Dispatch From GES2016: Brother-Sister Co-Founders Revolutionizing Real Estate
Siblings Safir And Lamia Hanafi Have Come To Silicon Valley To Build The Uber Of Real Estate. (And They Don't Mean Airbnb.)
The funny thing about random collisions is that you know they’re going to happen, you just don’t know when, with whom, and to what end. My first random collision at GES 2016 this week was with the founders of Paris-based Lok-iz. I had left my phone above the sink in the men’s room, and after no luck at Stanford’s Lost and Found, I was rushing back to see if someone nearby had found it when I nearly physically collided with Safir Hanafi. I stopped short, he looked at me, held up my phone, and said in his French accent: “I’ve been looking for you!” Relieved, I thanked him for finding the phone and asked what he was doing at GES. He said he and his sister Lamia had founded “the Uber of real estate.” Perfect! I was there to cover stories of female founded companies, so this random collision led to my first interview.
Brother and sister Safir and Lamia Hanafi are first-generation children of parents who immigrated from Morocco to France. As they grew up, their father would have them compete to win commissions by helping him sell or rent out properties in his real estate business. This experience gave them insights into many problems and inefficiencies within the real estate industry – and not just in Paris, but all around the world. These problems led them to develop and launch Lok-iz, a web-based app that aims to disrupt the global real estate industry by giving the power back to the owners.
I had a chance to check out the app, and it could certainly earn a place in the annals of sharing economy history, providing a new economic opportunity for users while also reducing the amount of fees and commissions owners are paying to agents. To date, Lamia and Safir have bootstrapped the venture to gain traction, and with more than 2000 current users and transactions, they believe it’s time to raise capital to scale and grow beyond France.
It was interesting to hear their perspective on Silicon Valley: “I’m here for networking, but also for a new vision, to open my mind to the American Dream.” When I asked them what they thought the “American Dream” was, they replied simply, “It’s the story of Mark Zuckerberg, Uber, and Airbnb. To be able to make your dreams come true.”
They were blown away by the speed at which things can happen here – not just the speed at which a company can grow, but literally how quickly connections can be made and conversations can happen. For example, in their first day of networking, a new connection at GES liked their idea and introduced them to Y Combinator. In addition, they laughed about how much more informal Silicon Valley operated compared to their experience in Paris.
Lamia said, “Any entrepreneur can create anything – Silicon Valley is in the mind, but in the actual place itself, the ability to make the dream real is just faster than other places.” She went on to say, “Being female is more complicated. It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or working for a big company. But the most important thing is believing in your vision and having the determination to succeed.”
When asked about their big vision, they both laughed out loud. Safir just said “Oh my god.” The vision? “To be the new Airbnb. We want Lok-iz to help everyone around the world make money by helping others.”
Their next step begins with raising 1MM Euros in an effort to grow beyond France, including into the U.S. market. I’m excited to see how things unfold for this brother-sister duo.
To learn more about Lok-iz, you can check out the app at http://lok-iz.com/
Malachi Leopold is a founder, storyteller, content strategist, award-winning producer/director, human rights advocate, documentary filmmaker, mountain biker, aspiring mountain climber, dad, and global goodwill ambassador for Tequila Thursdays. He is the Co-Founder of Trep Life.