Real Estate Marketplace in Australia to Buy, Sell and Rent Properties

Adam Torres and John Foong discuss Domain, a leading real estate marketplace in Australia.

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Show Notes:

Domain is one of Australia’s leading real estate marketplaces. In this episode, Adam Torres interviewed John Foong, Chief Revenue Officer at Domain. Explore Domain which was recently named #36 in Australia’s Top 50 influencers and innovators for 2022 by Elite Agent, the #1 real estate publication in Australia. 

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About John Foong

Senior sales executive with 15 years in management. Worked in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Africa. Oversaw record revenue growth at Google and Uber (e.g., multiplying Google Cloud’s channel revenue into the billions as global lead). Led large global and Australian teams (e.g., 300+ people at Google and 600+ at Domain across sales and technical roles). Trusted advisor, caring manager and Stanford MBA who embraces both the strategic and operational. University of New South Wales Co-Op Scholar, Stanford Arjay Millar Scholar, and McKinsey Sydney alumnus. 

About Domain

Domain Group is a leading Australian property marketplace made-up of a portfolio of brands. They are united in their Purpose to inspire confidence in life’s property decisions. At Domain Group they’re building what you might call the incredible find – the right size, space and environment for you to love what you do and who you do it with.

Full Unedited Transcript

Hey, I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you’d like to apply to be a guest in the show, just head on over to mission matters.com and click on ER guest to apply. All right, so did I have John Fung on the line and he’s Chief Revenue Officer over at Domain.

John, welcome to the show. Adam, it was a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me. Oh, man. Great to have you And and from the other side of the world coming in today and and talking about domain and really the platform and how it’s helping its clients. So definitely a, a pleasure to have you here today.

And just to start off this episode, John, we’re gonna start this episode. The way that we start them all with our mission matters minute. So John, we at Mission Matters. We amplify stories for entrepreneurs, executives, and experts. That’s our mission. John, what mission matters to you? Well, Adam, I get the great privilege of being one of the leaders at, AT Domain, which is a leading property marketplace in Australia.

You know, and Goodday for all of you listening who aren’t in Australia today my company’s mission is to inspire confidence and life’s property decisions. Property is a very momentous, it’s a very, very special thing in Australia. We call the house. You live in your castle, whether you are renting, whether you’re buying, whether you’re landlording whether you’re investing.

It’s a very personal thing. It means a lot financially you know, emotionally. And we want to inspire confidence in a process which can be really, really scary. And that’s what we do here. And that really suits a lot of my own mission. I’ll tell more about my real estate story as we go but for me, a lot of my life has been helping lead people through difficult and challenging times, and I’m very, very grateful doing that as part of the real estate industry right now.

And so and thank you for sharing that, John. And so are you from Australia originally or, I see a lot of Stanford. I see lot, lot of us experience here, a lot of other places. Are you from Australia originally or how, how’d you end up out there? Yeah, I, I, I from Australia, my, my mom’s from Hong Kong, my dad’s from Malaysia.

They migrated in Australia in the seventies. And, and I was born here and spent the good part of my, my, my first half of my life here. You know, went to school here, you know, sun Beach Sports very much the Australian Way. And, you know, did my first degree here in, in, in commerce and in information systems.

So this is kind of where I, I, I had my first education and, and my first jobs, I started off as a consultant here working at McKen. But then for the next 17 years, I was all over the world. I, I worked in Africa in 2005 and in 2006 I worked with the US government as an agricultural consultant specializing in poultry then was lucky enough to, to go to Stanford to do an MBA at a master’s education in, in Silicon Valley at near San Francisco.

And then actually at the same time, Australia just qualified for the, for the soccer World Cup in Germany in 2006. So I was trying to be able to Europe for that. My sister was living in London at the time, so managed to get the internship at a small company then called Google, which had a few employees few hundred employees in Europe at that time.

End up staying at Google for 13 years. Start off in London. Spent the next six and a half years in Ireland, in Dublin, Ireland, which was an amazing experience. Became an Irish citizen there. Then moved back to the US to be with headquarters at Google. Met my wife here, had some kids here. Spent the next six and a half years at Google in in, in Silicon Valley in headquarters and then a few years at Uber afterwards, which is also San Francisco.

And then we moved back to Australia about a year ago after we’d had two girls and looking be a bit close to the family. So that’s where we’re. Yeah, as I was researching you on LinkedIn and doing my, my pre-interview prep, I was trying to nail this down. Like, I can’t tell where John Spring’s been all over the world.

It’s been fun. It’s been fun. So, so a lot of experience of course, obviously. How did real estate play, like where did, how did real estate kind of peak its way into your career or become your direction? Cause I see you’ve had quite a bit of real estate experience as well. You know, up until a year ago, I had never, le never formally worked in real estate my whole life.

Mm-hmm. I’ve been invested, which I’ll talk about about now. My dad he worked for a bank for his life, but his last job was as a real estate agent. He spent quite a few years being a real estate agent actually in the north shore of Sydney, which is where I grew up and, and where I now lived. And my real estate totally begins when I’m kind of a, you know, about 16 or 17.

I’m about to finish high school and go to college. And I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to go to college. And my granny who I was very, very close to at the time sat me down and said, Aja, you’re about to get your first paycheck. You are going to buy a. I said, well, what is my house Like?

You know, there’s many other things I could, I could do as a, you know, a a a a a teenager now with, with a few thousand dollars in the back. Yeah. And she said, look, property is how you property’s, how you build off. And she bought me this book I still remember at the seven Successful Tips to, to property investing.

And she got on, on that ladder and she said, yeah, look, you only need a few hundred dollars a month put down for a deposit. We found an apartment which costs about $60,000 you know, which is, was almost a million dollars, I think you know, in Sydney, near where the university. So she said, let’s put the money down here.

You pay into it. You’ve still got your money to spend, but you are going to. And what she taught me was, I guess, a few lessons, right? The, the power of compound interest, you know as you invest in annuity over time. But also the, the power of property and how you can leverage capital to make really significant returns over time.

And what happened was I got into that and I was at the age of, you know, 18 at the stage, got into one. And of course, as you invest in property, if you’re lucky enough that the property goes up over time, and typically it does on average we’ll go five to 7%. You know, when you look over the course of 10 years, it’ll go 5% percent per year.

What happens is as you, as you pay down that property, you can then buy more. By, by exercise that leverage by using by using the compounding interest, by using the capital gains you know, by using gearing. And so I was able to keep that property and then buy another property this time, not apartment, but a house.

And then as I finished college and, and got into my, my full-time career was a earning a lot more money as a consultant. We were able to buy a lot more properties as we go. And so over the course of the next 10 years between myself, my dad, and my granny with their help I found.

Purchasing properties in, in almost every state and territory in Australia. And just learning about real estate in that way. So that’s been kind of really the family business. Apart from my dad working in real estate for the few years you know, as an agent towards the end of his career. I had never worked none of us ever worked in property until what I was coming back to Australia about a year ago.

I was looking to work at a tech company and domain is what we call a property technology company, a PropTech company. So it’s doing the work of property, of helping people, you know, find, buy, and sell houses. But it’s doing it through technology, through a beautiful app, through a really great website. And this was a really good match for my skillset.

The kind of skills that I’ve learned in running marketplaces at Google and running marketplaces at Uber what they were looking for in a chief revenue office. So it was very, very interesting to come back full circle and find that this was the right company fee in Australia, despite not actually looking in property at that.

Wow. And so lot of o obviously with your background, the companies you work for, your experience and knowledge lot, lot of companies, a lot of tech companies that I’m sure you could have, you could have settled on. So going with domain, what are some of the things that maybe stuck out to you that you were like, okay, this is for me.

Like, yeah, this is where I need to be. No, I, I love working at Domain. I know many of your listeners are not in Australia, but domain is very much part of the ethos in in, in places like Sydney and Melbourne, the bigger cities of Australia. It started off as part of the City Morning Herald at the age which are, are are big newspapers.

And every weekend on the Saturday morning I was like, you know, this is seven, or I’m seven or eight at the time, and would go up to the news agent by the newspaper would come back, I would go in a reach for the domain, lift out this beautiful like 64 page. Glossy Lift out with, with, with, you know, with properties, with kind of like interesting articles.

And we grew up with that. And that was how I felt like an adult you know, was, look at that paper. And my dad, there was no real estate portals at the time. I remember going for walks with him about the neighborhood. And in Australia real estate is a big deal. It’s kind of Australia’s favorite pastime in a, in America.

It’s interesting the real estate offices you know, I kind of tucked away in some building somewhere. In Australia, the prime real estate belongs to real estate agents. When you’re near the train station or near the highways, you’ll see all these real estate agencies cause we love real estate here. And I remember walking with my dad just going for his evening walk and he would always stop at each of those and look at the listings and things like that.

A little weekend he’d open up the city morning held and take out the domain magazine and look at those things. . And so it’s such a big part of the way of life in Australia and domain the brand is a huge part, particularly for the folks in Sydney and Melbourne who grew up with that newspaper. And so when I heard about the company and the fact they were looking for a Chief Revenue officer you know, for me it is an introduction.

It’s, it’s one of, Australia’s was one own brand. Mm-hmm. But I think for me, what I did not understand is how technology centric they are. They’re, they’re trying to be a product company like a. Like an Uber. They want to use technology to scale, to help people find what they need when they’re buying their house, selling their house, renting their house as quickly as possible with as much precision as possible.

And that so happens to the environment that I’m from. If you pick up what the missions of Google and Uber are, it’s about. Finding the world’s information, making it accessible and useful. It’s about helping people find a car as quickly as possible, you know, particularly the pouring rain or, or a special event.

And that’s very much what domain is trying to do. Find the right house at the right time for the right person at the right price. And my experience of our 15 years has been to commercialize that, to figure out how the company can make money at a reasonable price, and so that that economic engine takes care of itself.

So it was just a perfect fit in terms of industry where the company’s at, my skillset and my interest. Mm. So as we go into everybody listening to this we’re, we’re recording this you know, towards the tail end of January, 2023. So as we’re, you know, we can just say, you know, 2023 just started, you know, tail end of pandemic.

A lot of different. Things happening in the last couple of years markets, economy, otherwise, I’m just curious from, from your vantage point, I guess specifically as it relates to, to domain and real estate in general, like what excites you? Yeah. What do you find interesting Going into 2023, you know, domain is ultimately about real estate agents and helping them be more successful.

And part of that’s my own bias. And, and you know, you know, from, from the career of my dad and how it’s challenging, could be a real estate agent to find the next listing to sell, you know, to help your, in this case, usually it’s someone trying to sell their home, pull through a very emotional process. . And so when I think about the challenges people have real estate agents are gonna face are they’re facing a difficult market where because of high inflation interest rates are high and that typically, you know, affects house prices, it puts some pressure on them.

And it typically means that less people are looking to sell their house. And so when you are in that environment you have a real opportunity as a copy like domain to make a. To help make it less stressful for both the real estate agent and the person looking to buy or sell their help. And so I’m really excited that the products that we offer today are really, really gonna be helpful this year.

We ultimately wanna make it really easy for people to find a house and really easy for people to sell a house. And we do that by having a very easy to use app and try and make sure that all the properties and the areas that people are looking on that app so people know that if they wanna find something, it’s there.

And if they wanna sell something, that the people who are looking are all there. I’m excited that it’s in these markets where we tend to make the biggest difference. And we also have a hold of other products that we offer for agents. You know, we have a product called Realtime Agent, which is like a DocuSign for real estate agents.

Can you imagine how much paper is involved in a typical real estate transaction? Mm-hmm. , for those of you have been fortunate to buy or sell a house. We have a lot of products like that which try and take the stress and the paper and the, the sheer workload, you know, out of making a transaction. And so again, as people, as real estate agents, the most valuable commodity they have is time.

They’re trying to save their time of a couple more digital. We have a lot of differences that we can make there. And it’s during a difficult time, a difficult time in the market where people are more open to trying new products, to saving time to figure out how they can get them next, next listing or.

Know, as Warren Buffet says you know, it’s when the, the tide goes out and you see who’s not wearing swimmers. You know, it’s, it’s doing difficult , it’s during difficult recession times. It’s during difficult times in the property market that people ask, Hey, you know, how can I be more efficient? And we believe that the demand is, is a lot of the answer with a lot of great things to share with people.

Ah, that’s awesome. That’s great to hear. And and I agree with you that, you know, as we go into this next year, and I know you’re on the side of the, of linking agents along with the you know, the people that are ultimately looking for these properties, so are the buyers. So I feel like the, just the entire ecosystem and the approach that domain’s taking and that your team’s taking, I mean, It’s definitely inspiring.

It’s needed. The better the product is the better. Obviously it’s in, like you said, taking some of the stress off of the, the real estate agents and the individuals out there that are searching as well for the, for the property. So I think it’s just a good, a win-win all around. John, just have to say it has been appreciate you making time to come on the show today again from Australia, and also it’s been great to learn more about your background.

Your work, obviously what led you back home to Australia and also domain, I mean, of course all the great work that you’re doing over there for, for a big brand. That being said, if somebody’s listening to this John and they want to either learn more about domain of course, or to follow, just follow your journey in general what’s the best way for them to do that?

Sure, thanks. And you know, before I go, I, I did wanna say its been fine to to follow and hear about your podcasts and look at the many different missions that people have and, and how you really amplify their voices and their missions. So grateful to be grateful to be a part of that today. In terms of finding out more about me you know, LinkedIn is probably the best way.

I don’t have a, sorry, myself. My name is John, j o h n, and Phil, f o o n g. Happy to connect or, or, or, or follow, or things of that nature, but would love to stay in touch. Mm-hmm. . In terms of what domain has, is we have a whole of research. We have a website domain, dm a i n.com au. We have a really highly rated app, and then we’ve go to domain.com au slash research.

We, we publish typically every week something about the rental market, the sales market, different regional markets, et cetera. So again, this is more directed clerks in Australia. Australia, you, you’ve almost certainly already heard of us, but to the extent to which you’re in the property market or thinking about it, there’s a lot of really interesting ways to educate.

A lot of our mission is to inspire confidence by helping people become local property experts. And so we, we spend a lot of money on research, on economics, and we wanna share that really broadly with folks. Oh, that’s awesome. And, and I’ve had a chance to take a look at the site and especially the, the research site.

I mean, just phenomenal. I mean, great research, great. A lot of resources, a lot of tools on there. The regular site has calculators. I mean, there’s, it’s just, it, it’s exactly what I would’ve expected. So, great work over there and speaking and. Speaking of the audience we’re, we’ll put all the links to all this in the, in the show notes so that you can just click on the links and check out domain also the research page, and then of course John on LinkedIn as well.

And ed speaking to the audience, if this is your first time with. Mission matters or engaging in an episode or listening to anything on the platform. We’re all about bringing out business owners, entrepreneurs, executives and experts, and having them share their mission, the reason behind their mission, really what makes them tick, and what gets them fired up to go out there into the marketplace and to make a difference.

If that’s the type of content that sounds interesting or engaging to you, then we invite you hit that subscribe button because we have many more mission-based individuals coming up on the line and we don’t want you to miss a thing. And John, again, thanks again for coming on. Really appreciate you making some time for us over here in California.

It was a pleasure, Adam. Good day and I’ll see you soon.