Shaping Your Ideas Into Art (Or a Company) – An Interview With Rodolfo Delgado

Rodolfo Delgado, CEO of Replay Listings

When you have an idea in mind, it is often challenging to ground it and find which shape or form that idea will take. Today’s interview with Rodolfo Delgado may provide the insights you need to make more informed decisions regarding the process of shaping an idea into reality.

Four years ago, Delgado was an NYU student pursuing a Master’s Degree in Technology. Today, he writes monthly articles for Forbes and leads a rising prop-tech startup based in New York City. 

“Deciding which form my idea was going to end up taking was crucial to my success,” said Delgado. “Today, I’ll share with you the approach I took that ultimately led to hundreds of thousands of people experiencing it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I would describe myself as an artist first, and technology just happens to be the medium I work with. That said, I like technology so much that I believe that my friends would describe me as a tech-geek who’s always looking to learn about the latest tech trends. I’m the guy who makes a line when they launch a new product and will be walking down the street testing and playing with ridiculous-looking gadgets. I enjoy finding the best technologies out there to use them to build something of value. 

Most recently, my latest idea took the shape of a tech platform that helps people find a rental property. I’ve always found that searching for a home is an extraordinarily stressful process. My platform’s design aims to alleviate some of that stress by showing available properties through unedited videos only.

How did you come up with it?

It all started with a general idea: I knew I wanted to create something of value. I wanted whatever I ended up building to be interactive (rather than only informative.) I also wanted people everywhere to have access to it, so I decided my product would be digital.

After this, I needed a goal. I began by evaluating my skills and capabilities to gain insight into what I could build myself and which areas I would need help with. I know that I’m at my best when it comes to technology, real estate, and design – and the center of that Venn Diagram is where my opportunity was.

I’m an architect who has worked the vast majority of his career in the real estate industry. So, I became a real estate agent and immersed myself in the industry to see how it operates in the U.S. At the same time, I was getting my Masters Degree in Technology at NYU, and I was making precious connections with people who helped guide me for years to come. NYU also helped me learn more about different technology platforms and how they work, giving me the foundation of knowledge I would need to build Replay Listings.

As an agent, I helped clients looking for a new rental property every day. I noticed many of them shared the same concern when searching for a rental apartment: the pictures they saw online often didn’t accurately portray the physical property. I validated that this was a significant area of opportunity, as most of my clients asked me for video tours or FaceTime calls from within the properties. 

Even more importantly, I quickly learned that this approach helped me earn their trust. They trusted me because I was transparent and honest with them. As a consequence, they often referred me to their friends. And so, my business as a real estate agent kept on growing.

I went to a trusted friend, now my co-founder, and told him all about it. We began designing tests to see if there was any demand – and we were shocked with our findings.

How did you test your idea? 

When so many clients complained about manipulated pictures, we knew that our creation had to be either video-related or virtual/augmented reality. So we designed a couple of prototypes – we created a few simple Wix websites showing available rental properties through unedited videos. We also created an Instagram account and blasted the properties. We quickly found out that many were interested in finding their next home through us because they trusted the content. That’s when we knew we were providing value in the shape of honesty and trust – two principles that are often lacking in the real estate industry.

What was so shocking about what you learned?

We learned that people need more than just video tours when searching for a new apartment- they need someone they could trust. We built a whole company focused on helping people trust our content.

What would you recommend to our readers based on your experience so far?

If you’re looking to create something of value or something that may help others that could potentially end up becoming a business, then you need to find a pain point. I have found that people don’t pay for features – they pay for you to solve their problems. So, which issue are you aiming to solve? Find that and go from there.

Tell us more about your creative process.

At that moment, there were a million questions we still needed to answer. Was our product going to end up becoming a website? A web app? A mobile app? We still didn’t know. So we designed a survey we could take to our agent friends to find out more about them. 

We found out that a big struggle real estate agents had was the amount of time it took to create an ad. They had to take pictures, run back to the office, download their images, often brighten them, create a description, upload them, etc. The process took so long that the property was often no longer available when they advertised something. We opted for a mobile app that would allow them to record and upload a listing instantly.

We decided that the value we could provide for agents is speed when it comes to advertising. The value we provided for renters was honesty. To create something of value for both, we needed an app. That’s how we decided we were going to be mobile-based first. Of course, we then built a fantastic website, but the iOS app came first.

It all started with a whiteboard in my tiny apartment [pictured above.] I love whiteboards. I would invite my co-founder, and we would spend hours drawing different designs and prototypes of what we wanted to build. We would eat our lunch and dinner at what we joked was “our office” and keep on drawing every day for months. Every day, we took a picture of the whiteboard, erased it, and started all over again.

This process was indeed an artistic one. We had to consider many factors such as the renter’s experience, the agent’s experience, the requirements involved to build what we were building, and the functionality of every single step.

Why an iOS app? Why not Android?

We did, of course, end up creating an Android app eventually. However, our survey indicated that in New York, 9 out of every 10 real estate agents use an iPhone. This was a crucial finding, as they were going to be the ones populating the platform with availabilities, so we opted for iOS first.

After that, it was a matter of figuring out who would code it and how we were going to manage it.

How did you decide who was going to build your app?

We found out that we didn’t want to ask one of those big companies that create mobile apps to do it for us. We recognized that creating a perfect platform would require an iterative process – learning from our users and making modifications. We quickly found out that big companies charge you for every single little change you make to the platform, so in the long run, it would be too expensive for us to go that route. It didn’t make any sense.

As a side note, I would encourage your readers to do their due diligence when building an app or website. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What would you like it to do?
  • Would you like your users to be able to log in or register?
  • Would you want users to be able to share the content?
  • Are you planning on learning from their behavior within the platform to then make adjustments to it?
  • Are you planning on dividing deliverables into phases? 

There are a million questions one could ask. Learning what you’re looking for will help you determine what’s the best course of action.

If you’ve read this whole text and are still having a tough time deciding or figuring things out, we also offer a page where you can directly communicate with me. I’m happy to help any fellow artist or entrepreneur find their way.

So what happened after you decided you didn’t want a big company to build your app?

Then we thought: maybe if we hire an independent consultant? But that wasn’t going to work either. We interviewed dozens of independent consultants, and we found that many of them charged per hour. We didn’t want to compensate someone per hour because it is challenging for someone like us to keep track of their work. It would be like trusting someone blindly and practically encourage them to work slowly and charge more, so that wasn’t an option for us.

We also found some who were willing to be compensated with deliverables. Still, again, we recognized that we were going to need an iteration process that would make this approach very expensive at our early stage.

So what happened next?

We posted a job on LinkedIn and began interviewing what felt like hundreds of developers. We consulted a lawyer, who recommended that if we hire a developer, make sure they are in the U.S to protect the company’s intellectual property. 

We ended up founding and forming a fantastic team of developers who have made Replay Listings a reality. And that how Replay Listings came to be.

More About Rodolfo and Replay Listings

Rodolfo Delgado is currently based in New York City, continuing to grow his company, creating tools that bring more honesty to the real estate industry. He also writes monthly articles for Forbes and has been featured in Forbes Magazine, Artvoice, Techsling, Hackernoon, and Inman News, amongst others.

Replay Listings has helped over 150,000 during their search for a new home. You may visit their website or download their iOS mobile app or Android App.

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