December 18, 2019
The company that uses technology allowing for real-time monitoring of the real estate market, aptly named Kodit.io, has been making moves in Finland and various other countries across Europe over the course of this year.
Having won in the categories of Finnish Startup of the Year and having their founder and CEO, Kalle Salmi, win the Finnish Founder of the Year award at the Nordic Startup Awards 2019, we thought it would be a good time to check in with Kalle to ask him about where Kodit.io is heading towards in 2020. More precisely; where Kodit.io has expanded to, how has the expansion affected Kalle’s role as CEO, and how Kalle envisions the real estate market transforming in the near future due to advancements in technology.
What’s been cooking lately? You’ve recently received two awards from the Nordic Startup Awards 2019, what do you think merited this success?
Selling and buying a home can be the largest financial decision in people’s lives and currently that process is a massive pain that involves a lot of uncertainty, stress, and inconvenience. Our aim is to create liquidity and radically simplify the process of selling and buying a home. That is a huge and important challenge. So I think that’s one reason; you’re working on a problem that is big and a problem that many people can relate to. We’ve been able to help hundreds of customers here in Finland, and from day one we’ve had the ambition to do that also elsewhere across Europe. It’s an ambitious plan and so far we’ve been executing successfully, so that’s probably why we won the Startup of the Year in Finland.
On why I was chosen as the Founder of the Year, is probably largely because of those same things I mentioned — having a big vision and being able to attract the right talent to make that happen. It is important to understand that building a company is always a team effort. Understanding that as a founder already gets you pretty far. Then it is about communicating the vision actively to align everybody to work on common goals.
You’ve been expanding internationally. Can you tell us more about that? Which countries have you expanded to? How have you gone about building a team internationally so far?
We’ve opened an office in Poland (Warsaw) and Spain (Madrid) so of course already, before opening the offices, it was all about finding the right talent locally there. There is also some localisation to be done on the technology even before that; capturing the local data and analysing the data, whether that geography is worth something, and maybe is this the kind of geography where we want to go to. So doing that is, of course, a lot of work.
How has this expansion to other markets affected your role as CEO? What has changed?
On a higher level, I’m still doing those two things — attracting the best talent and communicating the vision. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are operating in one geography or ten geographies, you still need to do the same thing. It gets more complex when you have more geographies in the mix. But at the same time, when you get talent that takes ownership effectively, you can do it.
As founder and CEO, things get more complex as the company grows but at the same time a bigger organisation allows you to focus on things that create the most value instead of doing all the jobs from office coordinator to CFO yourself. For me this transformation has been very natural and that is probably one of the reasons why we have been able to grow without major setbacks. A lot of founders, for example, very technical founders, might have a harder time moving into a hundred percent leadership type of role. But in our case, that has not been a problem.
Any tips for founders looking to expand internationally, or more specifically, Europe?
It’s a pretty generic one — an old one as well — but really, don’t compromise when it comes to talent and getting those first key players in place. It’s also important to be present. It’s not enough to have the smartest person to run the operation locally, you still need to be there. Even if you feel like it’s largely hand-holding, and not much more, it’s still very valuable and something you need to do. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the founder. It’s always good if it can be the founder. Already in the very early stage we created a dedicated expansion team whose job is to spend time abroad — whether it’s market analysis or following what’s going on with the local team. And those are the key players who also transfer the culture of the company.
What are you looking forward to in 2020 in terms of Kodit.io? Where is the technology in the real estate industry heading towards? What will it look like in 2025?
What’s happening now, especially in residential real estate, technologies are being actively embedded into all the different stakeholder operations, so whether it’s a real estate agent or new models like iBuyers, there is some sort of validation of technology happening. It’s not only small companies trying different things with data and technology but also large incumbents actively experimenting with different technologies. So I am confident that there will be significantly more technology involved in the future. For our model, which is still very early in Europe, I think what we are doing is working very well. Our short-term goal is to prove that iBuyer model can be adopted in Europe at a massive scale. What we want to show is that our technology and operational excellence can be transferred to the major European housing markets. So far, the results have been promising.