“Today’s Client Expects Top Notch Service, No Matter What Other Perks you Offer”, With Ori Goldman CEO of Loftey
“There are so many things to worry about when trying to grow a small business. Wearing many hats is part of the job. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day operational grind but focusing on larger medium and long term company goals is absolutely paramount.”
I had the pleasure to interview Ori Goldman. Several years ago Ori came to realize through personal experience that the process of finding luxury apartment rentals was broken. The majority of sites were using old pictures, misleading content, inaccurate prices and all kinds of sketchy marketing techniques that were unfair to consumers. So he started Loftey which helps you find your next great apartment while saving you time, money and stress. Loftey was originally bootstrapped by Ori then raised a small friends and family round. He has 2 co-founders, 18 employees and of course the company is based in NYC.
Q: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I don’t have any background or experience in real estate whatsoever. Out of school I was working at a bank and really never felt comfortable in that big company environment and always had the desire to try and start my own business. My current co founder was in a similar role at another bank I remember we used to go back and forth all day over Bloomberg chat tyring to just come up with an idea, any idea, that we thought had enough legs to push us to leave and just do it. Fortunately Loftey really fell into our lap. My brother was a real estate broker who shared horror stories about how his colleagues were making money off renters and since we were in our 20’s, most of our friends were renters too. Every single one of them either had a terrible experience renting an apartment or knew someone that did. In NYC, the apartment hunt is such an infamously terrible experience, it was a pain point we felt was deep enough to go after, and really was what inspired me to pursue this and help others.
Q: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
The fake online apartment and housing listings stand out, because some of them are so ridiculous. We will verify them for our clients, so we tell them to send us the link. The listing that stands out the most is when a client told me they were bait and switched by a broker and asked for my help. They said they wanted us to help them rent the apartment, not the person who was trying to scam them. They were told to meet on a corner nearby the alleged apartment and then the broker took them somewhere totally different than promised where the apartment didn’t match the criteria. After doing some further research, we found out the amenities in the listing (including the photo of a pool) were actually from a hotel in Seoul, South Korea. I brought this evidence to the building to let them know there was a broker out there using photos of hotels in Asia to bait clients to their buildings and then show them other units. The building told me it was ‘hearsay’ and ended the conversation there. It was then that I learned the buildings themselves didn’t care about this behavior because at the end of the day, it brings clients in the door. I knew we were onto something big.
Q: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Every real estate company out there has the same “value add” — a superior customer experience. We wanted to make sure not only are our clients ecstatic and referring their friends to us, but they were also actually better off going with us. This is a new concept in this market. Most brokers charge their clients money for a service — we wanted to do a complete 180 and actually pay our clients for letting us help them. We still get many brokers and buildings that don’t believe us, and make us sign contracts or confirm in writing that we are not charging our clients anything and that we will be working for free on these deals. What we’re doing is so different than what people in this business have seen before that we still need to educate our market on this new model.
Q: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
You won’t find many startup founders who will tell you that this is easy. I have had an incredible team from day one that still make this all possible. We’ve had a few rough patches when we didn’t think it would work, and it took some real perseverance from our team and our investors to get through it and allow us to continue fighting. I am exceptionally grateful for the hard work that brought us to this point.
Q: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? (This might be used as your “hero statement” under the heading of the article.)
Say the word ‘broker’ to any New Yorker and you’ll see their shoulders start to cringe. People are fed up with brokers who are trying to scam them, show them fake listings, or charge exorbitant fees. So it’ feels good to know we’re actually helping people — we’re literally giving them money that would have otherwise gone to a broker or no one at all. And even more than saving people money, at the end of the day, people care that we took one of the biggest stresses in their life at the moment — moving — and made it manageable, and, dare i say, enjoyable.
Q: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why.
You will be surprised when you do your market research. The first version of our site didn’t have any apartments on it. It just had a headline “Free move when you rent an apartment with Loftey”. We thought this concept of not charging broker fees and paying for our clients’ move was so radical that the clients would start flowing in. Wow how wrong we were. User research and constant improvements to our website, process and sales pitch are always at the top of our to do list.
Hiring is hard (but important!) Even though our real estate agents have a conversion rate that is 20x the market average, it’s still always a challenge to find great people. In an industry with very high turnover, keeping employees happy and maintaining a strong company culture is extremely important.
Winter is coming. Things were off to a fast start the moment we launched our website in May 2015. When the slow season came, it was a shock to see the stark difference between demand in the summer and demand in the winter. Looking back we probably didn’t have quite enough cushion in form of runway but thankfully we are still around and our first winter was a great learning experience.
Don’t get lost in the weeds. There are so many things to worry about when trying to grow a small business. Wearing many hats is part of the job. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day operational grind but focusing on larger medium and long term company goals is absolutely paramount.
Today’s client expects top notch service, no matter what other perks you offer. A key differentiator between Loftey and other real estate companies is that we don’t charge our clients broker fees and we actually make their move cheaper. When we initially speak to clients, these financial savings jump out and appear to be the main reason we win business. However, months after our clients have moved, most of them say it was the quality of service that resulted in their positive experience, not the money they saved, so no matter what, top notch service must always remain constant.
Q: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this.
Elon Musk. He has lead several successful companies off of the basis of solving consumers’ pain points and problems. Whether it’s a technology platform or building cars, he knows how to build a team and scale a business where the customer experience is core value, then implement those ideas. He has also shown strong resilience several times as macro economic factors almost led to several of his companies failing.