Where did it all start and who was first? Ideas more or less come to many people at the same time. Some people have them earlier than others and some a little later. It is difficult to say who is first these days. Many ideas have come and gone, some have been too early for their time and others have not had the right mix of luck and product.
One thing that’s for sure is that the time for taking communities online is now and hot as one can tell by the number of companies creating such a product where they can see a market niche and of course demand that drives them to create and market it.
So let’s rewind. 1998 Canadian company neighbourhooklink.com creates what I would consider the first platform for Communities of Properties (Comunidades de propietarios / vecinos) or Housing Associations as known in the US. The platform is only available in English but about the only one with the same concept that I had in mind, individual websites for your each community with community photo, description and a private area for the users.
2003 & 2004 see the rise of micomunidad.es by Miguel Ros Clemente and acured.com by Torleihf Lindman, in Fuengirola. Unfortunately neither of them really took off and Accured after signing up no more than a handful of communities gives up on the idea of mass marketing but keeps the product running in its original state, pricing it at 500€ setup and 500€ annual fee, available in English and Spanish and currently seems to be running in about two communities.
2007 was the next wave were an approximately 6 more entrepreneurs try the idea. Facebook and LinkedIn were just making their mark in Europe with an exponential growth, many communities had created websites for themselves, some which were statistic and others that were dynamic with generally a forum functionality but little more. In between 2007 and 2009 Noe Andres created My Casa Online, Wixel Communications created Open-doors.es and I created the first dynamic version of my product Online Community Manager OCM in short. At the same time there was solovecinos.com, solinfco.es and comsadministration.com. Solinfco for as far as I can tell never managed to create anything and while MyCasaOnline and Open-doors managed to gather a good number of clients and receive a fairly good press review, they did not survive it, due to the barrier to market entry. Mainly at the time the resistance of many Spanish Administration companies to online resources and what was to be the beginning of Software as a Service. Also many Spanish community presidents believed that owners are still not online and not interested, a mind set that is rapidly changing now. When I met Noe in 2011 he complained painfully about the lack of understanding and vision from the Spanish government in supporting IT projects and ideas and the Spanish property Administrators for having somewhat a more fixed closed mind that electronic version will never replace paper administration. ComsAdministration deserves a small mention where they did have an idea that later on turned more into a management software for Administration, the website has not changed in the past 5 years and remains with the same errors. When I met the owner Lawrence Jordan sometime late in 2010/early 2011 at a community meeting where he was the administrator and the president had taken a keen interest in the product we offered, his product was still not functional.
2008 two more players entered the market comlink.es and ecovecinal.com While Comlink allows for an immediate signup, Ecovecinal requires you to fill in a form before they can activate an account for you, nevertheless they are one of the first products to have kind of survived the 3 year threshold and are still online, but I am unaware as to their status of profitability.
2009 saw the entrance of a further four players. ComunidadOnline.es; VecinosEnComunidad.es; TodosVecinos.com and Comuniges.es of which Vecinos En Comunidad left the race at the beginning of 2012, while the others are still remaining and todosVecinos seems to be particularly active.
2010 brings in yet another four. PortalFincas, VotoWeb by Rafael Fernandez, RedComunidad.es by Francisco Javier Choya and MiVecindad.com by Manuel Jesus Recena. I have met both Rafael From VotoWeb and Manuel from MiVecindad and I have to say that both are dedicated to this project. RedComunidad also seems to be equally dedicated although I have not had the change to meet Francisco yet, I have observed how he logs into our program to get ideas 🙂 for his. Among all PortalFincas needs a special mention, as I believe it is a particularly well designed program (Software as a Service) but concentrates more on the need of the administrators than managing the need of the property owners and the presidents and is not available as a product directly to communities, owners or presidents.
2011 Vecinos.net and Lawebdetucomunidad.com come in. Vecinos.net is pretty much based on a word press platform, offering little more than a forum area and unfortunately the other web seems to have changed hands in 2012 and a new entrepreneur has taken over, but the website seems to be out of work at the moment with little design or functionality that shows any future as yet. Also in this year we have seen the entrance of: Edomusgestiondeinmuebles.com. The site seems to concentrate on the Administration side of the work rather than the community side.
2012 I am not sure if this should go into 2011 or 2012 but we’ve only just seen it. The domain propietariosonline.com was registered on the 21 September 2011 and a website service offered under the name of Propietarios Online, created by Advanced Programming Solutions S.L in Palma de Mallorca.
What’s for sure is that there is now a market need and this is reinforced by the number of companies that are providing this service and trying to enter the market. The barrier to entry still remains rather hard but has become better as more owners request transparency and better communication from administrators and presidents. Equally presidents want to be enabled by presidents in the flow of information. The business models for these services range from free to charge per property or fixed fees per month and being at its early stages there is still a lot of room for changes and improvement.