When is a disruptor really a disruptor?

Every new shiny piece of PropTech promises to be the biggest and the best thing since sliced bread, but few really are.

We’ve seen cut-price commission and crowd-funded and owned models come and go, as well as share platforms and MLM real estate companies.

They’ve all grabbed headlines and spruiked that they’re a disruptor, but few have truly shaken things up and changed the real estate landscape significantly or for the long-term.

That’s because real estate is like a really stubborn 1000 tonne boulder. If you run at that boulder full pelt and drop your shoulder in, all you’ll end up with is a busted shoulder.

But that’s not to say it’s impossible to shift the boulder. You can.

To make real, long-term, sustainable change (or disruption if you’re still keen on that buzzword), you need to take a quieter, simpler approach.

Just as ocean waves slowly erode a coastline over time, it’s the quiet pitter-patter of drizzling rain that will move the real estate boulder.

Slowly but surely it will shift the dirt, the grass and everything else underneath it until the boulder suddenly flies down the hill at a rapid speed.

The companies and PropTech that are truly disrupting the real estate industry aren’t the ones claiming the big headlines, but the ones that have slowly created must-have change.

They’ve seamlessly integrated into the day-to-day lives of real estate agents without them noticing, making their lives easier and more efficient.

The big ‘shiny’ companies, models, tech and processes that have failed have usually wound up in the bin because the change they bring is too big, too hard and too messy.

A good disruptor infiltrates the lives of those that need it, solving a genuine problem without them realising it.

Of course, I believe Market Buy is the perfect example of this, but if you’re after another, look no further than DocuSign.

DocuSign didn’t penetrate and gain traction in the industry by screaming, “We’re going to disrupt you,” rather it carefully and quietly identified a problem that needed to be solved and solved it.

When an agent was tearing their hair out about the convoluted process required to get contracts signed, DocuSign was there whispering, “Hey, why don’t you try DocuSign? We’ve got you; just upload the document and send it. It’s simple”.

While DocuSign is the biggest name in this particular space, there are now numerous variations of this technology and methodology around and agents wouldn’t be without it. 

It may not have come in with a bang, but it would sure be noticed if it was no longer available.

There are two types of companies in the disruption space. Some claim to be in it for the customer but have an underlying culture focused on the almighty dollar. 

Prices go up at the first opportunity. 

Then some really are in it for the client and understand that helping people and playing the long game is the best way to win.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

There are three things that are key if you want to disrupt the real estate industry:


Instead, try and solve a problem for your clients and do it in such a seamless fashion that the problem no longer exists, but the client has no idea how they got to this point. Now that they are here, they can’t think of any other way to do things.


This comes back to client focus and investing in solving problems for those on the front line. The only way to do this is to get on the front line, down in the trenches, yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea what’s happening on the battlefield and where the war can be won.


This doesn’t mean ‘only’ build something cool. You still need to follow the first two points. But if you invest in something you’re passionate about, then you’re always going to love working with it, so when the inevitable storm hits, you’ll still be having fun. 

That means that you’ll be kind of like Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump, riding the top of the mast mid-storm, embracing the madness of it all and loving every second of it – rather than collapsing under the weight of it all. 

John Hellaby is the chief digital strategist at Market Buy.

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John Hellaby

John Hellaby is the Chief Executive Officer at Market Buy.