The Asia Tech Podcast loved having Mario Peng in the studio at True Digital Park (We now have another studio at Seven Peaks Software!) to talk about PropertyScout.  We had Mario on the show back in September 2020 during the earliest stages of PropertyScout and with all of the changes and growth the company has experienced, we had to have him on again for an update.
 
Some of the topics we covered this time:
  • There were over 150,000 listings on PropertyScout at the time of the recording
  • Multiple listings and some of the challenges PropertyScout is solving around co-broking
  • ProperyScout’s core is the transactional marketplace
  • The importance of setting up standard operating procedures
  • The necessity of a culture of trust and transparency
  • Building versus buying specific skill sets
  • Developing a technology platform for exponential growth
  • Doubling down on property management
  • Delivering a great customer experience requires solutions to multiple problems
  • Fundraising can be fun!

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:13
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Mario Peng, the founder and the CEO of PropertyScout. By the way, I love that name. Thank you. It’s really the name has come along really nicely. Thank you so much for coming on the show. And I’m really getting used to this idea of doing these face to face recordings. And I really appreciate the fact that you’ve come here to sit in the studio and do this because just the energy is different.

Mario Peng 0:42
Perfect. Thank you very much for inviting me actually.

Michael Waitze 0:45
It’s my pleasure.

Mario Peng 0:46
I love coming here. You know, I was able to ride a motorbike here. I love to do that.

Michael Waitze 0:50
Did you ride your own motorbike?

Mario Peng 0:51
Of course.

Michael Waitze 0:52
What do you have?

Mario Peng 0:53
Okay, I exaggerated a scooter.

Michael Waitze 0:56
Good enough for me. I had a scooter too

Mario Peng 0:58
Like ENMAX Oh, quite fast. Those are nice. 50 cc Yeah.

Michael Waitze 1:03
I had a 125 Vespa actually.

Mario Peng 1:05
Okay, nice.

Michael Waitze 1:06
I still long from my what was it a CBR 400 that I had in Tokyo. Dangerous? Yeah, it was actually more dangerous in Tokyo. This is the thing that people don’t understand in Bangkok. So in Thailand, it’s dangerous to drive outside of Bangkok. But in Bangkok, the traffic’s not moving. Is it? Is it dangerous? You think? Yeah, sometimes

Mario Peng 1:27
it is moving fast. At least where I drive.

Michael Waitze 1:32
I guess. And when you get down to this part of town, particularly at this time of day, there’s not that much traffic.

Mario Peng 1:37
Correct. I was able to drive quite fast. Yeah. Yeah. So

Michael Waitze 1:41
my partner has told me in no uncertain terms that I’m not writing my best bet anymore. Oh, okay. Yeah. So I have to make a choice. I’ve chosen partnership as opposed to Vesper ship. Anyway, I cannot believe it’s been about 18 months, since the last time. It’s not the last time you and I spoke for sure. But it’s definitely the last time you were on the show. And I think you’ve been on the show. One of my other shows as well. So we’ve done this a couple of times, I kind of want to skip the part where we get a little bit of your background. But I do want to refresh my memory a little bit. Where are you from? Because I always forget his from Switzerland. Your Swiss? Yes. Yeah. That is awesome. And how long have you been in Thailand?

Mario Peng 2:22
Since 2013. So quite a while.

Michael Waitze 2:25
Oh, my God, that is a long time, almost as long as I’ve been here. Wow, Time does fly, doesn’t it? So since the last time we talked, which was 18 months ago, what’s new?

Mario Peng 2:36
So I think at that moment, we just close to seed round. So in the meantime, that was still very early time. And while PropertyScout, we actually at that moment, still were called FlexStay Rentals. Yep. So in the meantime, grew about in revenue, maybe 20x, something like that. Now about 155,000 properties on a platform 155,000 properties. That’s one of our key key where we use technology to get on board, so many properties.

Michael Waitze 3:08
So that’s why I was making a note, you saw me writing something down here. 155,000 properties. It’s a non trivial exercise to load up a property and make it look nice. Right? Correct. So can you just and again, this is jumping ahead a little bit, but maybe you can talk a little bit about that tech that you’ve built to be able to do that? Because that’s hard.

Mario Peng 3:29
So basically, we were building a platform. Yep. Right. Where a tech platform that enables property consultants to become the best property consultants in the market. Part of that tech platform is on the supply side. And we collaborate with everyone in the market. So we have internal property consultants that are exclusive with us. No fixed salary, or commission, we’re very high commission cut. And we work with coal brokers in the market. And a lot of people don’t like to work with a lot of coal brokers, because it’s a headache, right? But with the technology, we’re able to connect with their platforms. And we are able to pull in listings every single day. So these externally, we have about 360 co brokers. Internally, we have about 40 property consultants. So together, we have 400 people going out every single day, and getting new, new inventory from owners, this can be rental, this means the sales grown, and they go and they update it in their database. And then we update our database with that.

Michael Waitze 4:36
So what’s the what’s the hassle around Coburg? And you said some people don’t like to have co brokers? Is it just keeping track of who gets the Commission who does the work like why is that a problem?

Mario Peng 4:47
So number one is there’s so much inventory out there, right and owners are giving their listing to multiple brokers multiple listings normal and so if they say Old property or they rent out the property, they very often miss to inform every other broker. Right that I understand. So every other broker believes that inventory is still available. They had to send roaring it’s one is if that’s one of the big problem, right? Other one is, these are all individual parties. They have their own rules, right? So there is not like one rule that applies to everyone in the market. There are certain standards in CO brokering Right, right. But everybody might interpret the standards a little bit different that then you have friction between between parties. Right,

Michael Waitze 5:35
right. This is I hadn’t thought about this, though, right? You have all this sort of phantom listings that are out there, not because anybody’s trying to do anything bad necessarily. There is some fishing which we can put to the side. But because I sell it, I get excited. And I just forget to take it down. Right?

Mario Peng 5:50
Correct. Yes. Well, that is less of the problem. I mean, the the agent that sells it knows it, and they will take it down. But the problem is, with the owner sells is they don’t inform everyone else. Right? They might not even remember to whom they have given it because there are so many brokers out there. Right? Yeah. So that’s one of the problem. The other problem is, it’s really just fishing. So agents, drop the rates below what the owners gives them. Some drop it some increase it and everybody has their own strategy, how to acquire user, and how to convert. Wow.

Michael Waitze 6:31
So do you have rules? In other words, particularly for the agents that are inside those 40 people that work with you exclusively? You must have rules that you have for that man?

Mario Peng 6:41
Oh, very clear. So we when we talk now you figure out what the market is the problem in the market is trust, trust between all of the parties, Owner, co broker, internal brokers, customers, etc. So this is super important trust. And that’s what we’re building, right? A trusted platform where everybody can collaborate with each other. So we start internally, and we try to apply it externally as well. But internally, If anyone gives me a wrong data, on purpose, also, if someone cuts out another co broker, which has happened, really, they get fired immediately, there is this is a cause for determining termination. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 7:23
I mean, I can think of tons of examples when I was at Morgan Stanley, or Goldman Sachs, where if you broke a particular rule, there was no conversation, or it wasn’t like three strikes and you’re out. It was like

Mario Peng 7:32
stasis very bad for the reputation. Sure. So we cannot accept that at any moment in time.

Michael Waitze 7:37
Yeah. I mean, my grandfather said to me, it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and a moment to lose it very, very correctly. Right. And I think about this all the time, it’s like, no, you can’t do that. But what would be the upside for somebody internally for trying to violate that particular rule? I mean, I know it’s kind of a rhetorical question, but they know they’re gonna get caught. And they know they’re gonna get terminated.

Mario Peng 8:00
Yeah, they believe they don’t get cut. Okay, but we actually have, I’m not sure the English word on boots. We’re a co broker, if if they feel like one of our brokers cheated them, you have negotiated internally, and yeah, they can report it to us. Provide the evidence. And then we’ll take action. Very simply,

Michael Waitze 8:21
yeah, you can see me I’m thinking, what is that word in English? It’s not negotiator. It’s it’s almost like dispute resolution. Correct. As soon as a person inside you want to think ombudsman, yeah, or something like that. I forget what the word is in English. But yeah, that person that does that, and that’s cool. These are the types of things that people don’t think about when they think about the startup world, right? It’s like, to what level of detail? Are you actually managing your business? I hadn’t thought about that at all. Sorry. Go ahead.

Mario Peng 8:46
Yeah. So so we actually we we do manage to quite a certain degree. So we have different levels. So we have executive Sales Director, right below, we have sales director or sales manager, managing the property consultants. And they are basically they’re generally to, to help them, but also to make sure that, you know, they follow standard operating procedure, right, which is very important if you build a platform and a brand.

Michael Waitze 9:16
Yeah, absolutely. You can’t make Coca Cola any which way you want. Just can’t right. Otherwise, it’s not Coca Cola. It’s something but it’s not that do you get feedback from because now you have 40 internal and I presume, like every month you’re just adding more and more and more is there this feedback you get from people that are thinking about joining then do join and they see their commissions go up in their set? Not their salary, but their their revenue? Go up? Right? Correct. And they just think, oh my god, do they then go out and recruit people like what is that feeling like in that transition? Period?

Mario Peng 9:51
It’s It’s amazing. So but it’s super cool when you when you start, you know, people don’t know you, right? So you get certain people to steal Joining you, but the quality just increases constantly. As we get good people in, they perform, they’re better than they used to be either performing another agency or as a freelance agent, right? Then they tell their friends, it’s normally around month three, they figured out this works, right. And that’s when they started recommending a friend. And he starts accelerating. Ultimately, we do PR. And now we bought two companies, and it just adds credibility. And now them in, they bring new property consultants in so it accelerates.

Michael Waitze 10:34
Was it always your intention to be an acquirer of companies? Or was it something that developed over time? Do you don’t mean, we just thinking what we’re getting to agents are five agents, whatever it is a month, wait a second. That team is really good. Let’s just get in 15? At a time.

Mario Peng 10:49
Correct. So it wasn’t an original plan? I basically, look, what is the problem currently in the company? And how can we solve it? Inside your own company? Correct? Yeah. And one of the issue is us a new startup, you don’t have the very long standing history, right, with customers, owners, and co workers. Right. So I was like, How can we solve that. And other issue we had was, our management team wasn’t experienced enough. And we tried to recruit internally, to to promote them, which is working, but not fast enough, I just want to grow faster, right? So if you and we try to hire externally, people that are good enough, unfortunate we couldn’t, we couldn’t find, like sales manager, sales director that really have the experience, because these people have their own agency, I was

Michael Waitze 11:45
gonna say, so the real problem with this and this, we used to talk about this, I’m gonna date myself a little bit with a commerce when it was first founded. Well, what if another logistics company comes in? Or what if a company that already does that in the US or in Europe comes in? And does it? My answer was always this, they’re gonna have to hire the A team to manage that business, otherwise, they’re gonna get B level or C level people. Correct. And the guys that are the 18, don’t want to work for them. So you need to buy these to buy it. Correct. Okay, so now you’ve confirmed this. Go ahead. Sorry. Yeah.

Mario Peng 12:17
So these are the two main reasons are getting long standing history, plus getting sales directors and actually the whole team joining us, right. And then when they Yeah, and one more thing you mentioned before, I want to wear the rest as well, you said, people, it’s very satisfying to see when you know, now we’re hiring almost exclusively people from the industry, right freelancers from another agency, but very, a lot more and more freelancers, because they figured out, if I join property, discount the platform, they earn more than they did before. And one thing I’m really proud of is, we have never had so far, anyone leave us to either become a freelance agent, right? Or join another agency, right? So we have turnover, of course. But that’s mainly from people that, you know, didn’t really perform internally, I was gonna say, wouldn’t top performers, I’ve not seen anyone leave. So this

Michael Waitze 13:16
gets back to this idea of the power of the brand, right? In the sense that I can make my own sugar drink. And it could actually even taste similar to Coca Cola. But people want to buy Coke. And it’s the same thing if you put the right procedures in place and hire the right people and have a brand name that people like. Hi, my name is Michael Waitze. And I’m from PropertyScout. Okay, I can trust you now. Because that gets back to that word that you talked about at the beginning. Trust, if I’m a freelancer, I can hustle, I can do really well. But I miss all the deal flow that I may be seeing otherwise, it’s that organization and that platform around it. That gives me the extra power. No.

Mario Peng 13:56
Yeah, branding will be one part, I would say probably a smaller part, go ahead. The bigger part is the amount of listings we have, and the amount of leads we get. So one of our agents get much more leads than they get anywhere else. And then they have so if you have a lead, right, lead means someone wants to buy or rent a property right. And you have all of the inventory in the market. Now it’s up to you your skill set to close it to it right. In other agencies or if you’re freelancer, you’re very off, you don’t have enough leads. So you need to work on all the leads and you cannot be selective number one, and number two, you don’t have all of the inventory, which means if you don’t have it, and the customer likes another property can be as good as you want. The customer will buy or rent another property. Right.

Michael Waitze 14:43
And do you curate the properties as well?

Mario Peng 14:47
We don’t Okay, because we are a platform. Yep. So we bring everything online. But then we pick and choose what we advertise.

Michael Waitze 14:56
That is what I want to know okay, but that is curation. Right? In other words, you can’t stop up stuff from coming onto the platform. But you can definitely look at this as the curation process. Right? You just say, we’re probably not going to promote that. But these three things we will because we think first of all, they’re valid, great properties. Our customers will like them, and they’re either saleable, purchasable or rentable. Correct. Right. So in some ways you are curating. We talked about you coming on the show last in September of 2020. And I feel like we probably asked you back then, like, what was the impact of COVID? Because we didn’t know. And it was really early, actually. It didn’t seem like it back then. And if I remember correctly, Thailand was kind of okay in September 2020. But now, it’s just completely different. And I feel like, if we’re not out of it already, we’re coming out of it. And I’m curious if you see the market telling you that? Do you know what I mean? And I can give you my own example, right? So I told you, my my girlfriend, bought a building, and tried to rent it, waited, waited, put a price on it that she liked. And then finally got, somebody lifted her offer. So she actually did rent. But it took a while. And now she’s getting calls all the time for the same property. Okay, so I feel like the markets changed. I’m curious if you’re seeing anything like this at all. The market

Mario Peng 16:20
really changed in October last year got started when it started opening up. Yeah. And now this current wave hasn’t had any impact at all the rage on CNN impacted? Yeah. So it was really, we started in during COVID. Right? Yeah. So we never experienced anything else. And then in October, it started just increased 50% Didn’t one month or the other. Right. And now it continuously increases. So yeah. So that was basically coming out of COVID was October last year. Right now, we don’t feel anything, probably just gets better and better. Right. Gradually, I assume. Because, you know, the gradually open up readily people come out. So yeah, I think from since October, we see gradual improvement.

Michael Waitze 17:11
And it’s got to give not just you but the agents confidence as well. Right? Because it was a slog during sort of the heat of COVID. Yeah, yeah. And now they feel like they can just move faster. Sorry, go ahead.

Mario Peng 17:22
Yeah. So it was actually really like a lot of people back, let’s say last mid last year. Yeah. A lot of people stopped being agents. Yeah, they just gave up right, either within your company. Right, right. But external use really saw people just stopped doing they say, oh, no, I don’t really do real estate anymore when we try to recruit them, right. But this changed since. So at that moment, what we did with our internal staff, we gave them a fixed salary, to make sure they have a certain amount of of income, at least right to support them. But then when October came, their productivity increased massively. They would be making enough money, we’re still giving very small fixed salary at the moment. But we’ll be until end of of March. Because really now actually, they’re doing very well. Now,

Michael Waitze 18:14
how many people in total at the company now?

Mario Peng 18:17
90 staff?

Michael Waitze 18:18
It’s a lot of people. Yeah, that’s a lot of people. Did you? Did you expect it to get this big this fast? Because that’s a lot of people, 90 people? Yes, I did. I love it, do you? So I spoke to another company, this must have been at the beginning of 2021. And one of the things that this woman said to me, I think she was head of bizdev said that they were also paying out money to their partners, so not to their staff. They were already paying their staff, but they were paying money out to their partners, like a small percentage of what they would have earned. If there had been no COVID. And it seemed very empathetic to me, but also good for long term business. And I’m curious if you think that doing that for your staff, that having empathy for the staff, no matter what their role is, is a manager is good for management. Do you know what I mean? As a management strategy want to use the word strategy, right? But then it’s just good to be empathetic to understand people’s lot in life and situation, and then work with them through that so that when they come out the other end? They’re better for you. You’re better for them all that kind of stuff. Yeah. Yeah,

Mario Peng 19:31
I think it’s very important. I think it helps helps everyone in the, in the company in the industry. Yeah. And we do see immediate effect when it is really around October, November, people started started in recommending other people to us, right. So looks like they appreciate it.

Michael Waitze 19:53
I just feel like if you’re there for people when they really need you, right if it’s just Not about business, if they really feel like they’re involved and that everyone’s on the same page, right, that they’ll do stuff for the company that they wouldn’t otherwise do that they’ll go the extra mile because they feel like I’m protected at some level.

Mario Peng 20:13
Yeah, definitely think so. Our margins were quite low at that

Michael Waitze 20:17
moment. We didn’t really your work. And it was scary. But again, I always think if it’s scary for management, how scary is it for the people that are staff? Right, and that are employees, because they’re thinking, I haven’t created another way to make income for myself. And I’m reliant on this institution, big or small. And if the institution comes in and helps them out, they’ll never leave. For the most part. Right. Right. So good for you. Good for you. Have you raised money as well?

Mario Peng 20:46
Yes, we just communicated in January, but really, we raised in November of last year, last year. Okay. And that brought us to a total of about two and a half million dollars.

Michael Waitze 20:56
I always laugh when I do these. That’s a lot of money, isn’t it?

Mario Peng 21:01
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we’re about to go out and raise more money. Oh, really? Yes.

Michael Waitze 21:08
We I mean, well, that’s the upside of growth, right? Is that now that you you raise money, you grow really fast? No.

Mario Peng 21:18
Part of it is the money, right, that we can invest. But basically, we have shown that the business works,

Michael Waitze 21:25
right? Yeah. There’s an ROI associated with that money, right? hostage of

Mario Peng 21:29
very, very strong unit economics, right? We know, what are the levers in the business, right? And if we put more money into it, we can grow faster. Yeah. And actually, one of the big market we put money into it is technology. That’s what I want to know. That’s really what makes a business scalable. Yeah. And so now I would say we have a linear strong linear growth, right. But when we really have built a tech platform, that’s when it becomes exponential.

Michael Waitze 21:58
Yeah. So I was having a conversation with somebody yesterday, and not not yesterday, but I published an episode yesterday. And one of the questions that his potential investors asked him Is, where’s your exponential technology? Right. So it’s just interesting that you say that, what is it about the platform you think that you’re building or that you’ve built already, that gives you the ability to have the exponential growth?

Mario Peng 22:20
So basically, the,

Michael Waitze 22:21
I’m asking, so I can know for me, and I can write it down and then do the same thing. Sorry, go ahead.

Mario Peng 22:25
So we want to bring a trusted marketplace, right? Yes. So we want to make sure that we have almost all inventory on our marketplace, which others have as well. But now the important key difference is we know what is available and not. And we have the true data, right? This is the key. Go ahead. On top of that, then we can just build like price attractiveness scoring, because you want to compare, you don’t want to, you want to know, you know, a unit higher up in a building, right should fetch a higher price, better furniture should have a higher price, depending on which side Southwest is facing, should have a different price, etc. Or maybe the condo on the other side of the street should have a different price, right? To really take all of these metrics into the calculation. Nobody’s is currently doing this. And then it’s about a personalized recommendation engine, right. And once you have these, these few key things solved, then you were bringing, we believe about 90% of the search online, right? So now if you can go in and you really see all of the data, you have good content about all of the the units, and you can select online, then you can maybe like select 10 units, right? You say okay, I want to go to the viewing Saturday morning, our agent will get the scheduled for Saturday morning, we’ll do the viewing. And then we’ll do the negotiation between the landlord and the buyer or the renter, right, and then click a button and have the lease agreement or sales purchase agreement done automatically. And then hand over to the property management team. And key in here is that we want to bring as much of the property search online as possible. But we were very clear about and we know, not everything will go online. Right?

Michael Waitze 24:24
Right. So what stuff doesn’t go online, or you shouldn’t go online should

Mario Peng 24:28
not go online interviewing. I mean, if you buy a property, or you rent a property for 12 months or longer, you almost certainly want to go and see it right.

Michael Waitze 24:38
So that was so I wrote this down and I want to ask you this, there are so many companies out there trying to do we’ll do a 3d rendering or we’ll put in a fancy camera with 360 degree things will let you do a virtual walkthrough. To me it’s like it’s like a virtual date. I want the person to be at dinner with me.

Mario Peng 24:56
And I think these are all great technologies and we will All integrate those right? To select the 10 top properties that you actually then go and see. Sure. But at the end of the day you, right, you have to go and see it. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 25:11
Yeah. So that was what I was gonna ask like, does this and there’s no better word for it like whiz bang technology really make me rent something or is it does it just make me want to see it?

Mario Peng 25:20
Correct see the right property, so you only need to see a few. And then you can quickly select because you can really online, see everything that’s available, right good content, which you currently cannot read. Because 80% was what you see is not a correct data. It’s not available. So you cannot pre select online.

Michael Waitze 25:43
So if you’re going to personalize things, and if the data you’re saying that exists now is not correct. Does that mean you’re building like a data science and machine or a machine learning and sort of ml ops team to not just gather that data? Because data itself is useless unless it’s clean? But are you building that as well? Because that’s what the lead in is to personalization?

Mario Peng 26:04
Correct. So right now, what we’re working on is, quite frankly, currently, we do a lot of with humans. Yeah. Yeah. And we’re collecting though all of that data to actually later. Many of the processes use AI to automate it. But AI doesn’t work without the data. So this is why you need to collect first.

Michael Waitze 26:27
I also want to say this, this is one of the reasons why I like you, it’s because you’re honest. I mean, there’s very seriously. I’ve had so many conversations with you. But no, we’ve just built an AI engine to be able to do that’s automatic matching. It’s all you know the word. Yeah. It’s all noise. So just the fact that you go, actually, we have humans doing that. Do you know what I mean? It gets back to that word you talked about before?

Mario Peng 26:48
Trust, correct? Yeah. So the key is we really any click they do we track. So then we can use it to actually build the AI engine around it?

Michael Waitze 26:58
What does personalization look like for real estate? In other words, I can tell you what I think it looks like for insurance, right? I’m a certain age, I’m a certain height, I don’t smoke, like I get all that stuff. But what does it look like for real estate?

Mario Peng 27:14
So we can basically we look at in the future? Not doing it right now. Right? We look at your browsing behavior. What do you look at? And very easily what a what you look at what you save? Right? Then we can ask you a few questions. Currently, the agent will call you and ask these questions and put it into our CRM. So we’re collecting that data. Right, right. But you in the future, either the you call the agent because you like the interaction, or you do it yourself online, we can also automate it depends. Humans are different. Some people like to call other like to only text or they’re like to do everything themselves online. Right? So we’re just going to offer all of it. I’m in between videos. And then from these few questions, these are qualification questions. We then very quickly can know what would you like, right? Also from style of property? Interior Design, if you start looking at certain interior design, right, we can propose you. Actually, we’re starting to do this relatively soon.

Michael Waitze 28:23
So will you do the transaction online as well? And does it create like legal documents? Are you working on this on the back end, where I want this property? I’ve already met the owner or whatever we’ve already decided. I click a few buttons, I put in my name, does it create the sort of legal documents for me to so that, you know what I mean, because that’s a process to

Mario Peng 28:41
correct? Yeah, we will do that in the future. It’s currently not yet priority. Right? Priorities. Just you got top top down on the funnel? Yeah, you first solve where everybody comes in all the customers, and very few eventually close with you. Right. So that is currently still done manual, but it will at some point, be automated.

Michael Waitze 29:03
I look at everything as a conversion problem. All right, really do. I think I’ve said this online so many times now. But I think my biggest learning over the past 10 years is that everything’s a conversion problem. I should have learned this in high school. With my buddy Dennis, who had literally asked every single girl he met, tall, short, blonde, brunette, it didn’t matter. He just asked them what you want to go out with me? Most of them said no. But about two and a half percent said yes, he married one of them. I’m just saying like, that’s what it seems like to me. I don’t want to know your conversion rates. But I’m sure I could guess them within a percentage point. But it’s like once you figure that out, and you build that funnel, then it’s just trying to get people to drop down to the bottom of that funnel actually get them to close something. Yeah, correct. Yeah. So

Mario Peng 29:44
we just start working on top of the funnel and automate as much as possible, all the way down. So lease agreement, contracts, they will be automated at some point, just not the highest priority at the

Michael Waitze 29:56
moment, right. Are there any things that you learned from your previous company? Now that it’s like really far away, no, I asked about this, right? Because I think and again, I think about everything in sort of interpersonal terms as well. Right? I just mentioned my buddy Dennis. And that’s a real person from high school, doing that thing, because I don’t think that business is that far away from those interpersonal interactions, which is why I like to have kind of a hybrid relationship with my companies. I just picked up my insurance coverage yesterday, a lot of which I do by text with my insurance agent, but I have an agent. And then yesterday, she came and gave it to me, I physically signed some papers. And I did and that’s kind of the way I like to interact. But it’s very personal. And I’ve had other agents and I was just like, I don’t want to deal with you for the next 20 years kind of thing. So that’s, that’s why I ask these types of questions, right? Yeah. So when I talk about that conversion, I think it’s really personal. But also when I look back, on my own personal experiences, I feel like I learned something from every relationship that I’ve had. So that’s why I ask about it. Do you sometimes think like, oh, no, I know this thing because of that thing. From your previous startups?

Mario Peng 31:09
I think in many decisions every single day, I think constantly improve, right? Yeah. Every single day, right? Yeah. So yes. My previous post was building a startup. And it’s very similar, right? Yeah, I was in Thailand, right? There’s a startup. It is a tech startup. Right. So you can a lot of things throughout the daily decisions, has been maybe done something similar before. My previous startup?

Michael Waitze 31:37
Yeah, I think there’s muscle memory, like great golfers just understand how the swing works, right? Because they’re doing it all the time. And when they get to a place where it’s really tension filled, whatever, they’re just like, you know how to do this kind of thing. Correct. And I feel like I’m building a business is the same way. Sorry. Go ahead.

Mario Peng 31:53
Yeah. It very much. Yes. Because I think it’s a skill set that you can learn, right? And the more you do it, the better you become. Yeah, it’s that simple. And it really is. If you think about building a company, okay, the industry is different. So that’s always a new learning. Right? Yeah. But how you build a startup company, a startup, which, you know, how you set up, HR? Setup, finance, how you, this is the same, right? How do you build an ESOP system to copy paste?

Michael Waitze 32:30
Yeah, I mean, all this stuff that goes on in the background, but I think that’s hard, too. But I think it’s, again, I have conversations like this all the time, a lot of first time CEOs tell me, I didn’t expect to get involved in AX, whatever that is, but because you’ve been through this before, you could see even before you literally, like sign the papers to start the company, like, Okay, I’m gonna need a finance, I’m going to need human resource. I’m gonna need all these things that I’m going to build that out, even if like it just in my head, because it’s on day one, you can’t hire an HR manager. But you have to have a slot for it somewhere. Right, right. But like, first time entrepreneurs are just like, oh, no, I need to do that.

Mario Peng 33:08
Correct? Yes. And you already know what you at which stage you need. What right. Yeah, this also some, quite often people come to me and say, Oh, we should have this set. Yes. Not at this stage. Right. But that’s bigger.

Michael Waitze 33:22
But that’s the point. And that was why I asked you that question. It wasn’t for any other reason. But it’s like, yeah, we definitely do need that. But not today. Yeah. And I know when we do when we get there, don’t worry about it. Already know, the lady I’m gonna hire to run that thing. Correct. Or, but not now. Sorry. Go ahead.

Mario Peng 33:36
Yeah, it’s around. Lots of HR tasks. Right? Are we should have this review system in, you know, the like, and let’s use this software. I’m like, we’re too small. Too much time to set it up. We can do it in Google Sheet is just as good.

Michael Waitze 33:57
Yeah. And for the size of the company. It is just as good. Yeah. But when you go from 900 means sorry, 90 people to 300 people, then you have to start making different decisions. Correct. But at least as a as a previous company, founder, you know what those? Those flipping points are? Yeah, yeah. So you said you’re going out and raising more money now? Is that something that everybody knows or?

Mario Peng 34:22
Not yet a few selected investors? No, we’re not yet actually going out. Okay. I’m more now starting to build a long list. Who do I want to talk to? Right? Maybe, basically reach out and just have an introduction meeting. Not yet. Full pitch with a pitch deck, just explaining them what we do, right? Um, and then just update them until we are there. And then go go in with a full pitch. Because if you go in first time you meet them with a full pitch. They’re not ready to write your check in in one or one and a half month. Let’s

Michael Waitze 34:59
not worry either one of your time to do that. Again, it’s like asking someone to marry you on the first date. This was a great dinner. Let’s get married one. Yeah.

Mario Peng 35:08
So I’m more doing this now…

Michael Waitze 35:10
Socializing it. Yeah. And in a way, that’s the fun part for me. You just sit around and chat about what you’re doing. There’s no hard pitch on either side. Nobody feels bad if they leave and not are not interested. It’s just like, hey, that was great. Thanks for dinner.

Mario Peng 35:24
Yeah, I’m one of those founders, I actually enjoy fundraising.

Michael Waitze 35:28
Like, I don’t mind it at all. Most people are just like, oh, it’s such a drag. It’s such a slog. But here’s the thing, if you’re actually building something that has value, and if you’re actually building value for other people, as well. And if you’ve seen the success, like everything’s a struggle regardless. But if you’re succeeding and hitting the milestones that you’ve set for yourself, it should be fun to talk about.

Mario Peng 35:50
Right that and you should, as a CEO focus on where you have the biggest lever. Yeah, exactly. And bringing a few million dollars will be a very big lever, right. So as long as I feel like I’m working on the biggest lever for the business, I enjoy doing it.

Michael Waitze 36:09
How do you look at expansion? So if you raise this money, and whatever amount that is different? What do you do now? Right, so you’re building out a tech platform? There’s a ton of leverage in that as well. You’ve just mentioned this term leverage. What is the next thing? Do you expand into other cities? Do you expand into other countries? I’m curious.

Mario Peng 36:29
So it’s actually quite interesting before we build a travel agency, right, a travel agency, to my previous startup, sorry, okay, as a travel agency, yep. And you’re kind of in that frame, there is nothing like clothes around it that you can tap into for additional revenue, right? You really need to build a completely different business. Yeah, I get it. But in real estate, the more I’m in real estate, the more I see and like, wow, yeah, there’s so many other opportunities than where we started. It kind

Michael Waitze 37:01
of looks like it, we can’t see it. But it’s like this hub and spoke thing, right? If you build this, you can always build all the things that connect to it around it. So what does that look like to you?

Mario Peng 37:11
So a lot of fun. So the first thing is, is just expanding in Thailand. What do we did now in Bangkok, we can just scale across entire Thailand, focus on the main cities, but also maybe outside of the main cities. That’s what’s going through my head. Definitely, this year, we’re doing that. Then geographically, going outside of Thailand, aiming to do this beginning of next year. Good stuff. And then also, when we are in Thailand, there is we see a lot of things. We’re now going deeper into property management. That’s what I was gonna ask Max. Yeah, go ahead. Because it really. So our core is the transaction, right? Yeah. And currently transaction in real estate, which can be either sale, or rental, sorry, real estate in residential, right. But there’s things around it that either are needed. So we already have a property management team, because it’s just expected by the owners,

Michael Waitze 38:13
right, you can just rent it and walk away. Thank you, not the way it works. So we

Mario Peng 38:17
just need to so we’re basically doubling down on it and just improving it and bring it further, because then it enables our sales business. And so we also just expanded on the current. So far, until recently, we’ve done just on b2c marketing. But now we just open up b2b as well, b2b, domestically, and b2b internationally, and especially international buyers, they want someone to manage the property. So we’re basically doubling down on property management, to enable our sale to the b2b International channel.

Michael Waitze 38:54
So if you are going to do property management, let’s just say for foreign investors, well, then you can expand it to all investors. And you can expand it to all property owners, do you see a situation where you build a tech platform that then let’s say you have somebody owns one floor of a whole condo, right? They own 10 units. And then you’re managing already 10 units in that building, you can just go to the building and say, Let’s just properly manage this whole thing for you. Correct. But then you can also build a platform there that does property management. And we could spend hours talking about how you know like, I’m sitting up in my I live in the condo right over here. And I’d love to have an application that just goes you know, my lights not working, my air conditioner needs fixing and all this kind of stuff that literally manage the property. So that de jure juristic. Office. I always want to say Jurassic, but that was a movie but the juristic office right? can then communicate with me in a way that super efficient. Do you think about building that as well?

Mario Peng 39:52
Not the app itself? There’s already people doing that. Yep. Um, but working with them? Yeah. Okay with them. Yeah, yes. And actually, man That’s the property, right? Because now we are in there. And if we are in there, we get access to all of the supply.

Michael Waitze 40:06
Yeah, well, that was my point, right? Because now, you know, on floor seven, unit D, is going to be empty? Because we already know. Yeah. So then you can run the business that cleans that room. That replaces the furniture that does all that stuff, maybe. But then that also rents it out or sells it to the thing. Yeah, that’s a massive business. Correct? Yeah. And this gets back into my whole other philosophy of business, that you’ve got to be doing something to be able to get to everything else. Does that make sense? You know what I mean?

Mario Peng 40:38
This is, it’s a big difference between like, the US, and Southeast Asia, tell me in the US, people or like, entrepreneurs focus on one single thing? Yeah, do that very, very well. Try can do that. Because they can connect with partners that are really, really good. So you can have a very good user experience. But in Southeast Asia, there’s so much friction between partners that we see us and other companies to deliver a good user experience. Right? You have to solve multiple things. Yeah, you cannot just focus on one, because the user experience will still be bad if you just solve one small part of the value chain.

Michael Waitze 41:27
But that makes it so much more fun, though.

Mario Peng 41:30
I think so. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. If you can convince other people that you’re not distracted by it? Sure. Because there is a risk, right? It’s, it’s a balance between, Okay, should we really do this and ourself, or should we find a partner? Right? But then you like, yeah, too much friction between the partner, right? But

Michael Waitze 41:51
that’s why I drew it like this. Right? So because otherwise, it looks like this, right? Just to like non related businesses. But if you build this core in the middle, and then connect things to it, and you’re running those connecting things, well, then yeah, your technology platform, and your platform business itself isn’t controlling all the other partners in your ecosystem. And even if this isn’t you, if this is some sort of third party, you’re like, Yeah, you can do that. But you have to meet the standards to do it. Otherwise, we’ll do with somebody else. Correct. That’s what I mean. That’s where the leverage in this

Mario Peng 42:21
that’s where these these property management software companies, they actually do. It’s actually good software. Yeah. So there’s no point for us to build it. Yeah. Fair enough. Right. So there’s a good partner, but that you don’t see everywhere, right? Yeah. So in certain things, you just didn’t need to do it yourself. But our core is the transactional marketplace, right? And then we build around it.

Michael Waitze 42:44
And once you build the right culture, once you build the right culture around your business, within, you have to ensure that you’re dealing with other companies where that culture matches, it doesn’t need to be exactly the same. But it needs again, like a date, it needs to work, it needs to be complementary, core, right? But it just makes the opportunity so much bigger, and so much more fun.

Mario Peng 43:09
So actually, right now, I’m talking to a lot of partners at the moment, I think, because we’re currently at the size, where we can really partner up where the business kind of runs without me doing daily operations. So I can really think about partnership and can bring them to the to the business,

Michael Waitze 43:28
right. So the existing business is now moving in a way that you like. And now you can kind of step back a little bit and actually not step back, but step up a little bit and look down and say okay, what do I need to add into this? And how can I then make those things?

Mario Peng 43:42
And this is actually the time I enjoy most.

Michael Waitze 43:44
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Cuz it’s like having another kid and like seeing how it fits into the family or building a better team or whatever it is. It’s super cool.

Mario Peng 43:52
So I enjoy building it bigger and bigger and bigger. Okay, so I think you know, if you have in a year to call again here, I think we have three times bigger in terms of people. Definitely, yeah, hopefully. At least five times, if not more on in revenue for

Michael Waitze 44:11
sure. Okay, Mario Peng, the founder and CEO of PropertyScout. That was awesome.

Mario Peng 44:17
Thank you very much.

 

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