We speak to the founders of Isqan on the road to creating what could be Egypt's biggest proptech accelerant to date.
The real estate industry – similar to almost every industry worldwide – has had an unprecedented reckoning this year. Be it shifting, pivoting to or launching with tech-enabled solutions, property sales and rental platforms have had to adapt to this pandemic by embracing the sheer dominance of tech. So how do newly launched proptech startups fare in global pandemic? Namely in a consumer market that is willing to venture into e-commerce for low-involvement products, but still sceptical about veering into the bigger online buys, such as property.
Isqan, an Egyptian proptech startup that just launched two weeks ago led by founders Karim Kazem and Ali Ezzat, can stand to enlighten on how not only to manoeuvre the market, but also how establish the somewhat niche space they occupy as the norm when it comes to property renting and purchasing online in Egypt. The already a few websites and platforms that occupy similar spaces, but each boast a different focus, criteria and features; and Isqan’s slate is definitely geared to catch many a consumer’s attention.
“The whole story started about four years, when Karim was off in Dubai working in a brokerage. His job was to run marketing and lead generation for the company,” Ali Ezzat, co-founder of Isqan tells Startup Scene. “What almost immediately piqued his interest is how brokerage firms in a developed economy are so reliant on platforms, and how that results in a mass amount of leads. So the subsequent thought that follows is why not bring that to Egypt?”
Kazem and Ezzat are far from just two partners in a venture. The two have been friends since their days in school, and have since amassed a great deal of experience that when Kazem approached Ezzat with the idea, it was an immediate yes. “The pitch was to create a portal for real estate in Egypt that streamlines the process,” Ezzat elaborates. “I myself had no tight grasp of the market in Egypt, so there was a necessary phase of hardcore research that went into immediate action. From there, it became evident that while, yes, we might not be introducing an entirely new platform, but there is still yet to be a household name within proptech platforms.”
While Ezzat doesn’t hail from a robust real estate background, his line of expertise did instead majorly makeup for what is one of Isqan’s biggest sells: its user experience. It’s entirely too common for when someone in Egypt’s looking for a new place, they’d phone up a friend that has a cousin that might have the contact a for a ‘good broker’. This culture’s all too prevalent and, while not faulty, can definitely be spruced so that no friend or cousin are dragged into the mix.
“The goal was simple: how do we get homeowners or brokers to list properties, and for people to browse them in the easiest way possible? We built a team that is wholly made of tech mavens, that then created a website that is a visually and practically enabled to offer the upmost refined experience,” Kazem adds. “Be it residential, commercial, villas, apartments or land, it’s all there and available to be accessed by only a few clicks and toggles.”
On whether it was an obstacle course to introduce the Egyptian market to Isqan’s offerings, the two founders were fairly confident in that its adoption isn’t the biggest challenge they’re set to face at all. Both entrepreneurs are riding this collective wave of users familiarising themselves day by day with online buying, regardless of the scope of the purchase. However, Isqan has already staked their claim in the proptech game by debuting with a six-figure investment in its pre-seed round, led by an undisclosed angel investor.
“There really wasn’t this excruciating process of having to acquaint users with the concept,” Kazem notes. “We’ll count ourselves lucky enough that we pierced the market at a time when the only challenge we’re facing is getting the Egyptian market to orient themselves with Isqan, and not the basis of our platform as a whole. As for how to get brokerage firms to trust an up-and-comer, the technicalities spoke for themselves enough to lure them in. Our backend adds tremendous value to their operations, the leads we provide help them reach crucial conclusions for listings, such as which properties perform better, which areas are more frequently searched for and so on. This is all offered to them in a dashboard, and in turn leads to Isqan catering to all stakeholders.”
Just as the COVID era has been a harsh ravager to many industries, it has been a shiny beam for any service that, not only digitises experiences completely such as say edtech, but also for ones that digitise fundamental aspects that allow for life to keep on churning in the physical world. “As with anything that sees a digital transformation, there is this period of people getting used to the change, and realising how easier and more beneficial it is,” adds Ezzat. “Perhaps one of the few good things to come out of this year, is that it forced the world to go digital, which basically laid down the welcome mat for us to enter the market. Buying a house is probably the biggest, most daunting decision a person could experience throughout their life. So offering a digital leeway for that to happen, to help someone find their dream house, or the perfect office space is what we’re trying to do, and it’s all coming together greatly.”
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