MBA Program: HEC Paris
Industry: Real Estate
Founding Student Name(s): Sam Abazari
Brief Description of Solution: AJAN Management is a property management company created with the goal of making lives simpler for landlords and tenants alike. Specializing in the 1-4 unit residential segment, AJAN seeks to modernize a dated industry by leveraging both existing and proprietary technological solutions to provide superior services from property maintenance to tenant management.
Funding Dollars: NA
What led you to launch this venture? As is the case with most ventures, the idea of creating AJAN Management was inspired by a personal experience. Having just bought my first property, I struggled with finding a good property manager who aligned with my values – I wanted my own real estate investing journey to be a stress-free, time-efficient as possible Because most property managers operated on a very local, small scale with extremely manual operations, I wasn’t able to feel that way. Looking more into the market, I also began to realize how fragmented it was, given the difficulty for players to scale up. With that, I couldn’t help but think of how many people must’ve felt the same way I had – and consequently how many people would benefit from an elevated user experience. More importantly, I thought that if AJAN brings convenience to landlords and better living conditions for tenants, the second and third order effects such as the ability to foster happier, safer neighborhoods, would be immense.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? My biggest accomplishment so far is successfully assembling a rock-star team – I never thought it would be possible to gather such talent at this stage of the start-up. And because of these bright minds, we were able to get our first customer months before what we had predicted with four-times the estimated contract size.
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? First and foremost, I met Davina, who now serves as AJAN’s CMO and played an almost indispensable part in the company’s launch. In general, the entire HEC network ranging from students to alumni has served as a treasure trove of wisdom, having shared with me their thoughts and experience that have helped so many aspects of the business ranging from operations to finance. Of course, the education itself was also immensely valuable, especially with the program’s focus on both hard AND soft skills. In fact, I had chosen to attend HEC to work on my leadership skills. With all the group project opportunities and the St. Cyr Leadership Seminar, I feel so much more confident leading a team now.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? My biggest inspiration in the entrepreneurial world is Charlie Munger. He has two almost contradicting but critical pieces of advice to maximize one’s chances of success:
- ‘Stay in your competence zone.’ – For me, this is real estate.
- ‘Learn as much as you can about as many different things as you can.’ – I’ve genuinely been surprised about how different academic and professional disciplines play a part in understanding real estate. I just read a book on quantum physics, and another on Bengali poetry – both have already made an impact on the decisions I took for AJAN.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Two MBA classes stood out for me in particular, the first being Entrepreneurial Finance. A course in the entrepreneurship specialization, the class helped me set expectations on how to forecast AJAN’s numbers in its early stages, and also how to set realistic milestones for such a young company with no historical numbers.
The other class that has been really valuable is Organizational Behavior. In life, everything is done by people for people. And so, almost no business can succeed without an understanding of its customers and the world around. Learning about how people think, act and react therefore really helps AJAN across all fronts, whether it may be emotionally connecting with its customers or managing vendor relationships.
What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? In a way, so many professors played a part in my decision to launch AJAN, albeit some more indirectly than others. However, Daniel Newark (Organizational Behaviour), Georg Wernicke (Strategic Management), and Theirry Voiriot (TEC) have offered me the best advice. In general, they have also been the best listeners when I simply need an outlet. They’ve all promised to get dinner and wine with me the next time I’m back in Paris!
How did the pandemic impact your startup plans? It almost feels counter-intuitive to say this, but COVID-19 was the secret catalyst for AJAN’s launch. With social distancing in place, I was able to work on my business plan with almost no distractions and more importantly, no FOMO. Moreover, as cost-cutting measures were taken across the corporate world, I was able to get the talent I needed on board.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? In the long term, AJAN hopes to become the face of industry consolidation in the real estate world, bringing immense time and cost savings to what is currently a highly fragmented industry. Combining proprietary AI technology with data gathered over the years of building up its customer base, the company will also be able to streamline processes to fuel all aspects of AJAN’s value chain, which will in the future expand to include services such as financing, real estate investment consulting, and brokerage, creating AJAN’s reputation as the first vertically-integrated company specializing in the 1-4 unit residential segment.
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