What is your background?
Born in Pretoria, my family moved to the northern suburbs of Cape Town when I was 9. I was hugely fortunate to have spent my formative years in Stellenbosch, first at my alma mater Paul Roos Gymnasium, and then the University of Stellenbosch. After Stellenbosch, I received a bursary to complete my master’s degree at the University of Oxford, which was a life-changing experience. After Oxford I joined Deloitte Consulting in London for 3 years focusing on strategy & operations, traveling the world working with some really interesting global companies. However I missed home too much, and after being offered the opportunity to join a Joburg-based investment banking team I decided to make the move back. Prior to starting Leadhome, I was a Vice President in Mergers & Acquisitions at Deutsche Bank, advising some of the best companies in South Africa on corporate strategy.
How did you start Leadhome?
Leadhome grew out of the initial realisation that the estate agency industry is fundamentally flawed. Given the disruptive impact that technology-based companies have had on established and set-in-their-way industries like transportation, retail, and banking, we identified an opportunity to take on the status quo in real estate. Even though Leadhome today looks nothing like our initial idea, it set the ball rolling. We spent over 12 months researching the industry, talking to various role players, and getting the right people involved.
Which companies do you admire? Why?
I am a really big fan of disruptive businesses that take on the status quo. We’re very lucky in South Africa to have had some really great companies that have recently lead the way – for example, Capitec disrupting the banking sector and King Price disrupting the insurance sector. They both saw an opportunity to change an industry that was stuck in its ways.
What challenges are facing Leadhome right now?
Our biggest challenge is to ensure our processes, standards, and ethos is upheld as Leadhome grows. The response from the public has been phenomenal, which has confirmed to us that the market is ready for our hybrid approach and which drives our expansion across South Africa. As we grow, we want to continue adding the best people to our team, whilst at the same time continuing to improve our client experience.
Tell us about one professional and one personal goal that you would like to accomplish during your lifetime?
From a professional perspective, I would like to play a major part in helping to change the estate agency industry in favour of clients. The way things are working now only favours the estate agencies, with only some of the real benefit being passed on to clients. I’d like to help change that.
From a personal perspective, I would really like to one day hike the Pacific Crest Trail in the USA. It is a 4,286 km hike from the USA’s southern border with Mexico to its northern border with Canada. It looks awe-inspiring.
How would you spend the perfect day off in Johannesburg?
Well, the day would start with walking my two dogs to go have breakfast at The Whippet in Linden, which to my mind makes the best eggs benedict in town. It’d be followed by a day at the Wanderers Cricket Ground with a bunch of friends watching the Proteas demolish the English cricket team. After that we’d go have sundowners at the renovated Westcliff Hotel, dinner in Rosebank at either the Grill House or Koi, and finish it off at home with a good book.
What’s your favourite place for dinner?
Wow… Joburg has so many too choose from. I’ll narrow it down to either the Grill House or Koi in Rosebank, Franco’s in Parktown North, or La Parreirinha in Rosettenville.
What was the last book you read?
The last book I finished was Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, and I’m currently reading Deon Meyer’s latest book Ikarus.
What is one piece of technology you can’t live without?
Without any doubt my iPhone. It runs my life!
What will dominate real estate news in 2016?
I think the economic slowdown and impact of rising interest rates will be the biggest news in the real estate industry. That and the impact Leadhome is having on changing the status quo!
Follow Marcél on Twitter @marcel_dutoit and Leadhome on @LeadhomeSA!