Henry Crosby is the CEO and co-founder of Martello, a digital platform that is building the first live property search database to help speed up the home buying process. Henry is a geospatial data scientist by training and started his career doing a Ph.D. at the University of Warwick funded by proptech start-up Nimbus Maps, focusing on building geospatial AI models to predict the price of houses in the UK. Following that he joined Carterwood to run the technical implementation of a new SaaS platform for care home and older people’s housing property developers.
What motivated you to start Martello?
In 2020, shortly after moving house, and waiting 12 weeks for my searches to come back, I left my role as a Technical Associate Director at Carterwood to see how my experience could contribute to improving this process. After market research and investment from many conveyancers, my co-founder, Adam Rogers, and I quickly realised that the industry was missing a centralised database for searches. So, we set ourselves the mission to collect “all search data, everywhere, all the time” in order to create “the UKs first live property database”. For context, we are in the process of collecting and updating 10,000 datasets, across 700 data sources, and 120 formats…. It’s not a small job!
How do you see your product fitting in within the legal industry?
The applications of our database are twofold. Firstly, instant searches for property lawyers and secondly, raw data for property lawyers to automate post-processes, such as ordering indemnity insurance, writing queries to the sellers, and filling in “reports on title”.
How has your product evolved since you started?
When building the product, we had big visions to attack a consumer market with our database. However, the advocacy, investment, and support that we received from conveyancing professionals quickly pivoted us to stick with the current business model. Conveyancing search providers have high ACVs, our automation creates competitive margins, and the advocacy, and relatively consolidated market creates the opportunity to focus on specific customer needs and product development. So, the short answer to your question: we were always building the live property database, but our applications of the database have changed over time, most notably, they have niched!
What is your long-term goal for Martello?
Martello truly believe that “searches” are just a means to an end in the home buying transaction. No lawyer wants to look at PDFs, copy and paste data from one format to another, and then do a bunch of administrative tasks after that. So, our long-term goal is to supply an end product for the conveyancer, which is compliant to the needs of lenders, one which runs a “search” in the background, indemnifies against all relevant issues, and notes to the conveyancer the key points.
What achievements and challenges have you seen so far?
We are fully regulated. We have raised £2m in funding over the past 3 years, with several of our investors being conveyancers and we have over £1m in letters of intent. We have notional agreements with 4 of the top 10 resellers. We released our first product in July.
Whilst our competitors have spent decades perfecting their historic maps archive for the purpose of reporting on searches such as contaminated land, we have been able to utilise modern AI techniques and high-performance computing to replicate their works with Computer vision, which took just shy of 10 days to run in total.
The biggest challenges that we are facing are, obtaining 10,000 datasets from 700 data sources across 120 data formats and selling our product with merit, innovation and disruption to clients who have spent years, if not decades growing strong relationships with existing brands.
What advice would you give to those starting out in the industry?
- Find a co-founder who can challenge you, teach you, support you, prop you up, and listen to you on your bad days. Also be willing to return the favour.
- Lawyers are open to innovation, but they have so much noise, become a good friend, offer services that only a friend would offer, and you’ll be fine!
- Talk to the market first, and build communities, then build the product, technical risk is so much lower than market risk.