Amanda Graham spent a number of years looking for a retirement village for her father with her sister-in-law Catherine Graham, experiencing a lot of frustration throughout the process. Because retirement villages and units are not listed on mainstream real estate sites online, the search ended up being extremely manual and tedious.
It was during that process though that the pair had their Aha! moment and asked the question: why did a realestate.com or domain.com.au not exist specifically for retirement villages and aged care? At the time, there was nothing else in market and so the pair decided to launch Seniors Housing Online (now known as Downsizing.com.au).
Amanda says, “Interestingly, everyone we spoke to, it was one of those things that went under the radar. Every single family we spoke to had been dealing with the same issue and was also complaining. The other interesting insight in terms of my previous career was that when we first started our search, I was the Chief of Staff to the New South Wales Minister for Ageing…and so we were dealing with the Federal Government on policy and funding. We were managing services in NSW and I was really involved in the management of that and the funding of services and yet it wasn’t until I was a consumer, looking for my father, I realised just how diabolical it was for consumers.”
Downsizing was recently part of the NRMA Jumpstart Program administered by Slingshot, taking part with the team of scale-ups. The business has been operating for a couple of years now, which means that it has garnered a considerable amount of traffic, clients and cash flow, and is therefore more advanced in its journey than its early-stage startup counterparts.
Around 95 percent of the company’s market is people over 50 looking for independent living space, which includes retirement villages, over 50s communities, and specialised property that has been specifically developed over the last couple of years.
“It’s very much a growing area with a whole lot of new development,” says Amanda. “These listings are not sold by real estate agents so they don’t get picked up by the major real estate websites.”
“We adapted their model and we’ve taken the best real estate technology and used the best real estate experts that we can find to develop our website. So it has all the functionality including emails, newsletters and alerts for consumers, and it is very easy to use.”
This space is really interesting because it is a massive market and a growing market, but it is still very much under the radar – there are not many people creating scalable technology solutions in the space.
The company makes its money via subscriptions and advertising; essentially it is the exact business model as its mainstream counterparts – a proven business model.
“We are applying a model that works and adapting it for our particular niche,” says Amanda. “We’ve also got specialist advertisers who are targeting this market as well so it’s a really good space to be in right now.”
To date the business has been bootstrapped, and there are no immediate plans to raise funds at this point. Having said that, the cofounders have said they wouldn’t be closed off to a raise in the future if they found the right investor and it would be beneficial to the business.
For now the platform is scaling with sales, while there are also over 2,000 listings at any one time on the site. There have been over 10,000 unique listings to date, and increasing this is a core focus over the next year.
Amanda says, “We are at that stage where we’re really poised for growth and the market’s ready. The big question for us as a startup is, at what point do we take on staff and how do we grow and how do we manage that growth as we scale up. We thought partnering with a large organisation like the NRMA ideally could be a fantastic partnership because they’ve obviously got the resources and the scale, as well as the audiences and the commitment to a consumer-centric venture into this sort of area.
“I think there’s a lot of potential to leverage off that. For us, it’s a real learning experience.”