Start-up snapshot: Hutbay makes real estate real easy in Nigeria

Hutbay website screenshot

Start-up: Hutbay, Nigeria

Hutbay, a Nigerian company founded in 2013 by Owolabi Olatunji, is an online platform looking to facilitate all things real estate. It aims to simplify the processes involved in finding properties by connecting buyers, sellers, renters, real estate professionals and mortgage institutions.

The website lists agents, moving companies, a range of properties and provides various search functions to enable buyers and renters to find their desired home in Nigeria.

Olatunji spoke to How we made it in Africa, outlining the company’s roots, development and challenges.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Hutbay is an online real estate platform that helps real estate consumers make smart decisions throughout the full cycle of owning and living in a home.

2. How did you finance your start-up?

The first funding came from family (in return for equity later converted to a loan) and two angel investors. Later, we got additional seed funding from the Lagos Angels Network and iDea Nigeria.

3. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

I would invest into further product development, marketing and sales.

4. What risks does your business face?

The major risks are direct competition from similar businesses.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

We haven’t explored all the channels we have on our table. So far it’s been telemarketing, a small Google ad and some door-to-door marketing to sign up agents.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

The day the site went live. That followed five gruelling months of coding, designing interfaces, developing contents, speaking with lots of agents and carrying them along. At one point, we felt the product would never launch because there were just too many things to do. But we scaled back the scope of the project and officially launched in May 2013. It was a great relief and I was very excited.

7. What has been the biggest mistake you have made, and what have you learnt from it?

I will say the assumption that founding folks, even your co-founder, will stay with you throughout the thick and thin of the start-up life cycle.

As cash dwindled and we realised there is more to going viral than mere conjecture, I saw some fall by the wayside and choose to return to normal employment. Had I figured this was a possibility right from the beginning, I would have been more cautious and put proper structure and documentation in place earlier. However we are now doing things properly, and a team member leaving will have little or no impact on our continued operations.