#238 Mail-Right Show With Special Guest: Peter Sisson Co-Founder of Yaza
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WE DISCUSS SELLING REAL ESTATE USING VIDEO DURING THE CORONAVIRUS CRiSIS
Peter is a product-focused entrepreneur who has started four companies, all of which were acquired. I am now working on my fifth, called Yaza.
My expertise covers all aspects of designing, building, launching, growing and monetizing great products, designing and scaling organizations to support those products, and making them profitable.
I volunteer my time mentoring startup founders at the European Innovation Academy and StartOut Growth Lab, where during my tenure we graduated 24 companies that together have closed more than $45M in funding and created more than 200 new jobs.
I studied computer science at Cornell, have a masters degree in CSAI (Computer Science Artificial Intelligence) from Stanford, and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Outside of work, I am a passionate world traveler. I’ve flown more than 4 million miles and visited over 30 countries. My terrestrial adventures have taken me from 150 feet below sea level diving in Palau to 18,000 feet above trekking in Nepal.
I believe that entrepreneurship provides a path to economic self-empowerment that doesn’t require people to “fit in” with the traditional corporate grind. It offers a path to success and fulfillment for dreamers, big thinkers, innovators and creative people who want to have an impact on the world.
Jonathan: Welcome back folks, to the Mail-Right Show. This is episode 238 we got a great special guest. We’ve got a technologist, entrepreneur, we’ve got Peter Sissons with us and he’s the co-founder of a video app called Yaza. Which I think it’s got some really fantastic elements to it that would really interest to real estate agents. Peter would you like to quickly introduce yourself to our listeners and viewers?
Peter: Absolutely. Well first Jonathan and Robert, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. It’s a pleasure to be on the podcast. I am locked down here in my home in San Francisco and, surprising how much work we can still get done on video, which is actually a good segue I guess. I love video and I just think that there’s no better way to really convey what places like or what’s happening or anything. Then, you know, photos in a sense are more about the photographer than they are about the place. Whereas video is very much about what’s happening in the video. I mean, you can’t catch someone in a bad angle on a video because it’s moving.
Peter: So my background, you know, I’ve done four startups before this. I’m fairly unemployable by others, so I have to keep doing my own things and, I’ve been pretty fortunate. I mean, I certainly am not a billionaire, but, over the past 20 years I’ve been able to support myself starting companies and um, you know, they usually they can get bought. The biggest was about 23 million and another was 12 million.
Jonathan: You’ve got a very impressive track record. I was intrigued. I thought we will have you on just because of your track records and I’m sure it’s going to be a great conversation. And I’ve got my cohost, Robert. Robert, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to our new listeners and viewers?
Jonathan: And I’m the founder of Mail-Right. We provide a suite of tools that get you more quality leads and enables you to keep in contact with those leads on a consistent status. So let’s go straight into it, Peter. So what led you to Yaza, you know, you’re the co-founder, you got another partner, but what led you, what kind of tweaked the interest in this? Because you’ve got a lot of experience in technology and you must have a lot of people approach you with different products and ideas. But what was it about Yaza that you thought made it worthwhile for you to invest not your money but all your time and effort?
Peter: Absolutely. No, it’s a great question. And you know, they’re different types of entrepreneurs. I’m a product driven entrepreneur so, I like to actually think of a product that solves a problem and then build a company around that. And so Yaza wasn’t, you know, as we’ll talk about in the podcast, it’s become really big with realtors, but we didn’t launch it as a realtor app. The passion that I brought to the table was, I really love travel. I’ve been to 40, 50 countries and I’ve always found it very frustrating to deal with social media when you’re traveling. You’ve got, especially if you’re trying to do video, you know, if you use WhatsApp, it’s going to truncate the video and reduce it in quality. If you want to share big files and videos or, uh, you know, it, it can be really slow to upload that video and transfer it.
Peter: And then, you know, the other thing too, it seemed inefficient that whenever I was going on a trip or anybody was going on trip, there’d be that inevitable like Facebook posts, Hey, I’m going to Berlin, you know, what should I do? And then there’s like 20 or 30 comments from friends, Oh, check this place out. But it’s not really easy. So the original idea was, okay, let’s record these experiences of places on maps at the places they happened, and then all that content from you and your friends is sitting there on a map when you go there. So you don’t have to kind of dig it up, right? Because Facebook has a treasure trove of useful videos about places, but you can’t find them. And so let’s just put them all on a map and make them easy to find and then let’s run them through an AI image classifier so we can say, you know, what’s going on?
Peter: It’s a dog playing on the beach with kids, you know? So now you’re trying to find that video that you took with your best friend Susan, and it’s like, me, Susan, Beach search and you know, it’ll come up with all the videos of you and Susan on a beach. So that is trying to solve the problem with just that we all have so much video that we record and never ever look at. I mean, when was the last time you looked at any of the videos that are in your camera or shared them with people even? I’ve been at cocktail parties trying to open up and say, Oh, I have this it was so funny. And you’re like swiping through and you can never find the video. It’s just really not an efficient system. So you put it on maps because that’s the first thing you think about, where was it, and then you make it searchable for what happened inside.
Peter: And so that travel sort of bug is what the inspiration to solve that problem was. And then coronavirus happens and we see all these people jumping onto the app and they’re posting house tours. And I’m like, okay, what’s this? We weren’t planning to be a real estate company. And we find out that realtor during lock-downs they want to still be able to share their house tours. Because you know, with these other tools like Matter port, drone videos, it’s not about the realtor, it’s really just showing you the place typically with fisheye lenses, and it’s hard to really see what it is.
Peter: So these video tours are very authentic. The realtor gives tips, talks about the schools, shows you, Oh there’s a little bit of a rot under here. All the stuff they would do in person, record those tours, plop them on the map each, any videos, add a location, just pile up under the marker and we’ll play in story order to sort of create a story. And they record them and they share them with their customers or they share them outside of the app, which creates a little mini website with a map, the directions and then the video and that’s how they’re doing their tours.
Peter: And so with that, we have decided to double down on real estate and we’re finding lots of applications, not just for realtors but also for building and property managers who need to have, you know, either tenants or workers contractors prove that work was done as I mentioned at the beginning. It’s amazing what knowing that a video was taken at a certain place at a certain time does in terms of how valuable that video can be for lots of different uses.
Jonathan: Okay, over to you Robert.
Robert: So I’m going to ask you a couple, I mean, number one, thank you. I was kind of curious to know why you accepted the request from a real estate marketing podcast to do like an interview or reached out however that works. John handles that part of the show, but so thank you for explaining that. I’m going to step back for a second and take this opportunity to answer a couple of things that I am personally curious about and it’ll give our listeners and viewers a better understanding of the company that you work for. So you’re saying that you founded Yaza and I’m on your website and you apparently have either people that you found you’ve given like Peter and somebody else were both listed as I would guess, officers of the company.
Robert: So tell me how you go from, I’ve got this idea on your couch and I get it. You, you sold out six different times, you’ve got a hell of a pedigree. You probably have the ability to go to some venture capitalists and get them to take you seriously because of your track record. But even with all that, how do you go from, this is my idea as I’m traveling the world to now I’m going to talk to some technical, like how do you find the guys? Like, how did you do that?
Robert: It’s a great question. It’s really, you know, how do you start the journey when you have an idea and actually execute and actually start to turn it into something? Because you know, that’s the difference between an entrepreneur and I guess an armchair, entrepreneur, you can have a great idea. There’s no shortage of great ideas, but there is a shortage of people who are willing to risk everything to try and make it happen. And you’d be surprised the Valley doesn’t seem to care as much as you would think about experience, you know, they care about one thing which has traction and product market fit.
Peter: And so that’s kind of a good segue for how you get started. I think these days, certainly if you’re doing a app where you can probably, or software or a website or any, anything where it’s trilly you can probably get it to market with sweat equity and you know, certainly a lot of engineers build their own sites.
Peter: But to me, the first thing is, you got to talk to the people whose problem you think it is and validate that it’s really a problem for enough people to build a business around, right? It always starts with the customer and then they will lead you to what the product needs to be. And I say that with the caveat that, I actually almost want to take that back because, you know, there’s a saying, I’ve heard that, you know, ask your customers about what their problems are, but don’t ask them how to solve them. Because they will say they solve them with the tools that they know today and a lot of people won’t be able to think of, there could be a whole new way to solve it. They just build it with their known universe.
Peter: So, at any rate you know, step one validate demand. Step two, get a prototype or something that visualizes what the product would be and then show that to people and do open-ended questions to really understand what they think. Don’t lead the witness, don’t take anything personally. It’s really, you know, for me it’s all about getting the product to be one that customers like. That’s the very first thing and that’s the catch 22 of starting a company is that in order to get that product where you want it to be, you often need money. But to get money you have to get the product where you need it to be so that it gets traction. And that traction used to be something that could come a little later. But now even at the seed stage with consumer companies, people are looking for traction.
Peter: So the most important thing is to somehow find evidence that there’s going to be enough demand for your product to build a company around it. That’s really the most important thing. And then from there, your job gets much easier. I want to give you guys a chance to ask more questions, but there is kind of a, I could talk about this entire podcast cause there’s kind of four steps that I look at. Do you want me to keep going?
Jonathan: Yeah, we’ve got another three minutes then we’re going to go for a break.
Peter: Okay. So, you know, the three things, you have to think your customer is the investor at the beginning. But your initial customer is the customer. But when you’re early, your customer is the investor. So you’ve got to think about what drives them and what drives them is risk reward. They want as little risk for as much reward as possible, right?
Peter: And so they try to reduce risk. And so there’s four main areas of risk that an investor is going to look at with a startup. The product, market, financial and team. So product risk is can you build a prototype? Can you build what you are dreaming of? Do you have something to prove that you’ve got the right team to at least make this happen? If you’re promising something magic or whatever, you have to show that you can build the product, that’s the product risk.
Peter: Market risk, this is what I was talking about. It’s the hardest one, that’s traction. Market risk: what can you do to prove to me that the dog will eat the dog food and that you can build a business around this? And so that’s early numbers and often in the beginning traction is more about engagement than growth.
Peter: People think I just have to grow like crazy, but no growing like crazy on customers at turn out is not building a business. They’d rather see a small pocket of highly engaged users emerge, then you study the hell out of those highly engaged users, find more like them and grow. And then financial risk is, is there a business model here? Can you make margins that are sustainable? How or what’s the competitive intensity?
Peter: And then team is, you know, to what extent can you mitigate team risk by bringing people on who have, makeup for certain experience that you lack or, have you done it before? Is there anything that you can show that gives investors comfort that you know how to execute? And so those four areas, product, market, financial and team are kind of what you need to be thinking about as you prepare to raise money.
Jonathan: That’s great. We’re going to go for our break. When we come back we’re going to talk some more about how to use video if you’re a real estate agent more effectively in 2020. We’ll back in a few moments’ folks.
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Robert: That was really cool to Peter.
Jonathan: We’re coming back. We got a great guest, we got Peter, Sisson with us. He recently started a few successful startups. Now, a few weeks ago we had a, another individual that’s got a lot of experience with video in the real estate industry and definitely is somebody I think you should talk to, and that was Stephen Pacinelli and it’s BombBomb. I don’t know if you’re aware of BombBomb.
Peter: No, I’d love to hear about it.
Jonathan: BombBomb, we interviewed him about four, six weeks ago, probably, didn’t we Robert?
Jonathan: And, it’s a really successful company. I think it’s got, I don’t know how many users it’s actually got, it’s quite substantial isn’t it Robert? It’s got a big bond.
Robert: They’re huge.
Jonathan: Yeah. They’re huge and they have expanded outside the real estate and they’re used by a lot of other service type industries now. So you definitely want to approach him and see if he can give you some advice.
Peter: Yeah definitely
Jonathan: But the reason I’m bringing it up is that I really think, using videos for real is something that we’ve been hammering away me and Robert for about almost a year and a half. You know? You really got to use video, but getting good quality video, getting it up on Facebook or YouTube it’s okay you know, but I still think the tools and the ways you do it are still pretty clanky. So is that one of the things that you’re really trying to do? You’ve got the map feature, you’ve got the feature where you can remove any video. So if you’re embarrass you can just get rid of it. You got the map thing. But are you really also looking at the UX and the ability to get video out on different platforms much easier?
Peter: Yeah. It couldn’t have been a better question, because it is, in fact, something that we’ve been really focused on as we talk to realtors and understood. You know, realtors are like, you and me, or probably the three of us are a little more tech sophisticated than some. And so our goal was to make it really, really simple. So Yaza does solve that problem because you record the video the same way you record a video in snap but the UX is very similar. You hold down the button, a little thing spins around, you figure out that forces you, you can’t like turn on the recorder and just start talking because you create really long, lengthy, wordy videos and people don’t.
Peter: So, you know, we constrain the time by that and then people work in different, the go from room to room doing a different video in each room and then they all get collected together automatically and turned into a tour as long as they’re all at the same location because the app does that for you. So first of all, making it super easy like that. The second thing that, uh, is important I think is, like you said, getting it on to other platforms. We don’t intend to be necessarily a real estate platform to replace all real estate platforms. Not at all. We’re just a new tool. We are less about lead gen and you know, a lot of the stuff that you guys focus on. We’re in a different sort of phase, the sales cycle, which is very much closing.
Peter: And so in order to get the videos to other sites we actually thought hard about that. And when you share out of the app, you share a link that creates a little mini website and the website has the map, has the background, has a marker on the map, and the ability to get directions. And then in the window in the middle is the video tour of the house, which you can play. So you don’t;
Jonathan: I’m sorry to interrupt slightly, but, I’m really fascinated by that because both Robert and I are big into WordPress. I’ve built my application, I’ve got another business also where I’m big into WordPress, and so is Robert. So, is there a plugin or is there a method of actually placing these maps inside of a WordPress website?
Peter: Yeah. So, when you create a video within Yaza there’s an external sharing link, you often see them on Apple. It’s a little box with the arrow coming up and that that external sharing link opens up an Apple interface. It allows you to share it to just about anything, right? And so then for each of those places, you can share it, re-optimize it to look good on that platform. And we use a standard called oEmbed, so that by complying with oEmbed, you can take that link and put it directly into the website. There’s a website that you could even look at right now of a realtor who put one in. It’s called benblackrealty.com.
Jonathan: You can bring it up and share your screen and share it with us.
Peter: Oh yeah. I can share screen. I can show you all sorts of cool things.
Robert: Yeah do it.
Jonathan: You’ve got the green button to share screen.
Peter: Yeah. We’re all becoming pretty good at it, unfortunately. All right, so you should see;
Robert: You got 3000 emails.
Peter: 12,784 unread. So yeah, I tell people to text me and when they email me and that’s what emails become for me. So let me first open up because there’s some good demo videos here. Um, website. And this people will be able to see this, right? So, okay. Where do I want to go? Just go to the website to start. Let me see if I can make this bigger. How’s that looking?
Jonathan: That looks great.
Peter: Okay. So anyway, I do this and they can see all of us. So like, well I talked about those mini websites. So here’s one where we’ve embedded it in the website. If I click on it, it takes me to Yaza certified at Danica page that lets you download the app. I can view the video, and you can see how she did and bedrooms my bedroom. I can see the address of the property and then I can even get directions to the property. And that’s just from the sharing link. So let me go to this little video, which I encourage people to look at, you can view it at a bitly, bit.ly/yazademo, all lower case. I’ll just show you a little bit so you can see sort of some of how the app works.
Jonathan: Yeah. So, I’ve got one question. Obviously it’s closed down at the present moment, but one thing that occurs to me about this application, Peter, is that, you know, with Google local business mitigating videos which also have, have the location and get them up, is a lot of agents are missing their opportunity. Robert and I go on about that, don’t we, Robert? About getting videos up on, Googled local business.
Jonathan: Then if we can make that simpler, quite as almost semi-automatic, that would be a great feature. Wouldn’t it be Robert?
Robert: Yeah, definitely.
Peter: Yeah. One of the things we’re talking to some companies that you’ve heard of, about links, you know, making it even easier for a realtor to embed a Yaza tour link into their website or into some of the big commercial realty websites. And so, you know, I think you guys are fans of video, I’m a fan of video. But I think the important things that realtors have to remember is that if you can’t do a physical house tour, then video is your only chance to let your personality, your insights, your experience and knowledge come through. And that’s only going to come through with a narrated video where you are there in it and talking and explaining and opening cupboards and looking down sinks and all of that.
Peter: And that’s what users are looking for. When I talk to younger buyers in particular, the millennial’s, they’re like, they don’t trust any of the stuff they see on the big commercial sites because it looks too polished. It looks too good in a sense. And strangely they actually appreciate the authenticity of just a realtor doing almost, it feels more like a home video as they walk around the house. And it’s counter-intuitive that, that lack of Polish is actually where the connection comes from.
Jonathan: Another way you could probably use this, just want to see if you agree with this, is if you’re doing a tour of area, you’re doing a tour of some reason, the houses that you’ve sold, then you’re going to some of the schools in the area.
Jonathan: And you could build a virtual tour using your app, with the map with showing the different spots and
Peter: Exactly right. And that tour, will just kind of play magically, and we do. So Sotheby’s is one of the firms using it, Sotheby’s with Keller Williams, others that are agents are starting to use the app. And one of the things that they do is they, I don’t know. That neuron just left me, I don’t know where I was going with that.
Jonathan: That happens to me all the time Peter. Now we were talking about interactive stories, the way you’re showing the local schools.
Peter: Oh yeah. Yes. So exactly. So like she’s having her assistant go around and record some nearby restaurants, views of a park that’s nearby. And so her selling area, she’s documenting all of the features in addition to the property tours. And then within the app, you move the map to the area you’re interested in and start playing tap a marker because everything’s on markers. You just tap a marker and it starts playing. It will play all of the videos it moves the map around, shows you the video, moves it again, shows the next video and it turns it into a story. And I actually put it up on Apple TV and sit back and you can watch it like a movie.
Peter: So it’s a really kind of a nice passive way to get a feel for the neighborhood. And it’s all just assembled on the fly by the app. You don’t have to actually make the video, you’re just recording all the little pieces, putting them at their places and then the app creates the story.
Jonathan: Sounds great. Coming to the end of our interviews, gone quick. So Peter, if people want to know more about Yaza, or about yourself, what’s the best methods to find out more?
Peter: Well, you can go to yaza.io which is the website for the company. The word Yaza is pretty rare. It was what we sometimes say is the last. The reason it’s called Yaza is because it’s the last name left, but it actually means going the extra mile when it comes to Buddhist meditation. But other than that has no meaning. So it was pretty safe word, but yeah, go to yaza.io, or search for Yaza, Y-a-z-a in the app store. And we are working on an Android version, unfortunately it’s going to be the end of the year before that one. So
Jonathan: All right. So at the present on iPhone only. I’ll make sure all the links and everything we’ve discussed to the listeners are in the show notes, which you will find on the Mail-Right website. Robert if people want to find out more about you and your company, what you’re up to, what’s the best ways Robert?
Robert: I’m going to add some closing thoughts to those that listen to the show from my marketing perspective and a while I didn’t really get a chance to see Yaza entirely and I would have liked to. I will say this, the internal website like concept with the link is pretty cool. 70% of the people that are doing real estate searches on mobile phones, which is 80% of your audience. I know I’m throwing a lot of numbers out there, but let’s put it this way, about 60% of people in general are going to be using an Apple phone to search for real estate making Yaza a very good option in terms of both tours and testing out like dropping a link on some of your social profiles. So having said that, if you would like to hear more about my amazing perspectives that blow your mind, go visit inboundrem.com and you can read all about it.
Peter: Awesome! I love that energy.
Jonathan: And I’ve also got some great news folks. I’m almost finishing off a great course about real estate, gorilla marketing, how to use Google business, local business how to do open houses to get real leads. We’ll be covering loads and stuff and that’s going to be in the Mail-Right University course and I will be opening it up for free for the listeners. You’ll be given a coupon code and you’ll be able to go through the whole course for free in the next few weeks.
Jonathan: So keep listing and when it’s ready I’ll be giving the coupon code out and it’s going to be a great course. I spent a bit of time, with all this stuff me and Robert have been discussing for the past year is going to be in different parts of the course. We’ll see you next week with a great guests like Peter or internal discussion between me and Robert. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.
Peter: Bye. Thanks.