Despite being relatively soft-spoken, it wouldn’t be quite accurate to describe Saul Colt, 37, as retiring. Self-admittedly possessed of an “enormous ego” he was formerly the “head of magic” at FreshBooks and has now migrated the same title to his new gig at Zoocasa.com (disclosure: Zoocasa is owned by Rogers Media). Oh, and his blog is titled “The Smartest Man in the World!” Zoocasa, is a slick new app — even slicker on an iPhone with its GPS functionality — for house hunters who can search on-the-go for homes while specifying various criteria. Currently in open beta, the application is expected to launch sometime in May. In charge of non-traditional marketing, Colt’s task is to make sure this Web 2.0-friendly service gets noticed by consumers and real estate agents, and, as he explains, it’s not the easiest job in the world. To find out why, we asked Colt six questions.
What is the greatest challenge currently facing Zoocasa and what are you doing about it?
The greatest challenge for us is to get people to understand we exist. Brand new company, haven’t had a large marketing push yet [although] that is coming. … And one of the biggest hurdles for us is to get the real estate industry to understand that we’re not a threat — we’re here to help people and create something that’s very cool and different and fun. But at the same time we’re not interested in selling homes. Our job is to create an amazing real estate search experience.
Who else — person or company — do you feel is doing innovative work and in what way?
[Online apparel retailer] Zappos.com. There’s so many amazing stories about Zappos. They listen to their customers, they react to their customers. I could talk about Zappos all day long. A close friend of mine is getting married and his fiancée found a picture of a pair of shoes she wanted to get married in. He posted the picture on Twitter and asked for help finding them. I told him to e-mail Zappos and not only did they find the make/designer of the shoes, but they told him where he could buy them — Zappos didnt carry the brand — and gave him a discount to come back to Zappos for something in the future.
How would you describe your leadership approach/style?
I’m someone who lets people do work. My leadership style is that I give people all the support they need. I’m not someone who micromanages. … I help people every step of the way but I let people actually do the work asked of them and I let people inject a lot of their own ideas and sensibilities in the work because if you take care of the people who work for you, they’re going to take care of your business and that’s how you’re successful.
Launching in the middle of a significant real estate downturn is not without risk. What is Zoocasa’s strategy for weathering the storm?
We are in a real estate downturn but people are still buying and selling homes and some of the greatest companies have come out of these exact times. If you do a great job or take some calculated risks now and treat people well in these times, then when people do have more money and are back spending they’ll remember that you helped them and they usually stick with you when times get better.
The world’s developed countries are divided on how to regulate the world’s financial system, with the U.S. favouring less regulation and Europe favouring more. Which approach do you feel is most prudent?
I’m all for less regulation as long as it’s done in the smartest way possible. I’m not going to make any comment on government, but [If people] have more power to make their own decisions, it usually favours people in general.
You’re a fan of comic books. If you could be any superhero or other comic book character, who would you be and would you use your powers for good, evil or something naughty in between?
Well, you always have to use your powers for good. I would probably be Plastic Man because he’s a very unappreciated superhero and he does everything with a comic flair.