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Building an Online Real Estate Business From Brazil: Brian Requarth, CEO of VivaReal (Part 6)

Posted on Monday, Oct 13th 2014

Sramana: By the time he invested in your business, had he already sold the business in England?

Brian Requarth: Yes, he already had an exit in 2007, three weeks before the financial crisis. He was 27 years old. He sold it for a lot of money and when he came down to Colombia, I told him that I want to transition from the old business of websites to this new business. The business was break-even at that time, but we were hardly making any money from our old business with the websites and the real estate agents in the US. We had to change our whole model and we had to launch these websites in other countries. He financed a lot of the transition. In 2007, he wrote a big check for a couple of hundred thousand dollars to enable us to make the transition into the marketplace model in Latin America. I had plans earlier of going with him to build the business in England but then I met my wife.

So he went to England to build this business with our other roommates while I went on my road trip to Latin America. He built this highly successful business, sold it, and then I started to get some more traction. I had a new idea, he invested in my business, and now I’m going to invest in his business too. He’s currently the CEO of a company in San Francisco.

Sramana: Back in 2011, you had a round of Angel financing. How much was this round in which Waldorf and others invested?

Brian Requarth: It was a million dollars.

Sramana: So you have a million dollar investment in 2011, what are the major milestones after that round?

Brian Requarth: That enabled us to build a large inventory. In 2011 or 2012, we became the leader in terms of number of properties. We accelerated our growth in terms of properties.

Sramana: What was the market at that point?

Brian Requarth: This whole time, we were going against incumbents that have been around for ten years at that time.

Sramana: Are they online incumbents?

Brian Requarth: Both. There was this major newspaper which owned an online play but it was into horizontal classifieds. There was also a pure play real estate business. I remember, when I tried to raise money, I got turned down often by many investors. In 2011 while trying to raise Angel funding, I met one of the largest tech companies and pitched to them several times, but they didn’t invest. I had a development team in Colombia and I tried to raise a million dollars at a $3 million pre-money valuation and they made an offer to buy the company for just 90%. They were this multi-billion dollar fund with an incredible reputation. They dropped in at my office and said that they had a huge stake in our competitor, which already has had a lot of traction and had been around for ten years. At that point, I thought my life was over. It was quite an emotional moment.

Sramana: Given that they were such a well-funded incumbent backed by major investors, what was your competitive strategy?

Brian Requarth: I don’t want to get into it but we’re just more scrappy, we grew our listings faster, we did a lot of things right. I’m going to have to save that for a later date for you because it’s still part of the reason why we’re successful.

Sramana: Bottom line, you managed to survive and managed to build inventory and somehow managed to compete with these incumbents and get to build the business at this point. We are talking 2011-2012 when you’re growing revenues. Did you hit a million dollars in revenue by 2012, then?

Brian Requarth: Yes, I think so. I’m not going to tell you my revenue today but I can tell you that it’s in tens of millions today.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Building an Online Real Estate Business From Brazil: Brian Requarth, CEO of VivaReal
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