Roland Ligtenberg, the CEO of HouseCall, explains where he came up with the idea for the app, what he does to unwind and what he thinks is the most overrated real estate technology.
Roland Ligtenberg is the VP of growth and business development at HouseCall; he promoted HouseCall by dressing as Buddy, a character played by Will Farrell in the movie “Elf,” and delivering Christmas trees.
Describe what you do in one sentence: I’m constantly looking for new scalable ways to get HouseCall into the hands of home service professionals and homeowners.
Degree, school (if applicable): Economics, University of California, San Diego
Location: San Diego/San Francisco, California
What’s your favorite activity outside of work and why?
I love to travel and make sure to find time every year to get out of the country. I think it’s easy to get caught up in normal day-to-day life, and traveling and experiencing new cultures really helps put things into perspective.
What’s your favorite classic piece of literature and why?
“Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand; it’s a classic piece that illustrates the beauty and dangers of pure capitalism. As an entrepreneur, there are a lot of analogies that can be made between being a “creator” and fighting/disregarding “regulators.”
Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?
I first came to the U.S. when I was only a couple years old, and what brought my family to the States was my dad’s new position leading a technology research team at Bell Labs. During elementary school, we moved to Silicon Valley, where my dad went on to found two businesses, which both went on to achieve IPOs. Being in this environment growing up has definitely helped foster my entrepreneurial spirit.
How’d you come up with the idea for your startup?
Like many startups, HouseCall was conceived out of a problem that every person, including my co-founders and me, experience when trying to find a reputable home service professional. Who do you ask for a recommendation? Where do you find them? How much do you have to pay? Do you tip? Why don’t they call back? Are they good? All questions that to this day haven’t been able to be answered easily till now — building HouseCall was our solution.
Describe a time when you felt particularly insecure about the future of your company. How did you bounce back?
When doing a startup and running your own business, there are lots of points along the way where there is no clear path — until it just appears. Bouncing back is more about perseverance and relentlessness than trying to look for a magical panacea.
What would you describe as your company’s biggest victory since launching and why?
When you reach a point where you can be standing in a bar, airport or at your favorite lunch spot, and hearing people talk about and share the product you’ve built, that counts as our biggest victory. This led to our partnership with real estate brokers and agents, which has allowed them to not only share HouseCall with their network of clients, so that they can be scheduled and contacted easily, but also to their preferred service providers to get on board the marketplace and use HouseCall as a tool to run their business as well.
Ligtenberg in Switzerland engaged in two of his favorite hobbies, traveling and photography.
What puzzles you most about the industry?
In the real estate and home services industry, there has always been an opaqueness around pricing. The appraisal of properties has always seemed so subjective, the pricing of getting a simple toilet unclogged so murky; with the availability and ease of access to data, both industries seem like they can become more objectively measured and priced.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about building a business since launching your company?
No matter how much technology you throw at a problem, at the end of the day in a services business, the quality of face to face and person to person trumps all. Facilitating this interaction through providing transparency in the HouseCall marketplace is the key to success.
What’s the most overrated real estate technology?
Companies that provide and charge for a technology, app or website for a Realtor to simply share a directory of recommended service providers is only a small step up from sharing a PDF file.
At HouseCall we give the ability to interact, schedule, pay and rate the recommended providers all from within the app, in addition to offering a tool to the home service professionals to help them run their entire business — all at no cost, free.
How will the role of the real estate agent change over the next five years?
As much as new technologies are trying to disintermediate the agent, the agent’s network, relationships and interpersonal skills will never decline in value. Agents will need to learn to adapt and use the tools technologies will create, and those who do will continue to be as successful as ever.
What motivates you more: power or money?
Neither, although both are a result of success. Freedom is the true motivator — the ability to do what I want, when I want, which can be obtained through success. Success happens when you can truly solve someone’s problem with an elegant solution and get it into the hands of everyone. By helping others, you are helping yourself — with freedom comes happiness.
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