Searching for a housing opportunity in Albania? Founder Tomi Kallanxhi explains why shpi.al might be the solution for you!
Tomi Kallanxhi is one of the mavericks of Albanian startups. Graduated in IT in Tirana, where he worked several years for different big companies but never found himself. At the first Startup Weekend Tirana he didn’t win, nor classified among the best ideas but this didn’t stopped him from pursuing his dream of starting his own company. By now Tomi is the founder of Big Media Expert, a company that funds startups and has 11 employees, but in today’s edition of StartUs Presents he wants to talk about shpi.al, his first love.
Describe shpi.al in 50 or less words.
Shpi.al is the first Albanian real estate website which offers a user based iPhone and Android app. The user based app was the first to be developed in our country.
Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?
In 7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?
Years pass fast and bring a lot of changes. Shpi.al wants to be the #1 website offering real estate services in the region. In 7 years it will be easier for every Albanian & every citizen of the region to become more educated through the real estate web TV. Furthermore they will not need to buy their e-newspaper to check for new houses, instead they will be receiving geolocated push notifications with offers in areas they prefer. Less time searching for housing also means more time with their loved – an overall win!
In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?
The first indicator are the numbers of people who know the brand, are using the apps and the website. Success is measured by the number of transactions (houses purchased, rented, etc.) realized every month and until now, we have exponential growth monthly.
Actually, our service has become very well known among real estate agencies who first pointed us out as “the enemy”. Now they are our partner and they consider us as a successful marketing channel.
However the growing number of users doesn’t make us happy, it gives us a sense of responsibility to always deliver new products because we believe in the words of Tony Robbins: “Innovate or Die”.
Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.
As every good Balkan inhabitant, we start with a coffee with the difference that ours lasts only 20min (not 120) and we do not speak about politics but about us and our work. We get to know each other better, solve different problems and practice team building at the same time. The team is our key.
In the office we analyze all data regarding visits, transactions, the demand for houses in different areas, user behaviour, the new imported data etc. The day comes to an end very soon when you are immersed in a lot of activities, from the ones mentioned above to the real time monitoring, from business meetings to lobbying for the community, from mentoring new startups initiatives to participating in trainings. Lately I have been involved in different initiatives to empower the community and help new businesses to make their way through.
Already pivoted? Did customers use the service like you imagined it in the beginning?
When we first launched shpi.al we realized that it was a little difficult to make people use the new way of selling houses through the web. We educated them and vice versa. Then when we launched the app & we personally kept asking for feedback from people who used the app. I used to check if they still use it or delete it and asked questions regarding the reasons for doing so. Based on all this, we are launching the new version of shpi.al now – shpi.al 2.0.
Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?
Our startup was fuelled from a grant the World Bank gave us. It was a 6 month peace. The last 2 years shpi.al got to a self-maintain status, we had no other inflow than our savings so we had to work hard on making the first version as soon as possible. Now it generates profit. Lately we started to have green numbers and the red ones are disappearing slowly, day by day. Thanks to new options and services we are adding in the future, we do expect to generate more income and profit.
With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?
Shpi.al is the first startup Big Media Expert created, so we do not just diversify shpi.al services but we also diversify the startup portfolio. We have different projects going on but shpi.al is our first love.
What do you look for in team members?
What I first look for in a candidate is a passion for innovation: do they want to startup themselves or are they seeking for a bank job? Do they love technology and want to grow or swamp? Passion is what drives my team and every new member we involve.
Why would a talent join your team?
When I recruited my first man I said: “Do you want to sell coffee all your life or try changing the world?” In Albania the chances of changing the way of doing things are not many but thanks to the spirit of innovation things begin to change now. It’s only in small companies where you can learn passion and joy of results instead of just the steps of doing a job. Employees are not machines.
What was your most memorable moment so far?
I can mention a lot during my time with shpi.al but the following remains the most important for us, without this moment we wouldn’t be here taking this interview.
I will never forget when after applying for the World Bank Grant we won because we were judged as one of the best three applications. This moment in particular is special for us because it gave us the possibility to learn that we already were walking on the right path.
Dedication, dedication and only dedication. This is your only way to succeed.
Artikulli është publikuar për herë të parë në StartUS Magazine më 30 Tetor 2015.