Technology continues to drive every part of our daily lives as tech entrepreneurs continue to harness its capacities to optimize socio-economic challenges.
In Africa, there exist a huge gap between the continent’s archaic property industry and the hyper-connected world as buyers and tenants are now finding properties in an entirely new way.
However, Flow a proptech startup based in Johannesburg, South Africa is deploying technology that automatically creates dynamics ads on social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) to deliver business leads while being cost-efficient to estate agents and landlords.
Founded by Gil Sperling and Daniel Levy, the duo through their experience and expertise within the tech industry are leveraging the source of the largest social platforms in the world – to match people with property.
Flow is ensuring prospective buyers and renters view relevant, personalized content and listings to match them with the right, tech-savvy agents and developers who are experts in those chosen areas
Gil Sperling started his career as an Electrical Engineer while Daniel Levy was a Commercial Attorney, and the duo was part of three founding partners of Popimedia, one of Africa’s biggest adtech and performance marketing companies – a Facebook Marketing Partner.
Popimedia was the largest buyer of Facebook media inventory in Africa, representing some of the world’s biggest brands when the company was acquired by global communications group Publicis in 2015.
In a chat with the Co-founders, techbuild.africa learnt how the duo through their proprietary technology is automatically creating dynamic ads, and integrated listings tailored specifically for social media platforms.
According to the founders, starting Flow was based on an understanding that that property is one of the least innovative sectors, in terms of technology while at the same time, it is probably the most valuable and meaningful sector for people.
With a third of their income, people buy houses, because it is what they love as compared to their offices where they just work.
Therefore it is a massively important sector, an industry that is very archaic and left behind, because there is a very large gap between how people engage, and communicate with the landlords and property industry as well as how archaic that is.
With proptech in general, having a very large opportunity to enable unlocking value for people, the founders started the platform as a rental sector that rewards tenants for paying their rent on time and this led to the platform bolting up to 100,000 tenants.
“And we always envisioned that we will also be a search platform where tenants and buyers tenants could find lands and vice versa. And fortunately, we launched the search bar just before lockdown in 2020. And you know South Africa’s property industry shut down completely.”
At that time, the founders actually started working through multiple options while approaching estate agents.
But prior to that, the rental platform was working with institutional landlords and state agencies, this led them to found out that the critical mass required is not near what is needed.
Seeing this as a challenge, the founders leveraged their understanding of Facebook to find people, having the knowledge that with the 50 million people in South Africa, there are 23 million people on Facebook every day.
“And that’s when we connected Flow to Facebook, we built a deep integration and today Flow automatically creates a lot listing and agent ads and automates the advertising for state agencies and developers, enabling them to connect with buyers and tenants on these platforms and has allowed them to bridge that gap of connecting with people on these platforms.”
According to the founders, the property sector, by and large, is a massive industry and there are a lot of different companies that are playing within a proptech sector, however, they are servicing the front layers of the property industry.
Specifically, what is Flow bringing to the audience? As you can imagine, 15 years ago, Facebook was never going to do a door to door sales like an estate agent business would do Not until somebody came around, to pull the technology that estate agents or developers could use at scale.
That method appears to have no effect as it can’t really change the game.
“So what we’ve done and where the unique selling proposition from Flow’s point of view is, is that whilst estate agents and developers are selling properties, our technology is busy automating them and creating ads for the properties in which they trying to sell.”
Flow has brought into the industry in a box, marketing, engineering, data analytics, creativity in one platform and that allows everyone to concentrate on their respective strengths and that is what the industry is really embraced.
Traditionally when it comes to marketing and property, you have got estate agents and property developers using common platforms where they list their properties, but they, are certainly part and parcel of what we call an omnichannel approach.
“But what social platforms provide is the massive scale of people. And so our technology brings the ‘smarts’ of allowing our clients to reach those appropriate audiences. Find those individuals and move them down a very cool user journey straight into an agent’s mobile device so that they can actually start engaging with a prospective tenant buyer, whatever the case may be immediately.”
How does Flow work?
The journey for an estate agent and a property developer is that ultimately, they have property listings, and Flow has built that technology to instantly take the listings from the website through its feed integration and delivers them to Facebook in the form of an ad.
The ad then receives its traffic and leads as Flow’s propriety technology also facilitates the lead from Facebook directly to an SMS and WhatsApp conversation.
“We also have quite a big marketplace of CRM integrations, especially for developers who work with specific CRMs, like, Zoho and Pop drive.
We’ve integrated them, and we deliver the lead straight to the funnels. So there is also the Facebook integration, as well as the Google API integration part.”
There are three major parts of the aforementioned process, for layer one, Flow integrates to website providers as the platform holds a 100% footprint in South Africa pulling through the feed of properties.
Layer two, integrate to Facebook API and within there are some proprietary targeting capabilities using data.
“On Facebook, we create the ad of the listing, but also target it very, very smartly through some algorithm that you deliver and generate leads.”
Number three is SMS and WhatsApp. And number four is the CRM integration.
Flow automatically gives its users access to the 23 million South Africans currently on Facebook and Instagram, and the 8 million on LinkedIn, and drives pre-assessed leads straight to the phones of estate agents, tenants and landlords.
9 million South African buyers and tenants have been reached via Flow about agency brands and property listings in the past year. This is 40% of all Facebook and Instagram users in South Africa.
4,000 South African estate agents (10% of the country’s agents) are now receiving property enquiries via social media within a few months of launching the FlowFuel platform.
Archaic property industry challenges
According to the founders, the property industry hasn’t progressed from a technology standpoint.
The way transactions are consummated is no dissimilar to today, as was 50 years ago.
“From a marketing point of view, the last innovation came around more than 20 years ago. So all of the people in the industry have become very relaxed about the way in which they market themselves a couple of years ago.
So the point is that there’s an education process one has to go and educate the industry as to why these digital platforms are so relevant and powerful to actually achieve their business objectives.
And naturally, when you try to hold a business and build technology, you have to line up with your target audience.
This comes with education, which is obviously a big challenge because you have got those that are forward-thinking, you need to ensure that you cannot obviously take all these people on the appropriate journey, and ensure that you can take them into the vision that Flow is.
So that is naturally a big challenge. And, you know, people are set in particular ways, therefore you have got to break an existing model in order to share that vision.”
According to the founders, Flow has grown significantly by month and has had interest from other quarters around the world.
Flow has been embraced by top-tier agencies, global brands, mom and pop agencies, large developers.
Flow is aiming to connect the entire property ecosystem, plugging in mortgage origination, deposit loan solutions and furniture purchase to ease the process for buyers.
Flow is a key catalyst that accelerates new housing, helping projects complete pre-sales via automated social listings so that developers can fulfil the criteria to secure finance and construct much-needed units.
Flow raised $2.4m in 2019/2020 from Kalon Venture Partners, CRE Venture Capital and Vunani Capital and has achieved consistent 30% MOM growth since launch.
Featured Image: Daniel Levy, Co-Founder and Co-CEO (left), Gil Sperling, Co-Founder and Co-CEO (Right) of Flow
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