Boubou Guiro is the CEO of Onvedeo.
What’s your favorite activity outside of work and why?
I’m quite the photography buff. I believe taking a photograph is a way of defining history. It has the ability to capture thoughts and emotions from an alternate perspective. It can relay the meaning of a place, a moment or even a person at times.
Outside of that, I’m a geek by nature. I can spend hours rebuilding a computer or reading about emerging technology.
What’s your favorite classic piece of literature and why?
“Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo. One good lesson from this masterpiece is to always enjoy the little you have.
Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?
Being originally from Africa, my definition of family is quite different. In Senegal, anybody loosely related to you is family, and by that definition I’m certain I am related to several entrepreneurs.
How’d you come up with the idea for your startup?
By agonizing through a real estate search a few years back and being turned off by the experience. Video, I knew then, would be the solution to my problem. What most people don’t know about Onvedeo is the problem we are solving is much bigger than what we have shared so far, much more “advanced.”
Describe a time when you felt particularly insecure about the future of your company. How did you bounce back?
This morning, yesterday and the day before. I think, as a startup, it’s necessary to feel insecure about the future. If we were to think otherwise at this stage, it would be presumptuous and potentially diminish our drive.
On the flip side, this morning, yesterday and the day before were also the times when I’ve felt the most confident about our solutions to the problems we are solving.
What would you describe as your company’s biggest victory since launching and why?
I think our biggest victory so far has been our ability to do so much with so little. We have built a platform that can generate 100,000 videos in one day and are directly competing with companies that have raised more than 50 times as much money as we have. The fact they are now copying some of our features and functionalities is quite flattering. :-)
What’s been the biggest obstacle your business has encountered, and how have you dealt with it?
We are constantly facing new obstacles. The biggest challenge we’ve faced up to this point has been introducing a product to the market that is solving a problem that no other product on the market is solving. How do you tell a compelling story with all the data currently available around each property? We are doing things differently and therefore need to evangelize as part of our go-to-market strategy.
What puzzles you most about the industry?
I am still puzzled by the (conflicting) dynamics between agents, brokers, portals, MLSs, etc. Everybody wins if the end consumer who is looking to buy or sell a home is happy. This is something that is often forgotten.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about building a business since launching your company?
The one mistake I see a lot of entrepreneurs make is believing their great idea will make for a great company. An idea is nothing more than a thought — the execution is what defines success. I’ve seen horrible ideas ending up in great success because they were executed with a targeted goal.
If I told you 10 years ago that a website that allows you to post “blog posts” (which is what we would have called them then) with a maximum of 140 characters would be one of the most successful tech products in the world, you would have called me crazy.
Our goal as a company is simple: We want to leverage the tons of data that you would have spent a lot of time studying or even just disregarded, and form it into a video that is less than two minutes long that you will actually enjoy watching. The sky is the limit.
What’s the most overrated real estate technology?
Real estate data might be the most important real estate feature these days but also the most overrated. Big data is a hot topic, and I believe it will define the future of many industries, real estate being one them, but having said that, it is not the “end all be all” unless it is leveraged properly.
You can throw tons of data at me and do the exact opposite of your goal by confusing me even more. Data should be used to tell a story and to add more context to a subject. It shouldn’t be there for the sake of being there, like how it’s displayed too often these days on many real estate websites.
How will the role of the real estate agent change over the next five years?
I think the role of the real estate agent will change quite a bit over the next few years. For one, I don’t think an agent will be instrumental in “finding” a home anymore. I believe agents will be the data providers that will be needed in every real estate transaction.
You might find a home on your own, but the agent value will come into play by knowing if it is a suitable home, how much it should be valued, what the neighborhood is like, etc. Those who understand this important shift in their role as real estate professionals will be highly successful.
What motivates you more: power or money?
Freedom is my main motivator. Freedom to solve the problems I want to solve and to do what I want when I want. Although I haven’t taken a vacation in three years and work crazy hours, I still consider myself to be lazy. But from my perspective, lazy is good. It’s the “lazy” people who tend to find the fastest way to a solution.
What is your biggest professional fear?
Failure. You wake up every morning thinking about it and go to bed every night with it on your mind. It’s a fixture in my thoughts along with the thirst for success.
What is your biggest personal fear?
Forgetting my past, my origins. I think our biggest assets in life are the memories we build. They make us stronger and smarter. They are our best teachers. Nothing better than a past mistake to help me navigate though future mistakes.
Whom do you respect most in the industry?
I respect many people in this industry, and for fear of omitting someone important I won’t mention any names. I do respect forward-thinking individuals who see change and progress as a natural part of the evolution of the real estate and tech industry. Like Albert Einstein said so well: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
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