The entry of Italy into lockdown in March 2020 marked for Casavo, a startup that develops a platform for the immediate sale of properties, one of the most difficult moments of its existence. With Italy closed, in fact, the real estate market took a three-month break and then started again in total uncertainty: who would like to receive frequent visits from strangers in their own home, especially with the virus around and still without vaccines?
Giorgio Tinacci, managing director (CEO) of Casavo, demonstrated at that moment that he knew how to treasure his mistakes, and anticipated the launch of the Casavo app for virtual inspections in the homes of those who want to sell a house.
“My biggest mistake so far has been to no longer be aggressive and far-sighted in investments – confides Tinacci – Both in terms of teams, having postponed hiring seniors or creating specific teams, and in terms of technology. I realize that we could have accelerated the company’s growth even more ”, which is now valid according to Dealroom between 200 and 300 million euros.
So in the midst of the pandemic, the 29-year-old founder of Casavo decided to put pressure on his team of developers, about seventy people out of a total of 250 employees. “We immediately released the remote visit app which was scheduled for much later, we have reviewed our purchasing policies and invested in the redefinition of living spaces induced by the pandemic, ”he explains.
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Now that the market has returned to growth, Casavo flies. In March 2021, it closed a € 50 million Series C investment round with Bonsai Partners, Project A, 360 Capital Partners, P101 Ventures, Greenoaks Capital Partners, Picus Capital, and Exor Seeds (fund headed by Exor, the main shareholder of the GEDI group, of which this site is a part, ed). At the same time, it took out a € 150 million loan from Goldman Sachs to attack the market, solving one of the biggest problems with which the company has had to deal from the beginning, namely that of liquidity needed for purchases.
Casavo buys real estate in less than a month, requalifies them and resells them through agencies. In jargon it is one proptech (property technology): a company with a technological soul that attacks the real estate market, so far only superficially touched by the digital revolution. The user enters the data of his property and Casavo indicates what is the value at which he could buy it. The ability to identify the “right” price is one of Tinacci’s pride, the result of a painstaking work of mapping the variables involved.
A virtual visit confirms the purchase price, on which an average discount of 8 percent is applied, at no other cost to the user. If the owner accepts, the property is checked and you go to the notary.
“I have always wanted to innovate in the real estate field – says Tinacci – Not product or process innovation, but just to create a new market”. And so in 2017, when instant buying takes hold in Europe, Tinacci leaves a job as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group and founds Casavo together with Simon Specka, fresh from the experience with another startup founded in Berlin. The two work together for a couple of years, before Specka leaves to pursue something else. During that period Tinacci tries to learn from the shareholder as much as he can of the technological aspects that interest the company.
In the beginning it is very complicated. The site is basic and is of little use. Tinacci and the first two interns have to roll up their sleeves and go knocking house to house to buy properties to resell. “The hardest thing was finding the money to buy. At the beginning we took loans from our investors and once we collected some data we turned to the banks ”. Debt was one of the most difficult challenges for Casavo to face, together with the development of the brand and the team. Paradoxically, with real estate agencies it was easier.
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It is said that to be successful a startup has to send someone else upside down. For Casavo this is not evident, even if it is reasonable to think that there are real estate agencies that have left someone at home. Through a dedicated platform, the agencies can in fact propose to Casavo to buy the properties for which he has taken the mandate and take charge of the properties that the startup is selling through its own showcase. “We paid commissions to agencies for 5 million euros in 2020” notes Tinacci to highlight how this is a win-win relationship.
The European proptech market is in bloom and Casavo can afford to observe it “from a position of privilege”. It is a young market, but not very young, and Casavo’s competitors are few and almost all smaller, explains the founder of the company. Casavo is active in Italy and Spain and plans to expand into Southern Europe closely. Starting from Italy was strategic because it is “one of the least digitized markets and where it takes longer to sell a house”: on average ten months, against the six needed in Europe. However, the expansion will not only be geographic: “We are working on ancillary services to offer an integrated experience to those who buy and sell homes, starting with mortgages”.
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