Coming from a family where both parents were real estate agents, Gadiy Lim wanted to pursue down a different path altogether. That soon changed after he worked and travelled around the United States and Australia, where he was exposed to property management in those countries. It was also then that he realised Malaysia’s real estate industry is easily five to ten years behind their more developed counterparts.
Inspired by new ideas and motivated by the changes he could bring, Gadiy came home and there he witnessed first-hand the challenges and roadblocks that come with turning the industry around. He took a hard blow after his first attempt at a startup did not take off as planned. Investor after investor came and went, but none wanted to carry the torch with him. Even when he was close to hitting rock bottom, Gadiy picked himself up again and again, still believing that what he has in mind is what the people need. That idea is what we know today as Bumbung.
Tell us about Bumbung.
Bumbung is a platform that matches people’s real estate requests to what agents have. From there we’ll find matches based on their criteria to what agents have to offer. At this stage, we’re working hard to get more agents to come on board. They trust that we’re doing something very different by adding more transparency, giving agents a better and fairer platform to do business, and fight for something they believe in.
What about the property industry that you’re so passionate about?
I was doing a lot of travelling in the US and Australia where I got to see how they managed properties and admired how they went about it. Agents over there are very professional, unlike what we have right now in Malaysia. When I came back home, I saw a potential for a bigger future in property space development and that we can do so much better than a lot of real estate portals out there. Using the experience I gained as a real estate agent, I started thinking of new ideas that we can use to reform the future of real estate in Malaysia.
“I believe that if you fail as an entrepreneur, you should fail fast so you can restart faster and find your momentum again.”
What are some of the things that you’ve seen in the US and Australia that you’d like to bring over here?
In Australia, whatever that is advertised on their sites is fixed. You won’t see any sort of bargaining going on. Furthermore, the photos that you see are clear. You can’t just post up pictures you took with your iPhone; you need to hire a professional photographer to do that for you. Quality control is very important and that is something we’re trying to emulate. Agents in these countries are represented by a board that have implemented certain rules and policies to abide by. There’s also no such thing as soliciting your services over there. If you’re in need of an agent, you’ll have to go through an agency first and from there they’ll appoint you a representative - it’s all properly organised.
Before Bumbung, you were involved in another property startup but had to pull the plug on that. What happened after?
After leaving, we had to work on a new idea because Claire and I knew that the property space is where we want to be. What made it more difficult was when we met with our investors; they had told us our new idea wouldn’t work because it wasn’t good enough - it was untested and there were too many risks. However, we knew that we had to do this because according to a survey that we did with tenants and agents, they’re looking for solutions we can provide. Claire and I were beginning to run low on our personal funds and it was coming to a point where we may need to go back to work. There wasn’t anything wrong with that; I believe that if you fail as an entrepreneur, you should fail fast so you can restart faster and find your momentum again. We met with another investor and surprisingly, our odds changed. They liked our concept and agreed to invest in every aspect of the business - which meant we’re covered a hundred percent.
What’s the one takeaway after meeting with so many potential investors?
Don’t give up, but persevere through. No successful person would be where they are today if they didn’t choose to persevere. Thomas Edison must have gone through hundreds of light bulbs before he made one that worked. We met with 70 investors before we found one that said yes. Ask your peers and mentors to keep grilling you so that you’re prepared for the next investor. Ask them to poke holes in your pitches or even at your character. Sure, it’s not fun hearing the truth about yourself but it’ll help you in the long run.
What advice would you give to those who want to explore a traditional industry like real estate but want to add a modern touch to it?
Whatever you choose to venture into, try to come up with an idea that you know you’ll be good at. You need to be able to solve a problem, not just because it’s got a cool user interface. Look at what people are doing now; players in the same industry aren’t necessarily your competitors. In fact, these are the people who will be giving you answers to what your company is going to be about.
“We met with 70 investors before we found one that said yes.”
It’s one thing to want to improve on existing ideas, but it’s a whole other ball game to revolutionize a usually traditional industry. He is a firm believer that the key to a more responsible and organised relationship between clients and agents is transparency. There were many who didn’t think it would work because “that’s just how the business is”, but thankfully for people like Gadiy who won’t take no for an answer, a new breed of tech entrepreneurs are on the rise – and Malaysia will finally be up to speed with other developed nations.
“...players in the same industry aren’t necessarily your competitors”.