Brisbane start-up Little Hinges, launched in April 2020 and spearheaded by former Real Estate Institute of Queensland COO Josh Callaghan and Kindred Group CEO Joshua Kindred, is making waves in the virtual reality (VR) and property tech (PropTech) space.
They’re creating immersive and engaging virtual property tours, effectively rendering physical inspections obsolete. While virtual tours aren’t a new concept, Callaghan says they have traditionally been more of a novelty than a serious tool in the sales funnel for realtors.
“The product hadn’t kept up with the needs of real estate agents,” he says, “and it wasn’t easily accessible. Each real estate agent would have their own photographer – some of them might have been capable of creating virtual tours, but the quality tended to be poor, which resulted in frustrating experiences for users.
“Our focus is on taking virtual tours and making them highly useful, not just a funky piece of tech.”
Little Hinges have done this by embedding their highly detailed virtual tours with call-to-actions and digital touch points that actively engage users for an average of 3+ minutes per tour. But it’s not just about enhancing the user experience – the tours also capture data on user behaviours and propensities as they make their way through the virtual properties, providing realtors with a new level of insight into their potential customers.
“It’s about scanning the real world into 3D, digitising that physical asset, and serving the industry better by being able to extract valuable information at scale that helps businesses to make better decisions,” Callaghan says.
Little Hinges have established a national 3D mapping network, the first of its kind in Australia, but their base is in Brisbane.
They’ve received support from the PropTech Bridging Initiative, a newly-established program overseen by the Brisbane Economic Development Agency that helps local PropTech companies to incubate, network and scale.
Through his work with the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, Callaghan was familiar with Isaac Coonan – the Brisbane Economic Development Agency’s Senior Industry Development Manager for Technology and the Program Lead of the PropTech Initiative – and wasted no time reaching out to him when he became involved with Little Hinges.
Callaghan says the main benefit of being part of the PropTech Bridging Initiative has been the connections the newly established business has been able to develop.
“The whole property industry works on relationships, and no one is better connected than the Brisbane Economic Development Agency,” he says.
“Without the PropTech Initiative, it would have taken us years to build the network we have access to now by ourselves. They’re doing so much to build the local innovation ecosystem by hosting events, making introductions and forging connections, and the great thing about being a well-connected person in Brisbane is that you’re only ever one intro away from anybody else. I wouldn’t want to try to build a network from scratch anywhere else.”
For the past 12 months, Little Hinges have been based in the co-working space at the Brisbane Business Hub. Located in the heart of the CBD, the Hub is a joint initiative of Brisbane City Council and Brisbane Economic Development Agency, and regularly hosts forums, functions and workshops for the local business community.
“The best thing for us about being at the Brisbane Business Hub has been being available and visible,” Callaghan says. “Isaac will pop in and say, ‘Hey, we’re having a lunch with a group of property industry leaders downstairs and we’ve got a seat at the table, do you want to come down and join?’ Those serendipitous meetings have been so valuable.”
The company’s diverse client base now includes national real estate agencies RE/MAX, LJ Hooker, Ray White, Place and Jellis Craig, as well as drafting and design specialists Superdraft and property developer Stockland.
They’ve had more than 1.1million people through their virtual open homes in the past six months, and took out the award for Most Innovative PropTech Start-Up for Sales & Marketing at the PropTech Association of Australia’s PropTech Awards 2021.
They increased their revenue by 220 per cent from January to May, doubled their number of active customers in the past four months, and grew from 5 to 25 full-time employees in the space of 12 months.
“We are now, by far, Australia’s largest 3D virtual tour provider,” Callaghan says. “In fact, we’re as large as the second, third, fourth and fifth largest virtual tour companies combined. A lot of those companies have existed for many years, so we’ve really hit the ground running.”
They’ve grown so much, in fact, that Callaghan says they’ll soon be moving out of the Brisbane Business Hub and into their own premises nearby on Adelaide Street.
“The reason we’re moving out now is that we’re at a size where we’re able to build our own culture,” he says. “The Brisbane Business Hub has been an incredible stepping stone for us to be able to go out into our own space.
“There’s a lot happening in Brisbane. For the Brisbane Economic Development Agency to develop these initiatives and put their hand up for Brisbane to be the home of PropTech in Australia… it’s going to serve the business community well for many, many years to come.”