Innovation. Urbytus: The Home Owners Association (Communities of property owners) web platform
In 2005 to 2007, I kept reviewing how I can improve the way things work at our Home Owners Association (HOAs as they are known in the US) or otherwise known as communities of property owners or (Comunidades de Propietarios in Spanish) and their respective management companies that ran these communities. (see what is Urbytus)
I had started working on a web service for our own community and I talked to many friends and clients about the online program I had in mind for my community and the services I could provide through it. Some people were against the idea and others found it a wonderful idea. Internet access, broadband and penetration was still low and smart phones were still not in everyone’s hand, but the more I talked about it, the more it was clear that this was a sector in need of change.
In my mind there was and still is no doubt that many of the administration companies are using inefficient systems and methods to run their business. Just because it works, doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved. Many of the outdated systems still use paper formats that have long been overdue for a change, coupled with low level of communication between management and owners, it is not difficult to envisage the need for a change.
Of course, change is often met with resistance. During our initial approach in 2011, the excuse we heard over and over from communities, administrators and VCs, was that not everyone is using the internet or has email. In reality they were referring to the 30% minority who did not have an email but are now using a smart phone. In reality it was just a resistance to change and short term mindset.
Changing a system that they were used to inefficient or not, for as long as they can make it last, while suffering economically and ignoring the cost of waste in human resources.
It took just a little longer than I had expected, but change is inevitable at times. It did not take long for property owners in Home Owners Association asking for a web service. And after all you have to provide what the client asks for, and so the administrators had to look for ways to improve efficiency and provide the required information on some sort of a web service. By early 2013, with ever increasing speed and access to internet, foreign and Spanish owners alike were asking for their community information to be accessible and available via the web and to have dynamic tools that allowed to manage their prime investment.
Administrators and the Administration companies were now faced with customers that not only request access to these services online, but only regarded it as a natural thing to have. The change happened faster, than many could have imagined. In the past two years, I have seen communities change Administration companies for lack of service, communication, access to information, lack of transparency and many more reasons, including price.
One of my favourite quotes is from Jeff Bezos “If you don’t destroy your own business, someone else will do it for you”. Nothing lasts and everything will change, so in true Bezos style we planned on a 7 year horizon, seeing our competitors out the race and staying in the circle until the market was ripe.
At Urbytus we did not want to create just an online version of an offline software, we were not interested in creating yet another social networking platform. We looked at Why things got left undone, challenging the current systems and creating new ways to work with the job lists and communication flow.
Everyone will tell you that innovation is hard and it was the same for us. While no VC or investor believed in our idea at first, now our statistics speak for themselves. Next Door our US competitor is valued at over US$ 2 billion without any revenue, while we have a validated product, revenue and users.
If you are an entrepreneur and you truly believe in your vision and have done your maths, business plan and continuously test and tweak it, then my advice is don’t listen to VCs or your friends. Urbytus has been one of the most challenging projects I have taken on but I am glad I ignored all those who said don’t do it.
Are you a property owner? Part of the committee members or president of your Home Owners Association? Then you should be thinking of a communication platform like Urbytus. Sign up today and try it for yourself.