Brent Lauinger, VP of Business Development & Co-founder at Repree by NexOne
1. What does Repree by NexOne do?
My co-founder, Steven Kenway, and I started Repree in 2010 to help real estate professionals streamline their work through business process management and workflow automation. Using Repree, real estate agents and brokerages have access to tools and processes including document management, standardized forms, and electronic signature solutions, all bundled into a centralized package.
2. What inspired you to start? What problem does Repree solve?
In the early to mid-2000’s, I was working in software for a large enterprise-level business process automation company. I transitioned out of that role to become a full-time realtor. After spending 5-6 years in the industry, I started to consider how enterprise-level workflow solutions could translate to the real estate industry. Up until that point, real estate processes were manual and very paper heavy. I realized that I could leverage the systems that I was already familiar with and mold them to fit the needs of the real estate industry.
3. How long did it take you to go from prototype to launch?
We laid our first line of code at the beginning of 2010 and launched our minimum viable SaaS product about 7-8 months later. At the time it was nothing more than a document management tool specifically structured for real estate.
4. How did you determine who your audience might be for this product?
With my software, workflow and real estate experience, I was positioned as a unique subject matter expert. I was constantly going out and talking to other real estate professionals to search for pain points and try to eliminate those using our technology.
Before we released our minimum viable product, we ran Facebook ads to test the industry’s response to various different product names and descriptions and tracked clicks on each variation to see what resonated most. After running the campaign for 1-2 weeks, a company from Abbotsford reached out to us and they are still a customer to this day. Within our vertical, things vary significantly between provinces and making that connection helped us expand our knowledge and our network in another province which was extremely valuable to us, and still is.
5. Do you have a team? If yes, who is on it and how did you go about building your team?
Our team varies from 10-15 people and we utilize government programs to access student interns in the summer. We currently have 8 full-time employees split between sales, development, marketing, and customer support. When we were acquired by NexOne in October, our teams combined bringing us to a total of 30 full-time employees.
The merger was a natural fit because NexOne focuses on the company and brokerage side, and we focus on individual agents. With the help of NexOne’s robust back office solution, we were able to create a more cohesive ecosystem by extending how far people could go in our system. Although we were acquired, it was really more a merger and the Repree product itself will persist.
6. If you could hire someone today to help you with one thing what would it be and why?
We have tons going on post-merger, but growth is our biggest priority. We are starting to think about how we can expand into jurisdictions that we aren’t currently in, whether that be provincial or national. Getting into countries like Australia and the UK is a very specific ball game. If I were to hire someone today, I would want a strategist that knows the ins and outs of expanding across borders.
7. If you could learn one new skill what would it be and how would it help you build your company?
From a growth perspective, marketing is a key component and if we knew a bit more I would anticipate that our traction and growth would have been accelerated.
8. What are your greatest achievements so far?
When we started the company 7-8 years ago, our business plan had an exit strategy of acquisition. Our first step was getting over the two-year hump which is a milestone for all startups. Although it took a bit longer than expected, being able to build on that and achieve our goal of exiting the company was huge.
9. What are your future goals for your company? Any specific milestones for 2018?
Because of the merger, we need to take two products that were competitors for a long time and cohesively bring them together to tell a story with one product. They were both built on different technologies with different user interfaces - everything about them is different. We need to make the products come together in a way that provides the level of synergy that we want which is a big task and a big challenge.
We are also striving for continued growth. We have established market share in Canada and now we have to determine how we can establish that in other countries.
10. How has Startup Calgary helped you?
In the early stages of our journey, Startup Calgary helped us get a write-up on our product published in the Calgary Herald. This was so valuable at a time when we were trying to share our product with our target demographic in our own backyard. Startup Calgary has also helped us find interns!
11. How can companies make the most of their experience with Startup Calgary?
I can’t express how important it is to be active in the community. If you aren’t, you are probably missing out on a lot. On the flip side of that, you want to be involved and active but you can’t let it drive everything that you do to the point that it becomes a distraction.
12. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their idea from the back of a napkin to the marketplace?
Remember that it is really tough to do everything yourself, which is why it’s so important to find a partner to satisfy what you can’t do. If you are on the technical side, go find someone who can manage the business side and vice versa. Find a way to focus on your strengths.
I’ve also come across a lot of entrepreneurs who are reading books about every different strategy under the sun. At some point, you have to pick and choose what is relevant to you and actually do it.
13. If you could do one thing differently while building your startup, what would you have done?
I am very analytical and I made a few mistakes because I didn’t listen to my gut instinct. Not going with my gut has come back to bite me every time. It’s not something you can measure, but it does need to be taken into account. I didn’t think that my gut instinct would be so correct, especially as a young founder when you are told you might be a bit naïve. I’ve learned to listen to my subconscious, get to the bottom of why I feel that way, and make it a massive part of my decision-making process.
14. If you could tell the rest of the world something about Calgary, what would it be?
Watch out for our technology sector. With the momentum we are building, I don’t doubt that we will be a technology hub in Western Canada. With the names that are coming out of Calgary, I don’t see any reason why we can’t position ourselves as the technology hub of Canada.
15. What event, program or resource in Calgary’s startup community made the biggest impact on your company?
The pitch events were most beneficial to us early on. These events allowed us to get in front of non-judgemental peers and learn how to talk about our product. Going to those events before we started to heavily push sales allowed us to establish the story we wanted to tell.
16. What event, program or resource in Calgary’s startup community made the biggest impact on your company?
Be persistent. Don’t get discouraged. The road ahead can be bumpy at times. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and utilize and appreciate those that help you. Leverage the people who have made mistakes that you aren’t aware you are about to make.
Learn more at: https://repree.com/nexone
Published April 17, 2018