Startup Feature: An interview with the founder of Skupit

We recently spoke with Michael Kiaman, the founder of Skupit, an up and coming real estate solution platform based in Los Angeles.  He and his team have been hard at work developing the product which is set to launch this November.

Skupit was one of seven finalists at our first live startup pitch-off in April. Check out the Q&A below to learn more about Kiaman and Skupit, how he is finding talent in Armenia and what Skupit’s launch plans are.

How does Skupit work?

Skupit integrates loan officers into the real estate transaction process, strengthening transparency for all parties involved and producing the best data in the industry. Loan officers are able to know when a pre-approval they have issued is utilized in an offer, agents are able to take quick and easy action on properties in the market and home sellers are notified electronically of all offers they receive on their home.

What problem does Skupit address and how do you solve it?

There is a glaring issue in real estate transactions that we are addressing. While Skupit is an outstanding platform for loan officers and real estate agents to improve their business flow, one of the key issues we address is the lack of transparency for individuals looking to sell their homes.

If you are looking to sell your home, you often trust a referred agent to assist you. In many cases though, we see real estate agents defer from presenting every offer received for your home, which goes against the legal obligations they have to you. This process allows for “back door” deals with cash compensation between agents happening off the books, which is almost always to the detriment of the home seller and the pool of buyers who have put in strong offers for your home.

When a home seller lists with an agent using Skupit, they receive a notification of every single offer their real estate agent receives, allowing the home seller to make an educated choice on how to proceed and to be certain that they are receiving top dollar for their home.

When did you start developing Skupit and when will it launch?

My original vision for Skupit started to take shape in late 2012. I was adamant about building a platform that loan officers, real estate agents, home buyers and sellers would want to see in the industry. In many respects, our platform is really built by the users. We utilized active input and continuous wireframe testing before we even broke ground on back end development.

Skupit is currently undergoing internal testing to enhance the user experience and strengthen security. Skupit will be expanding its early user pool this summer and will be open to the entire public come November 2014.

What makes your startup unique compared to others in the real estate space?

We are the only system that integrates loan officers so actively in the process. The outcome means Skupit has the best data in the industry and one of the largest databases of qualified home buyers in the country. This serves as a huge tool for bringing together serious buyers and sellers, as well as providing an amazing user experience for real estate agents and loan officers. We have intellectual property attached to our technology in the United States and Canada. Skupit’s proprietary system will eventually be a tool for content providers like Zillow and Trulia to utilize for more accurate information about listings. 

Where are you based and what markets are you targeting?

We are based out of Los Angeles, California and currently operate in primarily local markets during our initial testing. We will be providing Skupit nationally by November 2014. We have one philosophy through it all, build a great product and remain a team player in moving the real estate technology landscape forward.

Skupit stood out to us as a strong new startup to accelerate. Besides funding, what are you looking for from investors or partners?

More than anything else, we strive to provide the best experience to the user. We obsess over it because we believe that our value can only come in helping great loan officers and real estate agents become successful. With that in mind, feedback is continuously sought after to make sure we are making the right improvements to have our platform remain at the top. Investors and partners can then be proud to refer Skupit to their friends and colleagues to utilize in the home purchase process. My goal is to seek out experienced mentors who are willing to share their knowledge.

What's next for Skupit?

Simply put: to build a great product and a strong business. As the founder, I don’t fantasize over buyouts or going public to cash in some huge payday. For our team, financial success is a byproduct of great work. We want to keep working hard to maintain Skupit as the best platform for people to buy and sell their homes.

Does Skupit have any plans to engage the Armenian tech ecosystem, or to recruit Armenian talent and mentorship?

I am very proud to say that a good portion of our software development has been completed in Armenia with a wonderful team. My technical team, which includes Ashot Tonoyan and Narek Khachatryan, has been just as adamant about work quality and producing a great product. As an Armenian-American entrepreneur, it gives me a great level of pride to see this work being completed in Armenia.

In the same breath, I only hire top talent for Skupit. They could come from anywhere in the world and speak any language. As long as though I believe they will help us reach our goals, I am happy to work with them. If they happen to be Armenian, as is the case with my current technical team, even better. That way if I tell them to pick up Ponchiks on the way to the office they’ll know what I’m talking about.