Hobnobbing with Fred Bristol from Brickowner

posted by 6 years ago in Hobnobbing
Hobnobbing with Fred Bristol from Brickowner

So, what does Brickowner do?

Brickowner is a property crowdfunding platform that lets people invest into institutional grade property investments they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access with as little as £100.

Our platform acts as an aggregator, so that the investors that invest through us combine to make a large enough sum to invest in these opportunities, we help you get “a seat at the table” and source property asset managers with strong track records within their respective property subsector.  These managers tend already to manage property portfolios worth £50m-500m, but they only work with large investors.

We think this is the future of investing. Using the efficiency of a digital platform means smaller investors can cluster together like this to invest into larger property deals, which were previously out of their reach.

By working with different property asset managers Brickowner’s is able to provide its users with a far broader range of investment opportunities than would otherwise be the case.

What’s behind the business idea?

Brickowner was founded in 2015 by myself, Fred Bristol, and Toby Stone. Since university I have invested and managed property, both in the UK and abroad. In early 2015 whilst I was researching and investing in property I saw opportunities for others to invest alongside me. Simultaneously Toby (co-founder) was looking for ways to save for a home purchase, with the return on cash from banks so low, his savings were depreciating relative to property. These two problems led to the idea for Brickowner.

After a bit of discussion and research, we found that such difficulties were a recurring problem experienced amongst our friends. Toby’s experience and work with start ups led to a discussion around the potential of crowdfunding and after being introduced to a number of these platforms, I realised that a similar platform could help others save for property and invest alongside professionals. Obviously the property crowdfunding market has matured a lot since then.

Was it hard becoming a business owner?

I have effectively managed my own business in one form or another for over 10 years, becoming an owner and running a new business is always difficult in the beginning as it requires a lot of research, hard work and perseverance to make your business a success. Brickowner had a strong team supporting our launch which made the development of our platform and the delivery of our investments a smooth process.

How did you recruit your employees?

Finding good people is always difficult and we explored a number of different avenues, including word of mouth, speaking to people I knew, and advertising.  Using third parties to find candidates is both expensive and time consuming when you are starting up.

Was there a breakthrough moment?

We recently funded our first property investment, Abbeygate, in a much shorter time than expected, with 45 new investors.  This was a very important milestone for us, particularly as this validated the platform and the business. Apart from proving the technology we also proved customers want the product, and trust our platform. That is a very big deal, and I’m very proud of it. We are now looking forward to growing the platform and user base.

How is the company doing?

After launching in early 2017 we have continued to move from strength to strength. We have successfully funded our first property, launched our second. Now that we have tested and validated our platform amongst a smaller group of users we are now focussing on the growth of the platform over 2017.

Do you have any regrets?

We don’t have regrets as such, however hindsight allows you to see after the event how certain steps or processes could have been done differently, but when you are building a platform from scratch like we did, it will always involve a degree of testing and updating features along the way.  It’s part of the journey.  There are a number of things we might have done differently in retrospect. However, I believe that those experiences helped form the successful platform you see today. During our build we created a number of features that we thought users would appreciate and make it easy for them to invest, however testing proved that this wasn’t necessarily the case.

What makes you stand out from your competitors?

I feel that Brickowner differentiates itself in a number of key ways:

We have built our platform from scratch working with users to ensure that our platform is as easy to use as possible, we truly believe everyone should be able to invest in property and technology should support rather than hinder this.

Unlike other platforms we are working with experienced property asset managers to source and manage opportunities, thereby giving people access to property investments they wouldn’t otherwise be able to find. This allows us to offer our users a broad range of opportunities within different property sub sectors, not just residential.

What is your definition of a positive customer experience?

A positive customer experience is when the customer firstly has no need to ask for guidance of how to access the information he/she needs in order to obtain the information on the investment, and then invest.  And also an experience which leaves the customer completely at ease with the technological capability of the platform, the Brickowner team, and the security of their investment.

You’re currently reaching out for investors, what do you plan to do when you have raised this funding?

Using the money raised from Seedrs we intend to focus on three key areas:

  • Adding additional functionality based on feedback from our customers.
  • Growing our team to support day to day operations.
  • Implementing our existing marketing strategy to grow our user base

We look forward to continuing our 2017 growth strategy, after this planned round of fund raising.

If you could help a business now with a single piece of advice, what would it be?

Execution and implementation, along with perseverance in my mind determine the success of a business more than the actual idea.

Secondly never underestimate the importance of timing! The maxim right place, right time often underpins the success of businesses.

Finally, Fred what is your favourite biscuit?!

Definitely a custard cream!