The former founder of London fintech startup GoCardless has a new property tech (proptech) startup which promises to help homeowners to sell their property in 90 days, or they will give you the money to make your next purchase interest-free.
Matt Robinson has been working on Nested since November. The site has been up for a few months now and Robinson says they have been getting one or two leads a week already, "which sounds pitiful" he admits, "but our average lead is £20,000, so if people can find me a startup that has more than £100,000 a month revenue coming in before they have launched I would love to hear about it, because that is not how it was at GoCardless".
Robinson brought onboard former Songkick CTO and Cambridge computer science and machine learning PhD Phil Cowans to build the proprietary valuation algorithms he needed at Nested.
Using the algorithms Cowans has built Nested provides sellers with a property valuation within seconds and guarantees a minimum price from day one, promising to sell the house within 90 days or give them the money.
Nested will review the quick valuation and organise an inspection before confirming a guaranteed offer price and placing adverts on property portals like Zoopla and Rightmove. They even take care of the viewings.
One method they use is a repeat sale regression, or forward index price, which is basically the price a property sold for recently and inflated to today's prices on a pound per square foot basis, which Robinson says is the best way to value property.
Another method Nested use is the comparable method where they take similar properties nearby to estimate how much it will sell for. Robinson says this is broadly similar to how an estate agent would value your property, except algorithmically, meaning it is instant and fairly transparent.
How does Nested prove that their valuation is fair? Firstly Robinson expects homeowners to get a second opinion from estate agents. Secondly, if you search for a property on Nested you will see the recent sale price of neighbouring properties, if that information is available. Nested does this by splicing together a number of data sources that Robinson wouldn't be pushed on, but probably includes publicly available data from the Land Registry.
In exchange for this guarantee Nested charges a minimum fee of 1.8 percent once you close a sale. Nested will then take another twenty percent of any money that is made on the sale above the algorithmically decided value.
Nested is currently available as a web service in London for houses worth less than one million pounds.
Robinson came up with Nested after he noticed that cash buyers have an unfair advantage in the UK property market.
He explained: "I was going through the process of buying a house myself and as a cash buyer every agent I spoke to said I could pay less than anyone else and dictate terms. This is because you are a more attractive buyer as there is less chance of the deal falling through."
The reason many house deals fall through in the UK is because sales are often reliant on other people selling their property first. If a buyer or seller in the property chain pulls out it causes a domino effect that leaves other people in the chain stranded.
Robinson said in a press release: “The whole property chain and selling process is broken, with sellers complaining about slow lawyers, endless phones calls, untrustworthy estate agents, and of course, being let down by the buyer at the last minute.
"The trick for me was to give people certainty from day one," Robinson says. "If we sell it within 90 days great, if not we give them the money ourselves. So from day one you can act like you have the money, like a cash buyer. That puts you at the top of the queue to get your dream home."
The business proposition looks risky, especially if market forces outside of Nested's control change drastically.
Over email Robinson told Techworld: "We don't buy the property, we give it to them as an interest-free loan which we secure against the property."
To mitigate this risk "we only ever guarantee as much property as we could theoretically buy in full if we needed to", Robinson said. "So our £3 million allows us to guarantee that much property (e.g. 5 x £600k properties) at any given time and obviously recycle this cash as soon as each of those is sold."
In order to scale Nested will have to raise a huge amount more than its £3 million seed round led by Passion Capital, who also invested in GoCardless. Robinson said: "Clearly the next step is to raise £25 million to run the model at initial scale, and as soon as possible after that to raise in the hundreds of millions to ramp this to true scale."
Robinson has compared Nested to the US company Opendoor, which has raised $110 million according to Crunchbase.
He told Business Insider that one of the initial investors is the Samwer brothers who "are billionaires and they want to pour as much money as possible into this so we can raise money very, very quickly".