Podcast: Levent Künzi as a guest of Swisspreneur

* This is a digital voice. Some texts may not be pronounced perfectly.

In addition to taking a look behind the scenes at properti and the real estate industry, the rapid growth and the founding of the company with his brother, CEO & Co-Founder Levent Künzi also talks about his personal career and his success at a young age, which also had its downsides, in a new episode of the Swisspreneur podcast.

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Silvan Krähenbühl: Levent, welcome to the Swisspreneur Show it’s a pleasure to have you here today.

Levent Künzi: I’m delighted to be here, thank you very much for the invitation.

You are co-founder and CEO of properti, a technology-driven real estate company that modernizes real estate transactions. Before we talk about your story, I’d like to start with your personal background: You worked for a large real estate agent for more than ten years. So first of all, I’m curious to know what sparked your initial interest in the real estate industry?

Levent Künzi: After graduating from high school, I started as a sales agent to make a few sales and earn some money. In the process, various career opportunities developed and I had the great opportunity to develop in the real estate industry, got promoted – that’s actually how it all started.

So you started as a sales agent, in telephone sales so to speak. When did you actually realize that you are really good at what you do?

Levent Künzi: I made this development within the company, I was Management Director at the age of 23, Country Manager and then I was COO at the age of 25 and that’s how I actually developed. And after 10 years at this company, I slipped into burnout, possibly because I was also studying alongside my position as COO. That’s when I realized that work is very important on the one hand, but that you should also look after yourself properly – and yes, that’s how it went.

And then you took the next step and founded properti together with your brother, Adrian Künzi, in 2019. Can you tell us a bit more about how you finally decided to actually found a tech startup and how you went back to stress and pressure?

Levent Künzi: At that time, I actually already had two start-ups that I had founded with my brother at an earlier age, which were quite successful – the founding of properti was not planned at all at that time. However, over the past few years I have been working intensively on the topic of ‘technology and real estate’ and realized that the real estate industry in general is really outdated, that the old patterns have not been disrupted at all, when there is such a huge potential for progress – so at the end of 2019 we decided to found properti and the journey began.

Adrian Künzi and Levent Künzi

Brothers Adrian Künzi (CSO) and Levent Künzi (CEO) founded properti in November 2019.

And what did you focus on back then? What was your first idea that you wanted to realize, what was your focus?

Levent Künzi: The starting point was and is that the real estate business is complex and we want to simplify it. The focus is on making the real estate industry more accessible and transparent in order to create real added value for customers. That was actually the first thought we had when we founded the company.

If you read the mission and vision statements of companies in the real estate industry, I’m sure you’ll find these exact words on every other website. So what really sets you apart from others? Why isn’t properti just another real estate company among many?

Levent Künzi: I think there are two points that are very important: Firstly, we want to create real added value for the customer. We decided to found a company that really creates value and doesn’t just talk about it. The second point is that we are actually a software and real estate company in one. So if you develop a transaction-based platform and turn the familiar processes upside down and digitalize them, then you are no longer a run-of-the-mill brokerage firm. We’re not just thinking about selling a property and that’s it; we’re really looking to provide a 360-degree view for our clients, including buyers, tenants and sellers, and give them access to all these different real estate services on one platform.

For more information on our intelligent real estate software Propchain® and the associated portals, click here.

And you do that by helping people to rent, let, but buy or sell real estate, serving both sides, right?

Levent Künzi: Exactly, we serve both sides and also help people with removals, cleaning services, mortgages, renovations and so on.

In an internal discussion, you once mentioned or picked up on the perfect storm. Can you explain to me exactly what that means and how the ‘perfect storm’ relates to your business?

Levent Künzi: Real estate agents and brokers still work manually for the most part at the moment. You may have a great website or already use smart software solutions, but the processes are still very manual. We believe, also in light of the Covid crisis that has boosted digitalization, that the real estate industry is facing a perfect storm of rapid technological change. Tech agents like Properti are bringing the traditional real estate business into the digital world. We use tech and build ecosystems to offer customers a service that is always available and therefore the best customer experience. Technologies require corresponding financial resources that smaller brokers cannot afford. Instead, they can join tech agents like Properti. The changeover is bitter for many, but in the end everyone benefits.

And how exactly do you do that with the technology? What is your ‘unfair advantage’? Is it really the platform? Or what does your business do to make it easier, to make it better?

Levent Künzi: There are two approaches: the first is that we currently have real estate agents working with and for us. We are already in the process of automating up to 80 percent of all processes. The idea, or our ‘unfair advantage’, is that the brokers can really invest their time in advising customers and we organize the rest, so to speak. As a second approach, we may sooner or later open up our platform to external brokers who are not employed, a kind of ‘partner agents’. As you can see, we are really trying to improve the business, simplify it and generate added value. The big advantage is certainly that we are a software and real estate company in one.

I even tested it myself once and spoke to a broker who said he saved a lot of time on administrative follow-up. So it seems that you really are generating time so that more real estate transactions can be completed in less time without compromising on quality.

Levent Künzi: Exactly, that’s the point. Our brokers manage between 35 and 40 properties per person, whereas a ‘conventional broker’ manages between 10, 12, let’s say 15 properties – and that’s a significant difference. We also offer virtual viewings, as you have tested yourself, where we assess the prospective tenant to see if you, Silvan, could be the perfect tenant/buyer for us. So we also work with scoring and grading to find the perfect match for our customers.

If you read the mission and vision statements of companies in the real estate industry, I’m sure you’ll find these exact words on every other website. So what really sets you apart from others? Why isn’t properti just another real estate company among many?

Levent Künzi: It always depends on the market. In Switzerland, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the right offers. That’s why we also work with our data analytics team to collect various data from which we can create the best value for our property owners.

If you only get the offers that no one else can sell or rent, you might not have much more success than the others, right? So what is your advantage? How do you get access to the best offers? Because that, I can well imagine, is ultimately the knock-out criterion.

Levent Künzi: That brings us back to two aspects: Firstly, we have the human component, which is strengthened by technology. One strategy we pursue is to brand our brokers as experts in the real estate industry, so to speak. You are the experts and we are responsible for the rest, such as lead generation, branding or PR work. We therefore have several generators to get in touch with the property owners. Then there is the quality aspect: it is important to us that our brokers deliver the best quality, that this is measurable and really creates the added value we are talking about. We therefore follow product innovation and do not work with fixed fees. For example, there is no entry fee for the services. The customer only pays if we are successful, so working with us is truly risk-free.

Another thing you mentioned earlier was bootstrapping. I think in the first two years you bootstrapped the company completely and only recently you raised a seed round – how difficult was it to bootstrap the company in the beginning? Because that is a great achievement.

Levent Künzi: Bootstrapped until the end of 2021. Up to that point, my brother and I had invested everything ourselves, with the help of family and friends. From the very beginning, it was really important for us to always reinvest and concentrate on the technological part. But I think the reason for our rapid growth was the team. We could not have achieved this without this team! At the same time, we then decided to bring investors on board at a later date.

So why was it the right decision to take on investors instead of continuing to work with a bootstrap?

Levent Künzi: At this point, we realized that we could really have an impact on the market. So there was this crazy growth that we achieved with bootstrapping and then the decision that we really wanted to grow faster and expand properti.

Haven’t you given up a certain amount of freedom and flexibility by bringing investors on board?

Levent Künzi: No, I am very grateful for our investors who believe in us and advise us. We also have a very good Advisory Board and I think it is always important to communicate honestly with each other, so I don’t feel that we have given up any freedom.

What will you use the money for and what is the plan for the platform? How will this develop?

Levent Künzi: We invest 80 percent in the technology of the platform, the rest goes into marketing and so on. The current focus is on fine-tuning the platform and the associated portals and making a better version of it. The project is still in its infancy, although the four portals already exist. In the next step, we will improve these and make them more scalable.

You set up the company together with your brother, with whom you have already worked. Is this an advantage or are there also disadvantages?

Levent Künzi: Adrian and I work very well together. Everyone has a clear role, tasks and responsibilities. One of the biggest advantages is certainly that people trust each other. And yes, who else should I trust if not my brother?

How do you divide up the roles? What are you focusing on and what is your brother focusing on?

Levent Künzi: My brother acts as Chief Sales Officer, so he is really responsible for all sales. As CEO, I take care of the rest, together with my C-level and management team.

If we now look at your figures, you have already completed more than 2,000 successful real estate brokerages, your team is growing rapidly and you have already completed a second seed round. What’s next for you, what are the plans for Properti?

Levent Künzi: After the first pre-seed round with 1.25 million francs, we raised the second seed round five months later and second seed round five months later and raised another 6 million francs . We now have over 125 employees, which is crazy. In the next step, we will focus on adapting the processes and communication channels for the team and on scaling the company.

The play button takes you to the full length of the podcast episode on Swisspreneuer – listen now:

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