Johnathan Wu is no stranger to start-ups. After graduating from UNSW, Johnathan started a cyber café retail concept (sold in 2012) and later an IOT / hardware startup (2011 – 2013). Today he runs Global Business Exchange (GBE)—a business brokerage firm which helps investors to buy and sell businesses, and BrokerP2P—a CRM that powers business brokers, franchisers and leasing managers.
In this article you will read about:
- Fixing problems in the business brokerage industry
- Developing an offline MVP to build the best online CRM
- Delays, challenges and future plans
In late 2013, Johnathan had the opportunity to observe a successful Chinese property developer that wanted to diversify their investments into Australia.
The property developer had countless face to face meetings with different stakeholders that wanted to sell him a site between tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. The opportunities presented were regarded as confidential and was sent through in the form of email or sometimes, in an Excel document with a list of a dozen or more available sites.
“What struck me at the time was there were property portals that could match inventory to the preferences of the user, but there weren’t any platforms to handle confidential business deals.”
Upon further research, Johnathan realised this problem was affecting not just the big end of the town, but the small to medium business deal space too.
“We realised Australian SMEs made up 97% of all Australian businesses. If our start-up were to impact millions of people, we need to tailored our solution to the SME space”.
In late 2014, Johnathan decided to venture into the business brokerage industry to validate his assumptions about the industry. He set up his own agency – Global Business Exchange (as the name implies – to take on the global market in deal flows as an agency) and also reached out to friend and former colleague Xiao Di Guan to build a tech platform codenamed BrokerP2P.
The initial prototype requirements were to build a preference matching and referral system connecting verified buyers and vendors to a business broker. It later evolved into a more complex open CRM platform with its initial focus on the business brokerage industry. Xiao Di Guan resigned at Atlassian in 2016 to come on board as the technical co-founder and to work on building the platform full-time.
Johnathan and Xiao focused on the business brokerage industry first since there weren’t any high-quality business brokerage CRM solutions that were available to everyone. There were real estate CRMs, but the business deal flow process was quite different to the real estate buying process and often involved more stakeholders.
“Typically, as a buyer of a business – you would go to an advertising portal to find an opportunity you’d be interested in. But often the available information on the advertising portal is vague and it can take days before a business broker responds to an enquiry in order to provide more information for the buyer to review.”
“Preference matching is limited on advertising portals because it doesn’t have access to confidential business details that the broker keeps on their computer or email. The current digital user experience for a prospective purchaser is very poor.”
“As for the broker, they don’t have an industry specific CRM solution to use that could handle confidentiality agreements, manage listings and provide sales advice.”
“We believe we can solve some of the problems facing this industry including: verifying online buyer profiles, and knowing when a business is sold when brokers in multiple agencies are selling the same business. Our CRM solution can also facilitate conjunction agreements between different agencies in order to achieve the desired outcome faster for their respective clients.”
Johnathan called BrokerP2P an open CRM solution since CRMs were traditionally closed systems for organisations.
“They are used to manage relationships and the typical sales process with their clients. Rarely do we see CRM systems that can collaborate across multiple industries to achieve better experiences for customers.”
“We’re designing BrokerP2P to do just that. We’re aiming to build the platform that facilitates collaboration between business brokers, brands (franchisers) and leasing companies or shopping centres.”
Even though the solution Johnathan and his team is building is specific to his industry, he already saw potential through other members of the space.
“When I had the opportunity to speak to David Keir, the founder and former president of Dash Brands at Haymarket HQ Square Table, he immediately understood the value proposition of our solution.”
“Dash Brands owns the master franchising license of Dominoes and Subway in China, which includes hundreds of individual stores. But even at this scale, the brand managed the opportunity and franchisee pipeline using an Excel spreadsheet.”
“We want to make the process for these businesses far more manageable than it has been before.”
“BrokerP2P is essentially a Software as a Service (SaaS) product addressing multiple user needs with a marketplace facing buyers and investors. The SaaS component is an incredibly complex system to develop and it is taking much longer than we initially planned.”
Johnathan believes that if their start-up takes off, not only business brokers would have an CRM to use, it can help brands expand more effectively locally and internationally. Shopping centre operators would also benefit as they would find it easier to manage their leasing process and identifying fast growing brands to join their centre.
“Australia has a strong franchising market, in fact, out of the current registered franchisors, 90% originated from Australia and over 33% have already expanded to overseas.”
Johnathan, through GBE is already helping overseas brands to expand into Australia and Johnathan’s local clients, some who have established over 30 stores have been eyeing the overseas market for some time and looking for the right joint venture partners.
In this industry, it is about opportunity, awareness, people, trust, collaboration and timing. BrokerP2P intends to be the information management backbone which supports its customers like Business Brokers, Brands and the Leasing Managers to realise their maximum potential. Ultimately, this leads to a better outcome for the purchasers and investors.
As for the future of BrokerP2P, Johnathan hinted that the CRM they were building was the first stage of a far bigger project.
“The things I mentioned before were some of our phase 1 solutions. We have a good idea of what phase 2 and 3 is like. Each of those ideas are quite unique and solve big problems in multiple industries. There’s so much innovation that can be done, and BrokerP2P is just one of those possibilities.”
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