They had their first date a few months ago at a common friend’s party and within a few weeks decided to get married. That’s the story of online real estate portal CommonFloor.com and its new investor Google Capital, the internet giant’s late-stage growth equity fund. The three co-founders of CommonFloor.com, Sumit Jain, Lalit Mangal and Vikas Malpani, first met the Google Capital team at a their existing investor Tiger Global Management’s annual conference in the US. Over the following weeks, the three entrepreneurs visited the internet giant’s campus in San Francisco and decided on the fund raising. In conversation with Itika Sharma Punit, Chief Executive Officer Sumit Jain spoke about the benefits Google brought to his company and his plans for using the funds. Edited excerpts:
Google Capital does not have an active team in India. How did you connect with them?
Tiger Global is an investor and we visit their global conference every year. It was at last year’s conference that we first met Google Capital. After that first date, we happened to visit Google’s campus in San Francisco and we were impressed by the expertise that they bring to the table. Later, we continued speaking over the phone. Since Tiger Global and Google Capital have made investments together, they have mutual respect. I think everything as a package was just too hard to refuse.
Does an investor like Google bring more value than a regular venture capital fund?
Google Capital’s investment is perhaps a testimony to the fact that we are doing a good job in the real estate market in India. Having said that, our earlier investors also understand technology a lot and that is evident from their portfolios. Apart from being a financial investor, Google Capital also has a huge understanding of building world-class, global products. So we get to talk to these experts who have built products like YouTube for streaming, maps, Android and Chrome. We will definitely derive a lot of benefits in terms of understanding and expertise.
What technological synergies do you think you can derive from Google?
We have said we want to be Google in the real estate segment in India, not just in terms of property search but also for mapping everything relating to buying property online. We want to do something like what Google has done by indexing every web page on the internet, and making it easy to search for end users. At CommonFloor.com, our vision is to map every property in India on our website and help consumers find property on our platform, research about it, and take an informed decision before buying or renting.
How will you use these funds?
We are investing heavily in technology, product and marketing. We will use these funds to innovate in all three areas. You will see a lot of new things coming up on CommonFloor that will help people take informed decisions about properties.
What technological innovations could users expect on your website?
Among other things, we are going to use data very effectively. You will see a lot of interesting products around data, where a buyer who is often not an expert on real estate will be able to take an informed decision. We are going to launch tools around data that help the common man find property.
This funding comes four months after you raised around $30 million. Are you going to be this focused on raising capital or look to turn profitable and invest from revenues?
When you raise funds, the ultimate aim for the business is to generate profits. Of course, we don’t want to depend on funding only, the funding is to grow and to scale. While we are raising funds, we are investing in growth while not waiting for profits to happen, even though we are well aware that profits will come. We are in the real estate market, which is very cash rich. So we are generating revenues and we are well on the path to generate more revenues and turn profitable.
What do you think impressed Google Capital about your company?
I think, it was our product, our team and our vision. We are at a very different scale from Google but our ideology and approach and whatever we have done with what we have is very similar. They have a great affinity for India as a market and maybe they should tell you more about what they liked about us.