Singapore property website 99.co’s proposition of putting its customers’ interests first was unique enough to secure funding from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and venture capitalist firm Sequoia Capital, bringing its total investment to S$2.7 million.
While the proposition sounds obvious, the start-up claims this has not been done before, as property websites often contain duplicated, fake and expired listings, with search results flooded by sponsored listings instead of relevant ones.
To tackle the problem, 99.co – which rhymes with longevity in Chinese and Japanese – uses a proprietary search algorithm that filters expired, duplicate and deleted listings on its website. It also offers personalised search results tailored to a user’s search queries.
And instead of selling tiered subscriptions and tying top search spots to ads like many of its rivals do, 99.co will charge a flat monthly fee of S$35 for property listings from July this year. The service is currently free.
99.co says this is a change driven by a different business model: “If a portal’s business model is to sell subscriptions and ads, the way to grow the business would be to sell more and more expensive ads to agents, leading to a degradation of product quality to the actual customer, who are the renters and buyers”.
The website’s traffic has been growing at 25 per cent per month since its soft launch in November 2014. Its unique page view count of 150,000 a month also looks set to increase as it starts brokering property sales after its initial focus the rental market.
Real estate agencies like DWG, M.O.R.E. and SLP, along with individual agents from Knight Frank, C&H and JLL, have signed up for the service so far.
In a media statement, Saverin shared the frustrations he faced while hunting for a new place when he first moved to Singapore. He hopes that 99.co will address a pain point faced by many home seekers.
“Not only is finding a home the biggest financial decision most people would ever make, it is also one of the most important milestones in life,” he says. “I’m very excited to see the growth of 99.co and it is a clear indicator that it is on the right path to create the solution to truly help people live better.”
99.co is the brainchild of Darius Cheung, a Singaporean entrepreneur whose mobile security company tenCube was acquired by IT security giant McAfee in 2010.