Ksenia is an entrepreneur in the real estate rental market space from London, England. Ksenia is now Founder of Holmes, a mobile application that is devoted to creating a transparent and safe space for tenants to report problems in their rental property and communicate these issues to potential future tenants. Make sure to visit the Holmes website here to learn more, https://holmes-app.com/
Hear why Ksenia chose Doola, to launch her US company Holmes App
In this talk you will learn:
How Ksenia started her company
How Ksenia set up her business from a legal perspective
What it’s like to enter the US market as a non-American citizen
Why Ksenia chose to incorporate in Delaware
Minor edits have been made to this transcript to improve your reading experience
00:00:02 Arjun Mahadevan Hello everyone. Today I am joined by Ksenia from Holmes and I am super excited to learn more about your journey, your background, how you decided to build Holmes and share this with all the other entrepreneurs out there today. Ksenia, how are you? Thank you so much for coming on.
00:00:22 Ksenia Thanks very much Arjun and thanks for much for having me. And yeah. Look forward to telling you a bit about ourselves.
00:00:30 Arjun Mahadevan Awesome. Well let’s start with this. Could you just share about what you were doing before you started Holmes?
00:00:40 Ksenia My background is in law and I’m actually still a lawyer. I do work full time and, homes, really became a side project that I got very passionate about just because I noticed that there is an issue on the market that, wasn’t really fixed. Our personal experience made us realize that it would be very useful for other people to have a tool that homes is trying to build.
00:01:10 Arjun Mahadevan I see. Could you share a little more about the problem you are solving? what was the problem? Why wasn’t it solved and how does Holmes solve it?
00:01:19 Ksenia Of course. The way it’s targeted is we’re renting an apartment with my boyfriend in London and the apartment had some rather serious problems. We’re thinking that it would be really helpful to know from previous tenants, if these issues came up before and we realized that while several people attempted to build something to prevent this issue. It’s actually to connect previous tenants with future tenants. There was really no very widespread product that tenants would be aware of and that current tenants would be using to report existing problems. This was how the idea was born and we decided to essentially build a platform connecting previous tenants with future tenants. Very simple, but we thought it would really add value for people who are looking to sign a long-term tenancy. Which unfortunately is usually the case, for example, in England.
00:02:22 Arjun Mahadevan I see. I hear this a lot, but it very much sounds like this is a personal problem. You experienced and realized there’s a gap in the market. We can solve it. Maybe it’s a simple solution, but at the end of the day you went out and you executed, and it seems like you’re delivering value to people who aren’t seeing surprises when they move into new homes now.
00:02:45 Ksenia So no, we hope so. It wasn’t started as a commercial business. It was just so that people have some word to go first to report issues and their problems, the, in the properties, for example, it could be a leak, it could be noisy neighbors, it could be unsaved neighborhood, lack of natural light, very called bedroom during the winter. Also do you do on any properties that they’re going to run?
00:03:20 Arjun Mahadevan I see. Hey, those are all the types of things, which maybe the house looks great, but you don’t want to find out about those things. I want them to moving into it.
00:03:29 Ksenia Exactly. Yes. Or if you’re checking the property out during summer, you don’t want to find out during winter that the place is actually freezing.
00:03:39 Arjun Mahadevan Absolutely. Now something else you mentioned, which I actually want to double click on is you mentioned that you have a full-time job and you’re working on this on the side, is that right?
00:03:51 Ksenia Yeah. It it honestly just became a weekend project with, yeah, with friends. We hope that it was still able to deliver to users. Yeah.
00:04:05 Arjun Mahadevan Well, I would love to learn more about this because I know there are many people out there who are either working in a full-time or part-time job now and, or have a side project or a passion project that they would like to work on. Could you walk me through how you decided to turn this from a side project to something which, Hey, maybe it is just a weekend project for now, but how do you decide to, Hey, I’m going to keep this full-time job, but I’m also going to work on this. I mean, I’m sure you’re pretty busy and this is another thing on your plate. What led you to do that?
00:04:45 Ksenia I really got to believe that this is an issue and I really thought that we need to work on it just because it looked like no one else is going to, and we thought that we’re really wanting to make a small contribution to making the rental market a bit more transparent, a better system for tenants, just because in cities like London, New York, the balance is really tipped in the favor of the landlords. Where we really wanted to make her a small contribution and the price for that was, very often canceled. We can plans, canceled dinners, but, to be honest, so far, it’s been absolutely worth it.
00:05:30 Arjun Mahadevan I like that it’s about making an impact and contributing and helping others. I think you also highlighted that in entrepreneurship or starting a business, there are trade-offs and there are sacrifices you were spending your weekends on the business instead of maybe doing pure social things, but it sounds like overall no regrets. You’re delivering an impact too, which is fantastic, no regrets so far. Got it. And explain this to me. You have this side project and we started working on it or exploring the problem in the idea. How did you then decide it’s time to formalize this and create a us business?
00:06:13 Ksenia So, we really wanted to register a company before launching an app and, we are currently in the process of, preparing for launch. We’re still on the testing stage, but, for social media, because you create a channel for exchanging reviews or for exchanging information, you essentially create a form of social media for social media. It’s really important to have, a company, that is the face of best that the company that is allowed to collect personal data to process it, the company that has certain procedures and processes in place so that the customers know who they’re dealing with, who they can come and complain to, if something goes wrong. I think the legal slash organizational aspect was very important for us. We wanted to make sure that when a user downloads an app, they know they’re dealing with a company, they know they can come to us and complain as opposed to just doing, but an individual.
Yeah, so that was the main reason, to be honest, the reason why we chose us is because our big ambition is to expand into different markets. We thought that a us company would be a very good strategic position to start. Also for example, for attracting finance, for just thinking about, things that might come up in the future, having a us registered business, is really an asset.
00:07:53 Arjun Mahadevan Makes a ton of sense. You wanted a vehicle or a face for all the work you were doing to interact with customers and to really hold the business. Also strategically the US as a market for potential expansion and customers, when you were looking for options or going through the process to figuring out how do I create a US company, what was that experience like? And how did you end up finding Doola?
00:08:23 Ksenia So, step one was deciding what state who have wanted to incorporate and Delaware, of course, offers, invaluable benefits, especially if you’re looking to build a very globally oriented business and the formalities are minimal, all the costs upfront. It’s very quick, very easy. Based on a rather quick Google search, we’ve decided that it will be Delaware. We started looking for agents and corporate administrators in the state. While the worst huge corporate service providers that I looked at, I think Doola just appeared to be something a bit more modern. I don’t know, I just really liked the interface and I thought, I think these guys know what they’re doing. To be honest, I’m really happy we made this decision.
00:09:25 Arjun Mahadevan Well, I, the pleasure is ours. We’re excited to be working with you and see the progress you’ve made and where you’re going to go. Could you share about what your experience has been like using Doola?
00:09:37 Ksenia Of course, I’m a very organized person and for me, it’s very important that whoever I work with is organized as well. And you guys have been absolutely incredible. You have been keeping us posted of the timeline of the progress of our applications. You always let us know what to expect when to expect a response, what to do if there is a delay. Were always informed, always knew where things were, which is unfortunately not always the case with other companies. I think that this was the main, value that you guys added to the process of creating the business on our side, which as you might expect, can be quite, as trustful and just burdensome. Also, yeah, I think they formalities were minimal and that was really good because, there was really barely little work required for us to actually facilitate all the applications. You did all we have lifting and, for that big, thank you.
00:10:45 Arjun Mahadevan Well, thank you again for the kind words. It really means a lot. That’s exactly what we tried to do. We want to take care of everything else other than building the business, because that’s what you do best. We can’t do that. I personally don’t know the rental market or there’s problems at all, so I wish we could help there, but maybe we’re not as experts as you are there. Let me ask you this. Were you ever worried that Doola was a scam?
00:11:14 Ksenia To be honest, I remember I read quite a few reviews and Trustpilot, and I thought, I think these guys are really good and I think, our, the users had very good experiences.
00:11:33 Arjun Mahadevan Awesome. I think what we’ve learned from a lot of folks is there are folks who’ve had very poor experiences with other companies and scammers do exist out there for sure. What we like to stress is that we aren’t in this for a, a short, Hey, one time relationship, et cetera. We try to be partners for the long-term with whoever we work with. Again, that’s what excites us about being with founders from the earliest stages and seeing how you and your company grow over time. Let me ask you a couple, rapid fire questions. What has been the hardest part about starting a venture and building a business?
00:12:16 Ksenia Yeah, I think it’s multitasking. Especially when you have a very small team, as I said is just a couple of friends and I, I think it can be quite hard to just prioritize where do you start first, especially if you have zero experience in this area is I think this has been the most challenging aspect so far, and I’m sure it will be the new is future.
00:12:40 Arjun Mahadevan On the flip side, what has been the most rewarding or positive aspects so far from building this venture?
00:12:47 Ksenia I think seeing how your idea, a paper or a napkin actually materializes into something, material, something you can download from app store or from Google play. I think this moment so far has been the most exciting, actually seeing how your ideas come into life.
00:13:12 Arjun Mahadevan Love that. How do you turn your ideas into life and bring them into existence? And on that, there are entrepreneurs out there maybe exactly, very similar situation to you were in a full-time job or a part-time job and have this idea that they would like to bring to life. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in a similar position?
00:13:37 Ksenia I would say just start somewhere, just make this first step. Just if you have the idea, just sit down, take a note pad or open, a blank word document and just start jotting down ideas or drawing or wherever your idealized, just take this first step. It will just get it going from there. Say don’t be afraid. Don’t don’t hold yourself back. I think this is the most important thing, because I think, people do tend to overthink and I definitely did that. I really wished that the moment I had the idea, I just sat down and said, okay, where do we start?
00:14:24 Arjun Mahadevan Just start. And I think it’s very easy. I find myself doing this too at times to second, guess yourself or seeds of doubt. And they prevent you from even started. At the end of the day, the only way you can really fail in some cases is by not trying. You always have that doubt or that regret or whatever.
00:14:45 Ksenia I absolutely agree with you.
00:14:48 Arjun Mahadevan So I really liked that advice. Just start, if you have an idea and I think starting can be as simple as jotting something down in the napkin, drawing out a website. So there’s many ways to start. It doesn’t mean you have to go out and build a full website yet. There’s things you can do before.
00:15:05 Ksenia Absolutely.
00:15:07 Arjun Mahadevan Fantastic. Well because then this was incredible. I think a lot of your messages and your experience really will resonate with a lot of founders out there. Thank you so much for really trusting us to work with you, build your business, and I’m so excited to see the progress you make in 2021. Let me finish with a final question. If you’re able to share or provide any sneak peaks. Are there any things on the horizon for homes in 2021 that you’d like to share?
00:15:37 Ksenia Yeah, definitely. We’re going to launch the actual app, hopefully next month. We will start expanding into other countries and just looking into other markets and seeing what is the rental situation there. Yeah, I think this is the main plan for 2021.
00:15:57 Arjun Mahadevan Love it. We have a new mobile app launching or app launching expansion across the globe. I’m excited. And Hey, I wouldn’t bet against you. I’m excited to see what yeah.
00:16:07 Ksenia Thank you, Orisha. Thank you. Thank you once again for all we hope guys.
00:16:12 Arjun Mahadevan Of course. Thank you so much for coming on. Really appreciate it.
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