Picture the scene, the year 2013, Spain was awash with ghost towns of unfinished developments and I was frustrated by the lack of light at the end of the tunnel. I can still recall the cartoon (below) by El Roto that was published in El País around that time – I keep a copy of it next to a poster that says, “never forget September 2007”. With that in mind, one day I sat down with my best friend and confidant – my wife – to tell her that I had two options: splash out on a new motorbike and find a new career, or invest in an idea that I’d been mulling over for some time that had the potential to generate employment and opportunities in areas where there were none. Her answer was plain and simple: go for it. And I did…
By the end of 2014, we had come up with the first version of Viviendea, “the first platform for tailor-made housing”. I won’t go into too much detail about our story, since I’ve already done that in this blog post, but I always like to recall how our supposed target client viewed the platform as a threat, telling me: “it’s a good idea, but if there’s demand, you’ll just end up becoming a developer, and our competition”. That was when I realised that we needed to test out the process for ourselves. Is it possible to start building a new development based on the requirements of the end-buyer and make them a tailor-made home? Let me give you a hint – of course it is.
In 2018, after two failed attempts, we successfully got the process underway to develop 24 homes, built to suit the exact requirements and needs of their 24 respective buyers. Each and every home was customised from the outset and 100% of the “sales” were completed before the design development phase. A project that would not have been possible no matter how much market research was carried out. A project tailored to what the buyers wanted – supply perfectly honed to meet the demand.
We could have shouted from the rooftops, taken on the sceptics, bragged about our unique project, but we knew that we had a long way to go to get the necessary permits and funding – as we still hadn’t verified the whole process at this point. We have always been honest and acted with caution – never taking anything as read. One might call us unconventional entrepreneurs, passionately selling our idea but never losing sight of or playing down the risks involved – which just like in any other new-build development were high, primarily due to the lengthy timeframes involved. Never once have we promised exceptional returns – we’re not in the business of trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. We’ve just carried on our own, working towards a clear end-goal. Year after year, one step at a time.
I recently read about the concept of zebra startups… and although there is a bit of that in us, I preferred the idea of a camel startup – I think it’s a concept that better describes us. We always keep going (some might say I’m slightly annoying, or persistent at best). When we’ve been able to, we’ve moved fast, and when we haven’t, we’ve taken our foot off the gas, but never stopped, always moving forwards and working to improve the experience for people buying new-build homes…. creating a tailor-made experience.
In March 2020, we gained our licence, but we kept quiet and kept our heads down, as we still needed the developer loan – which we were granted last week. So, this week, at long last, construction began on a brand-new building like no other. Now we really can shout loud and clear that: “together with our 24 homebuyers, we are building Valencia’s very first bespoke new-build property, designed to meet the specific requirements of its end-buyers – the people who will live in it”.
Now that we have verified the whole process, we are going right back to the beginning, so we don’t “look like” or pose competition for anyone in the sector. Quite the contrary, we are bringing new opportunities to the sector. We’re not trying to start a revolution. We want to represent the natural and digital evolution of a virtually outdated model – a product-based model. We want to launch a brand-new, client-based model, one that connects their needs with developers, architects, real estate firms and construction companies, so that we can create the very best supply that is perfectly in line with what buyers are looking for. Not by using data, but by listening to the end client. It is possible to build tailor-made homes, just follow the steps that we set out at Viviendea: listen, think, do.
And we want to continue to grow, as together with all the clients and professionals that are joining our platform every day, we will shout louder and achieve our goal sooner.
Oh, and by the way, I’ve long forgotten about that motorbike – maybe one day I’ll get it, or maybe I won’t, either way it doesn’t matter anymore. Life goes on and so do we.