Disruptive Influence!

Akshay Ruparelia successfully launched his own online estate agency and secured more than half-a-million pounds in investment – all within a year of leaving QE.

Akshay (OE 2009–2016) spent the first year of his A-levels working on an app to help people buy homes cheaply and easily, and then used the lessons he had learned to create the fully-fledged estate agency, Doorsteps.co.uk.

"The app really confirmed my passion – almost an obsession – for the property market, as I saw how entrenched the market was. It lacked disruption and was archaic in its ways, yet we had grown up seeing shopping, dating, reading, taxis and other markets being disrupted and sometimes overhauled completely."

He was inspired by the record of online market leader Purplebricks, which in just three years had built a market share approaching that of Countrywide, the UK's largest estate agent, which had, by contrast, been developed through half a century of acquisitions and brand-building. "The market is ripe for disruption: it’s simply not every day that there is an opportunity to step into such a revolution!"

Although the app proved ahead of its time, Akshay was able to change tack during the second year of his A-levels and apply what he had learned to the creation of Doorsteps.co.uk. He also retained the support of renowned internet entrepreneur Mark Kotecha, who had invested in the app.

"Without compromising grades, I focused on developing a go-to-market strategy for the business – an online agency with a real branded feel, value proposition and great service. Something the market lacked, in my opinion."

His A-level results in August 2016 presented him with a dilemma: "I secured a place to read Economics at University College London." (Akshay wanted to stay in London, because he was a carer for both of his parents, who are deaf, and because his only other sibling was moving out to get married.) “But I had also secured a £100,000 angel investment to develop the business in the direction I wanted." He opted to develop the business.

By mid-2017, Doorsteps had distinctive branding with a warm feel and had grown within six months of full incorporation to become the sixth-largest online agency in the UK and the 41st of over 12,000 general estate agents, based on size.

Akshay hired several customer service staff – a focus which quickly started bearing fruit, as the agency received a top rating on Trustpilot and as word-of-mouth recommendations stimulated organic growth, leading to a tenfold increase in revenues in under six months.

Akshay launched a fund-raising campaign for Doorsteps.co.uk with crowd-funding site Crowdcube in the summer of 2017. The campaign hit its £400,000 target in less than half of its 30-day window. Akshay is using the money to enable further expansion and growth.

His interest in starting his own business was already well established while he was at school.

"I had long had an 'entrepreneurial streak' about me (I hate using the phrase, though, as it is so abstract), whether I was selling sweets in school (sorry!), colognes, or portable chargers. I wasn't hugely involved in clubs, but I did found the Young Entrepreneurship Club, which was effectively an upper-school competition for developing and nurturing new ideas.

"QE has helped me develop a sense of independence and resilience in a competitive atmosphere. This really gave me the mettle and the determination I needed, built over the years. I have also been plagued by a huge work ethic driving me to pursue the business further."