Matthew Slutsky knew he was on to something good with BuzzBuzzHome, a listings site for new home development based in Toronto. But it wasn’t until a complete stranger showed up at the BuzzBuzz office—expensive coffee machine in hand—that he understood he’d created something incredibly unique.
The man had stumbled on the company’s website while searching for a place for his daughter to live while she attended university in the city. Using the site’s listings—which contain photos, floor plans and neighbourhood information—he found a condo for his kid without incurring any expenses. The coffee maker was his way of saying thank-you to the company that guided his search. It was a pivotal moment for BuzzBuzz. “It was validating something that I believed in all along,” says Slutsky. “It really demonstrated the power of the site and the reach it could have.”
Slutsky (left, with co-founder and co-president Clifford Peskin) got the idea for BuzzBuzz while working as a vice-president in the development industry. He noticed that there wasn’t a single source for people looking to buy a new property. The Canadian Real Estate Association has the resale market locked up with its Realtor.ca portal, but the new-home market was woefully underserved.
Employees: 11 Year founded: 2009 Home base: Toronto Number of new residential projects listed on the site from across Canada: 2,900 Unique visitors to the site each month: 100,000 Average growth rate in number of page views each week: 10%
With more than 100,000 unique visitors each month, the site has turned into a social media hub, where real estate professionals and potential buyers mingle on message boards, and share photos and stories. “It’s more than just a site now,” he says. “We’ve actually created a pretty vibrant community.”
While the site doesn’t sell traditional advertising, the heart of its business plan rests on selling developers special status and placement on the home page. For a fee, builders can ensure their listings appear on the main page and across the site, and contain the kind of bells and whistles that turn browsers into buyers.
The site was initially focused on the Toronto market, but is now turning its attention westward, toward Vancouver. Its owners are also considering allowing an outside investor to take a minority stake in order to help finance the expansion. “There’s so much we want to do, and we may need to get some help to make that happen faster than we could do it ourselves,” Slutsky says. “But we’re being very careful to do things on our own terms and in a way that makes us comfortable.”
- Don’t sell to venture capital investors or anyone else too early. “If you have a good idea, hold off as long as humanly possible,” says Slutsky.
- Hire some talent. “If you are starting up a technology company and don’t know how to code, you’d better get the best engineer around.”
- Don’t do it alone. “Find an amazing partner with skills that complement your own.”