listing, our hope is that agents and brokers will want to syndicate their listings on our site, as we will be featuring them so prominently on their listings.
Q: How is Diggsy attracting new users? What’s your marketing strategy?
A: We currently have a great partnership with a public relations firm that will help in getting the Diggsy word out. In addition, I have a strong background in search engine optimization and marketing that should aid in pushing users through from the search engines.
Q: What new product features are you working on?
A: The current state of Diggsy.com is in its simplest form. What we hope to really set us apart is the layer of personalization that we will be adding. Without getting into too much detail, search results will be tailored to each user based on a variety of factors, including search behavior and other less common search input.
Q: What are some of the challenges you’re facing in growing Diggsy?
A: With Diggsy.com our main goals are to keep the site fast and easy to use. Speed is a huge challenge. With every bit of functionality we add, it has to be judged for speed and usability. We have developed a few features that went right out the door simply because it slowed down the site too much.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
A: We had our first press last week and I had this permanent grin on my face all day. Being able to build something, and people taking an interest in it, is truly awesome. While we have not made it to the money part yet, I would imagine that would be nice, too.
Q: How do you plan to make money?
A: Diggsy.com has many avenues of income that will evolve over time. Mainly, the site is ad-driven, which we would eventually like to turn into a real estate ad network.
We are going to have the ability to target hyperlocally and will be looking for potential advertisers such as local homebuilders, handymen and such that will be relevant to the location or property being viewed.
We will also have an agent and brokerage sponsorship model. While agents’ listings will remain their own and we will be featuring them prominently for free, there will be other opportunities for them to increase their coverage and reach.
We are (looking for) agents to sign up for beta access to our agents program at http://www.diggsy.com/agent-alpha-subscribe.aspx.
Q: What advice would you offer to someone who was considering starting their own real estate startup?
A: The best advice I have for people looking to get in to real estate tech is to make sure you align yourself with the right people: partners with your same vision who understand what you are trying to do and are the best at what they do.
Want to recommend a real estate tech startup for an upcoming Startup Scene? Send your ideas to Natalie Fonseca: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natalie Fonseca is the co-founder and executive producer of Tech Policy Summit and the Privacy Identity Innovation (pii) conference, and the content producer for Inman News’ Data Summit and Real Estate Connect. You can follow her at @TechPolicy.