The Aprao team hail from a range of different industries, giving us a fun and interesting mix of personalities and skill sets! Nick Fisher joined the team a year ago and his background is as a Chartered Surveyor.
Tell us about your career progression, pre-Aprao. What process did you go through? Did you start off on a predictable and expected career path?
My dad was a Chartered Surveyor and that had an influence on my decision to pursue a career in real estate. I completed the University of Reading Real Estate Masters course and moved to London in 2014. After a little moving around, I managed to secure a graduate agency role at a reputable London-focused investment & development firm of surveyors, and began working towards chartership with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and became a member in 2016.
Surveying is an interesting and sociable profession! I was fortunate to be in the position of advising a range of clients from REIT’s, Funds and even charity owner-occupiers on asset sales, development acquisition, and asset management strategies.
Working in a small practice reporting directly to Partners is a demanding role that requires hard work and dedication. Those four years in surveying certainly kick-started my career in real estate!
I wouldn’t change my past experience, however after four years and some challenging London conditions presented by the EU referendum I considered new opportunities in the property sector. I felt my career path was looking quite predictable: build up a portfolio of clients, land deals, and work your way towards partner/director status. I was looking for a new challenge and to build a new skill set.
How did you hear about Aprao?
An agency friend of mine recommended researching PropTech roles. I didn’t know too much about roles for surveyors in technology and only had experience as the end user, having used tools such as CoStar and Argus. I did some research and quickly found Aprao! There was a job posted on AngelList - a tech start-up job website. I saved the job post and gave it some thought. I was aware that my CV was geared to real estate transactions and not technology sales!
It took a few days of editing my CV, drafting a short covering note, and making some calls to a friend working in the tech sector. To my surprise I got a call with the CEO and Co-Founder, Daniel Norman, who was interested to hear my story.
After meeting with the Aprao team I knew the work environment would suit me perfectly. Each team member has their own unique skill set, each complementing one another.
What was it about Aprao - the company, the job opportunity, the people - that appealed to you so much that you were willing to take a risk, and completely change career paths?
There were many aspects that appealed to me about the company! The vision and roadmap for the product was well thought-out and exciting, the culture was creative and informal, and there was a strong camaraderie between the team. The transition from an office-based job rocking a suit and tie to wearing what I want and working where I want has been very refreshing. My productivity level has definitely increased and quality of life has improved.
I believe the opportunity is huge - there are thousands of developers and property professionals in the UK. The majority are still using archaic Excel spreadsheet models and a minority are using legacy software solutions. This is all the real estate market knows. I use modern applications in almost every aspect of my life and yet when I was going to work I was using an Excel appraisal model!
I suppose there was a risk of leaving the establishment. I had a settled job and had built up a good network of investors, developers, and agents. I enjoyed the practice but it all felt a bit stagnant. Looking back now, joining Aprao is one of the best decisions I've made.
Can you tell us about some of the learning curves you've taken throughout this switch? Learning about SaaS, sales, service, marketing, CRM, remote work... some of the areas in which you've had to rapidly up-skill have been brand new to you!
The last 10 months have been a challenge but really rewarding! I had to Google what SaaS was after my first interview, I hadn’t come across the term before! Although I have been involved in the sale and acquisition of London real estate, software sales is very different. I had never worked in conjunction with a marketing team. Understanding the relationship between marketing and sales has been a massive step, but there are so many great books out there which help bridge the gap. One of my favourites is Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross which you can find here.
Aprao has gone fully remote for a number of reasons, one of which is to aid our international expansion. I have quickly had to learn the cloud based tools our company utilises (you can read about those here) such as Basecamp, Trello, and Chargebee. I had never heard of any of these platforms prior, so I guess that has been one of the biggest hurdles - learning to use the Aprao software itself was actually the easiest for me!
Can you tell us about the unique skill set you've been able to bring to Aprao? Without you on the team, what would we be missing?
Having worked in the sector I understand the process and the pain points in the industry. I have found membership with the RICS has definitely helped, too. I understand development appraisals, and as a result I was able to quickly get my head around the product. I've also found that the contacts I built up through the industry provided me with a strong foundation to start with, but the most valuable skill is that I speak the industry language, so I can quickly build rapport with our target audience and provide them with the support they need to make business decisions.
There's a wealth of PropTech companies out here creating a mass of noise - people get hammered by various marketing emails and cold calls about different products, and it can be hard as an SME to navigate these, and to focus in on which is the best solution to adopt! So while of course I am trying to sell Aprao, I see my role as more of a trusted PropTech advisor. I'm happy to talk about other solutions that I think may fit their business, regardless of whether we have a relationship with those solutions. SME Surveyors and Developers don’t have in-house tech advisors and the decision makers are of a more mature generation, so hopefully what we're offering is more than just a platform - it's business support for an ever-evolving industry, making sure SMEs don't get left behind.
The real estate industry hasn’t had a slick cloud-based appraisal tool, and there are negative perceptions about older legacy softwares that we're working to overcome. Most seem to think that development appraisal software is expensive, requires extensive training, and is clunky to use. A lot of my time is spent trying to convince people to just see the product - their reaction after the demonstration instantly changes that perception!