This is the biggest change our start-up has seen in 5 years.
For 5 years, I — although to be more accurate: we — have been building a property review website. We wanted to create the TripAdvisor, or Airbnb, of residential tenancies.
And for the record, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. It started out as a tool for Bournemouth University students to rate their landlords, and grew into a platform that’s used in every university in the UK, and more than 500 towns and cities.
18 months ago I started working on ‘a little something’. It was a sub-feature of another feature. At the time I thought it would make a nice USP, and would help differentiate us from the copycat websites that kept springing up.
In the year and a half that followed, that idea mutated. It became more important to me, and at night it was this that I was awake thinking about, not the wider concept.
As it turns out, we’d accidentally designed the future of tenant referencing.
It was called Movem Passport, and we launched an Alpha version late last year, and a more stable Beta version a few months later.
Earlier in 2018 I made the decision that for the short term we’d focus entirely on Movem Passport, and this week we’ve updated our website to better reflect that change.
This isn’t a new start for us. This is just an acknowledgement of our direction now, and we’re really excited about it.
How this happened
There’s a really long story here, which includes:
- The industry, landscape and processes that have changed since we started.
- Timing and alignment of market needs, and our product.
- Failing, and learning, a lot.
But let me crudely explain how Passport evolved, in an unusual format: my inner dialogue.
2013 — It’d be great if tenants could anonymously review agencies and landlords to help each other find the best landlords.
2015 — What about if tenants could create accounts, and share their reviews with friends? It may encourage more social trust.
2016 — Tenants already review the agent, but what about if the agent and landlord can also review the tenant? Then it can be used to help landlords find the best tenants.
2016 — If tenants have profiles with ratings, or Passports, then what about if this replaced a tenant reference to save tenants money?
2017 — Why don’t Passports use online banking to assess affordability? We could make a Passport a more legal form of tenant reference.
2018 — Movem becomes a legitimate form of referencing with insurance products available. Let’s sell this technology to other PropTech services so that they can benefit from our work.
Now — We’ve spent 2 years working on this, and we’ve accidentally created a new industry. And we already know how to make it 10x better.
What happens to the review website?
Don’t worry, it’s still there. For now we’ve just moved it to reviews.movem.co.uk, but we’re going to find it a more permanent home.
You can still leave reviews, read reviews, and find the best places to live. We’ll continue to support and maintain the reviews. All this means is that we’re not planning on investing in new functionality right now.
But we’re still listening. We will do what’s right for our existing community.
We’re still deciding whether the reviews should sit on the same domain or have it’s own, independent brand. We — including you: members of our community — have poured life into Movem, and we won’t overlook that during this change.
Movem as a brand
Even after 5 years, I still can’t help but look at our brand as ‘something I thought of when I was a student, and once wrote on a Post-It note’. Although it means so much more now, to so many people.
I nearly didn’t even call it Movem. I went through probably as many as 100 names, but all the domains were taken. It was only after realising generic names like ratemyunihouseinbournemouth.co.uk was taken, that I thought I’d just make something up.
When I told a friend that I liked the name Movem, their response was: “that’s the worst out of the bunch”. And it stuck.
Throughout the years, Movem has been rebranded many times. Here’s a little known fact: Movem was originally Move’m, as in: move them.
Here’s our new logo and colour palette:
Our brand changes aren’t all visual.
In 2013, Movem was my tone of voice. Now, Movem is our tone of voice. And that’s difficult to manage. I want to ensure that the way our sales team speak to agencies is the same way I would, and future employees know exactly how we — Movem — act.
To clarify: we don’t want to come across as more serious. I like that we’re an honest, transparent and young company. This is actually to stop us becoming too serious and corporate as we grow.
For example, earlier this month I bought a corporate-looking water cooler for our office, and even that was painful. It felt like the tentacles of a corporate and political octopus worming it’s way into our small tech start-up.
I can’t stop our office having water coolers, but I can stop our brand becoming vanilla, and our products becoming over-orchestrated by executives in suits.
Our new website
Perhaps the biggest issue we’ve had over the last 6 months was the difference between what our website said we did, and what we actually did.
This wasn’t intentional. We’d created something so different to what exists today that we didn’t know the best way to explain what it was. We have a technical product that’s associated with lots of new terminology, and some of this wasn’t easy to explain.
Take this email below as an example, which is from one of the largest letting agencies in the UK. If you think there’s nothing between our product and a traditional reference, we’ve failed with our explanation.
We’re — as a team — also in a technical bubble. We know explicitly how the product works, and we have self-awareness of that. We’re not considering or even using Movem like a normal user.
So instead of us just trying to guess how to do it, we went out and talked to our alpha and beta testers. We asked them why they love our product, and more importantly; what sucked, or wasn’t clear.
This led us down a 4 month redevelopment process. We built animations, designed illustrations, and worked with agencies to finesse the explanation of Movem Passport.
Our new website is live: www.movem.co.uk
Finally; our mission
I want to end this with a story. And a footnote of sorts.
I was caught off guard during my first ever interview, by a simple question: what’s your mission with Movem?
What’s my mission? I hadn’t coherently channeled my thoughts into a single sentence before. I didn’t have anything as ambitious as Airbnb’s “belong anywhere”, and what the press printed was uninspiring: “to improve the landlord system in Bournemouth and make it more reliable”.
I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t have any kind of revenue model. And I didn’t think I had a mission statement.
It took me years to realise that actually, that’s all I really had. I didn’t have a business, I had a mission: to make renting fairer.
And that hasn’t changed in 5 years.
Our product will change. We may pivot over time. We will fail with some of the things we try. Our environment will change, and our team will too.
But our mission is so core to my own beliefs, and those deeply ingrained in our company, that it won’t change.
To summarise: this isn’t a new beginning for us. This isn’t a new Movem. This is a more refined and driven Movem than ever. We’ve spent 5 years finding our feet, and we’ve made history.