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This article was published on August 7, 2015

Why a guy who rapped about HTML and a former ‘Masterchef’ contestant built a property app

Why a guy who rapped about HTML and a former ‘Masterchef’ contestant built a property app
Mic Wright
Story by

Mic Wright

Reporter, TNW

Mic Wright is a journalist specialising in technology, music and popular culture. He lives in Dublin. He is on Twitter at @brokenbottleboy. Mic Wright is a journalist specialising in technology, music and popular culture. He lives in Dublin. He is on Twitter at @brokenbottleboy.

Each week we’re profiling one company that has been selected for Boost – our early-stage startup growth program. Catch up with these companies in person at The Next Web Conference in New York on November 18.

It’s hard to knock Knocker, the app I previously described as “Tinder for UK property,” because it does its job so smoothly. Built upon data from Zoopla, the iOS app makes swiping through available places to let and buy, incredibly easy and actually enjoyable.

The app was created by two Manchester-based entrepreneurs Jon Grant and Sam Easterby-Smith. I dropped them a line to find out more about how they went from agency guys to building a property app that’s getting buzz, a pretty unlikely prospect.

Tell us what you do in two sentences.

We’re a new way to find a place to live for iPhone. We want to become the world’s favourite property marketplace.

How did the company come about? What’s your background?

We’re best friends who have collaborated on lots of projects over the last six years or so. Sam is an experienced iOS developer, while Jon is a former agency dude and looks after design.

Over about 60 pints of beer (not all in one sitting), we talked about our frustrations with the home buying experience, and realised we couldn’t solve all the problems. So, we looked at how people currently search for a home on mobile (based on our own experiences with the process), and took it from there.

House hunting made easier by Knocker
House hunting made easier by Knocker

Who are your biggest rivals, and why are you different?

PropTech is an extremely hot and competitive space, so we’re trying to differentiate ourselves by not behaving like a traditional property company.

In terms of mobile, both Rightmove and Zoopla have a large install base in the UK, so if we can convert a few of their users, we’re happy. We’re also powered by Zoopla, so use their data to fuel listings found in the app. In the US, there’s a couple of companies who have either similar apps, approaches, or attitudes to ours, but we’re not playing in their sandpit (yet).

Get rich or change the world? Which would you rather, and why?

We want to have an effect on how people are treated in the home buying process – the experience is very much in the favour of estate agents, meaning the people taking the financial risk and buying property have the worst end user experience. So, yes, changing the world of how someone engages with a new home is the top priority, and if we can afford better houses for ourselves as a result? Well, that would be nice too.

How big is your team? Tell us one weird fact about a member of your team.

There’s two of us at the moment as we’ve only been going since April. We spent three months with the Ignite Accelerator in Newcastle, which introduced us to an amazing network of potential investors and mentors. Once we’ve raised our seed round, we’ll look to bring in another developer, a growth specialist, and a commercial co-founder. Get in touch if you’re interested!

As for weird facts, Sam wrote a song about HTML once. Really. It’s him rapping on it. He even made a video.

Jon was on Masterchef ten years ago, but that’s far less kooky.

If you weren’t working on Knocker, what would you be doing? 

We took the opportunity to work on this as we were both looking for something else to do at the time. We both have young families, so we’d probably be walking the contracting train or finding opportunities back in agency land. Starting a company was an idea that developed over the process of making the product, so was never the intention from the start, but an amazing decision to have made.

Knocker [iOS]

Read next: FixApp wants to provide a fair marketplace for all your household or business task


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