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Fri 14 Dec 2018 01:20 AM

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Entrepreneur of the Week:'s Omar Chihane

The CEO of the online platform aims to connect sellers and buyers to ultimately increase both market entrants and property value

Entrepreneur of the Week:'s Omar Chihane

Omar Chihane left a corporate career with the likes of Siemens, Nokia and Microsoft to step into the world of entrepreneurship, and with a concept that truly stands out. The CEO heads, an online platform to sell your home efficiently. The process begins by offering the seller an approximate valuation, followed by an appointment booking and a house visit. The platform will then take about 60-70 pictures and conduct a 100-point evaluation, before presenting investors with the evaluation. Buyers then have a 30-minute window to make a decision to buy, or not. According to Chihane, it solves a problem for buyers, who enjoy an efficient deal flow as well as transparent evaluations without doing the work themselves and going through the hassle of liaising with sellers. And if the name sounds familiar, it is because the co-founder happens to be tech entrepreneur Saygin Yalcin, also the founder and CEO of similar concept In this piece, Chihane reveals the main purpose behind the concept, and where he sees it headed.

Why does the market need a platform like What makes it different? was born from a need to create real time market coordination between buyers and sellers. The real estate industry has been operating in almost the exact same way for hundreds of years, so bringing digital innovation into this space seemed like a good opportunity. Michio Kaku, a famous theoretical physicist, beautifully described what I call ‘the disruption framework’ during the World Government Summit in Dubai earlier this year. He laid out five simple points:  Take an industry, find its middlemen, its points of friction, list all the aggravation and waste and digitise it.

What is the purpose of, besides connecting both parties?

Well, the real time market coordination the platform creates between buyers and sellers increases entrants into the market (as it increases liquidity), which in turn has the potential of increasing the value over time.

Is the online property market starting to get saturated?

Not even close. The potential in the region is huge and e-commerce is still in its infancy stages. I think the next few years will be very exciting in this space.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re currently facing with the business?

I’d say the same challenges that anyone trying to disrupt an industry goes through: trying to disrupt before running out of money.

What more needs to be done in the GCC start up space to support SMEs?

Overall, the ecosystem here is becoming more and more exciting by the minute. It’s a young population and a connected market and the infrastructure rivals that of mature markets from around the world. I guess the only thing left to do is awareness, awareness and awareness. This is a place where investors can get great returns. The opportunities are enormous and the overall environment is very pro-business. We just need to shout this from every rooftop every chance we get.

Embrace failure. It is your best friend, especially if what you are trying to do is disrupt in the sector

What are your expansion plans for

Ideally we would like to expand across the region.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

Mindset is an entrepreneur’s strongest tool to overcome adversity and fear of failure. Does having the right mindset automatically help you win? The short answer is yes. With the right mindset, losses, failures and setbacks are nothing but an indication of how close the win is and how valuable that experience has been. Second is conviction, commitment and resilience.  You need to have the conviction that you will win, especially if you’re trying to do something that nobody has done before. Have the commitment to put in the work, and have the resilience to get back up after getting knocked down. Because you will get knocked down. I know you’ve heard the saying, “If it was that easy everyone would be doing it,” but I personally like, “The harder it is, the more valuable succeeding becomes.” My third advice is to embrace failure. It is your best friend, especially if what you’re trying to do is disruptive in nature. Sure it sounds scary, but all of the “overnight” successes that you hear about take years in the making, with years’ worth of failures. So embrace failure and don’t fear it, for it is failure that teaches you the best lessons.

What are some solutions to the GCC’s funding gap for start ups and SMEs?

To be honest, I’d say more awareness. Of course a massive transaction such as Amazon acquiring Souq helps with that but all in all, the more awareness you create, the more likely you are to attract different players and so on.

What are some of the challenges faced by the regional retail home sector?

This region has of course a lot less players such as venture capitalists for instance, than the more mature markets like the US. So this comes at a price which is translated into either the amount one is able to raise or the valuation.