To beat StreetEasy, I am refusing to raise money. Here’s why.   

First, where are we now?
2018 is going to be very special. It is the year StreetEasy’s stranglehold over the marketplace begins to show “cracks”.  The new REBNY RLS feed in particular has empowered all kinds of new competitive solutions, most of which have not even become public yet. I would argue that the RLS is the single biggest threat to StreetEasy’s dominance.  But these things do take time (months/years, not days/weeks).

But I know it can be frustrating.  It seems everyone is just “giving in” to StreetEasy and nothing is being done about it.  I assure you this is actually not the case. You will see an avalanche of new products and ideas coming out over the next two years. Many this year.  Zillow’s short sighted business decisions suddenly put the NYC residential real estate power dynamics back “in play”.  There will be significant shifts and big shakeups happening over the coming years.

Example of Good Stuff Coming: My New Website
For example, in the coming weeks I will be launching a new product in beta which will compete with StreetEasy in 12 month rentals.  Leasebreak became #1 in short term rentals (i.e. leases between 1-12 months).  We will apply similar techniques to become #1 in 12 month rentals with the new website (with a new name).  It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

And when it does, you won’t have to pay for posting rental listings ever again.  

The new website will also likely show “sales” listings down the road, but maybe we won’t have to.  There is a real chance the attorney general – or some other government entity – forces StreetEasy to change the Premier Agent Program because it is just so unbelievably deceiving to consumers.  

(By the way, please make sure you subscribe to my blog flowfreely.com so that I can give you first access to the private “beta” version of the new site in a few weeks.  I would welcome any feedback and encourage you to share the new website with your friends and colleagues.)

Why I Won’t Raise Money Now.
When I run into many of you in person or online (Instagram) you are so supportive of my stances on these issues.  Many of you encourage me to “keep up the good fight”. Thank you, this is so important to hear and means so much (but I also welcome criticism and suggestions too, fyi).

Many of you also suggest that I raise a boat load of money so I can compete with the deceptive monstopoly (monster + monopoly. I just came up with that LOL).

Many of you have even offered to “invest” yourself or suggest I speak to a VC friend of yours, etc.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this and your confidence in me.

But here is why I can’t accept that money.

Once I take money from investors or VCs, then those investors expect a “return”.  They expect me to focus on “maximizing profits”. Even if not right away, down the road for sure.

This means that I may have to do things I don’t want to do:  Things that are not right for consumers or brokers. Things that violate my vision of what a real estate marketplace should be: Honest, transparent, and functioning as freely as possible.

For example, as you will see, when we launch the new website there will always be a free option to list an apartment. “Always”, as in forever.  If you were an investor, you may not like the sound of this. But that’s too bad.

And once I do launch, it will be even more clear to all of you why I just can’t take any money right now.

This is about principles.  It’s about values. Having a NYC real estate marketplace which operates freely with transparency is the focus.  Everything else – including profits – is secondary.

I have lived in NYC almost 20 years, and I have been a NYC real estate agent for 14 years.  Zillow and StreetEasy are not going to destroy the NYC real estate marketplace we have all come to love.  Not on our watch.

Who’s with me? 🙂

Author

Philip Horigan is the founder of Leasebreak.com - a leading marketplace for rentals in NYC, founded in 2013. He launched Frēlē - a more comprehensive NYC rental marketplace - in May 2018 with a 4 point pledge (www.frele.com/pledge). Phil has been a New York City real estate agent for 14 years working for some of the top firms in the city. He became an independent broker in early 2017 so that he can focus more on his entrepreneurial endeavors. Phil believes strongly in building businesses in an ethical and transparent way.

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