Entrepreneurs, Profiles

“The odds are stacked against you”: Meet the Aussie founder out to disrupt the property market on a global scale

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Airlisting

Airlisting co-founder Veronica Gravolin. Source: Supplied.

Brisbane-based Airlisting is out to disrupt the way property is purchased across the world, and while co-founder and former gymnast Veronica Gravolin has sky-high ambitions, she’s taking a slowly-does-it approach, for now.

Founded last year by Gravolin and Matthew Royal, Airlisting is a platform connecting people buying and selling property, removing the need for third-party agents, while also offering independent valuations.

As a licensed real estate agent who has formerly been an elite gymnast, Cirque du Soleil performer and the founder of a chain of health clinics, Gravolin has a somewhat varied background.

But she came up with the idea for Airlisting when she started working at a large real estate agency.

“From an outsider’s perspective, and having just bought my first house, I thought an agency would be different to what it is,” Gravolin tells StartupSmart.

When it came to the software and processes, she was struck by how much time and money was wasted.

“Because it’s such a competitive industry, I thought there would be no waste,” she says.

“I thought there would be a technology competition, for who could do the best job efficiently.”

There and then, Gravolin wrote down a plan for what she would do “if I was going to redesign the industry”, she says.

“But fixing an industry takes a lot of time and money.”

She sat on her plans for more than three years, before launching the beta Airlisting platform in September 2018.

“I decided that if I didn’t fix what was wrong with the industry, then nobody would,” she says.

Slowly does it

Since the beta launched, Airlisting has seen two properties sold, and 12 more are now on the platform. And although Gravolin has global ambitions, for now, she’s committed to taking things slow.

In fact, she’s taking things “one happy customer at a time”.

“I would rather be a platform with 100 happy sales than with 10,000 listings that aren’t getting sold,” she adds.

“We’re doing the opposite of over-promising and under-delivering.”

The platform is scalable, but it’s early days yet. At the moment, Gravolin is “hand-walking people through it to make sure it’s perfect”, she says.

“Our play is not to make a profitable business, it’s to change the way the industry works. I want to make a new normal, where there’s no money changing hands that doesn’t need to,” she explains.

“If we want to be the company that really makes that change we have to get it completely right.”

Airlisting was self-funded until just before the beta launch, when a group of private investors came on board.

Now, it’s time for Gravolin to prove the concept and the product, ahead of another, bigger funding round, planned for July.

The founder plans to use those funds to roll out throughout Australia, and then to expand into the US within 12 months.

Airlisting is also working on new products: one allowing buyers to connect directly with agents, which Gravolin says will be more widely applicable, and another to help property developers sell in a more streamlined way.

This is a complex business, she says.

“There are a lot of moving parts to it, so we have to do it well and we have to become international.”

Pushing the bar

As a startup founder, Gravolin has learnt a little from her past as an elite gymnast, she says.

It’s the same with anything where “the odds are stacked against you”. If you want to be the best, “it’s just discipline”, she says.

“Once you set a goal for something, work your butt off and end up achieving it … you have confidence that is a process you can continue, and you keep pushing the bar higher and higher,” she explains.

In gymnastics, the people who end up at the Olympics “weren’t the ones who were most talented at five years old”, she says.

“But they stuck at it and they worked through their injuries and didn’t quit. I think that’s the same in a lot of businesses.”

When it comes to founding a startup, if you look at success rates “you could totally psych yourself out”.

Instead, Gravolin recommends finding a problem you really want to solve, and focusing on that.

“This is what we’re doing, and we will find a way to do that because our intentions are very pure,” she says.

“And I can outwork anybody,” she adds.

“I can work 22 hours a day if I have to. And if I don’t, I don’t know who’s going to solve this problem.”

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].

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