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Innovate UK - how formerly homeless entrepreneur aims to help buyer couples

Here at Property Investor Today, we've regularly championed the work of young entrepreneurs involved within the property industry, from Lydia Jones and the team at Housemates to Miles McAuliffe at Directly Sourced.

Now, in this latest Q&A with a budding property-based entrepreneur, we speak to 29-year-old Kieran Witt, from Southend-on-Sea in Essex, who was briefly homeless in his teens and was later compelled to create his digital property platform Kotini (still in its early stages), to make things easier for couples looking to find their first home, having suffered through endless lists of unsuitable properties.

Can you tell us more about Kotini? What is it, and what does it offer?


Kotini is a digital service that helps people organise and manage their search for a new home. We're all about championing the needs of home buyers and innovating until all the stress is removed from the home buying process.

Initially, Kotini is focussing on couples buying a home and will launch with a feature that enables home hunters to share, discuss and rate properties that make their shortlist.

Kotini works by giving you and your partner a place to log all the properties you might want to buy. It helps you agree on which properties to view and provides a way to rate and capture notes for each of them.

Some will say you can already do this using other property platforms, but what makes Kotini different is that it creates a group property shortlist for you and your partner and not individual lists. It also provides support from the first search through to the final viewing.

If you're currently searching for a new home with your partner (or even a friend), you can get early access to Kotini by going to www.kotini.co.uk.

Where did you get the inspiration for the idea in the first place?

I founded Kotini in 2021 after buying a home with my partner and struggling to keep on top of the search alongside a busy life. At the time, we were living apart. I was in London, and Chloe was in Essex, which made sharing and discussing properties to buy difficult.

We would use the usual property platforms to find the properties, but when it came to sharing them, we had to share links through WhatsApp, which made keeping on top of the properties we both liked hard. The more properties we added to our potential buy list, the worse the problem got, and before we knew it, the whole process just became admin and sucked some of the joy out of the home buying experience.

After building an Excel-based workaround and talking to other home buyers, it turns out that Chloe and I were not the only ones struggling to keep on top of property searching, and this was when I realised there was an opportunity to create kotini.

How did you feel about recently winning a Young Innovator Award?

I am honoured and excited. It's not every day the government decides to back your business. There are a vast amount of applications for the programme every year, and winning has validated that kotini has what it takes to be a game-changer and deliver true innovation.

I'm also thankful for the opportunity the programme will give me to give back. I'm not from a well-to-do background, never went to university and was homeless for a period in my teens, all things you wouldn't typically associate with an entrepreneur.

Winning Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Award gives me a platform to inspire others with similar backgrounds to take their business ideas to the next level whilst at the same time levelling up mine. If you’re an inspiring young innovator, check out how Innovate UK could support you here.

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?

I'm 29 years old and was raised in Shoebury. I studied at Seevic College in Benfleet, but halfway through my first year in college, I had to move out of my home and make it on my own. It was a tough time trying to juggle college, working to make a few quid and bouncing between homelessness, sofa surfing and temporary housing until I got a place of my own.

At 18, I got my first 'proper' job and have worked ever since. I've had the opportunity to create, launch and manage financial products from credit cards to mortgages and, most recently, investments, where I product manage circa £15 billion Assets under Management.

I look back now and am thankful that I didn't go to university. At the time, I was regretful; I wanted to study engineering, the dream was to be part of the F1 pit crew, but I couldn't make it work because of everything that was going on. Reflecting on it now, I see not going to uni as a strength. By the time my peers were rolling out of uni into grad roles, I'd already had four years of real-world experience, four years of savings, zero student debt and a solidified career. Although working for an F1 pit crew would have trumped working in banking…

How did you first get into property?

I first got into property when I was asked to start managing mortgage projects around six years ago; it was here I began to understand how the supply chain functioned, from the initial conversation that buyers have with their broker through to completion.

Before my stint leading mortgage projects, the property market never crossed my mind simply because I knew no-one who owned property. It was a totally abstract concept.

My curiosity peaked around this time, and I tried to learn more and more; Property Hub was one of the free tools I used the most. I never took the plunge into property myself, though, until 2019 when I bought a flat by making the most of the HTB ISA and a 5% deposit. This was when I first personally experienced some of the issues Kotini is solving. Still, it wasn't until last year, when I started looking to buy a home with my partner Chloe, that I experienced the problems for a second time and decided to make Kotini a reality.

Should more be done to encourage young people into property? And young entrepreneurs more generally?

Yes, they're both hidden careers, and both have huge potential to offer people true job satisfaction and financial freedom, particularly in the case of entrepreneurship, where everyone has a chance to work on their passions.

I'm a step removed now because I've been out of the education system for the last ten years, but there was never any talk of property or entrepreneurship when I was in school. You have to stumble across it.

For me, entrepreneurship came naturally as I'm a curious person and every problem is an opportunity, but for most, any inkling of entrepreneurship is drowned out by the narrative pushed by the education system that a 9-5 is the best fit for everyone.

Lots is being done to change this though; the Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Award and Prince’s Trust partnership is one great example.

If you could wave your magic wand and make one change to the property market tomorrow, what would it be?

Ignoring the obvious (putting Kotini in the hands of every would-be homebuyer...), I'd say making homeownership more accessible. You have those who give the most to our communities like nurses, teachers and charity workers struggling to get on the ladder, and I don't think that's fair. This is more pie in the sky dreaming as I'd have no real idea of how to make this happen.

A more realistic wave of the wand would be increasing the standardisation in the property industry. There are parts of the process that don't make sense. For example, it should be standard practice for sellers to complete property searches and conveyancers sale questionnaires before listing, not after an offer is accepted. Minor changes like this, small enhancements and standardisation could smoothen out the home buying process.

If you’re an inspiring young innovator, check out how Innovate UK could support you here: https://ktn-uk.org/programme/young-innovators/

  • icon

    More middleman crap that no-one actually needs, solving a problem that no-one actually had until mass media marketing told them they had it (and can be solved with a spread sheet anyway) that will be over inflated by ignorant investors and most likely make the founder, yet no-one else, wealthy.

    When did businesses stop even trying to add marketplace value in this country?


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