Founders Spotlight:Sethebe Manake (Founding Director,Vantage Properties)

Sethebe and her team at Vantage Properties are on one mission and one mission only. "To inform decision-making in real estate". Through GoSmartValue, the company's online property valuation platform, they are using Artificial Intelligence to make the property valuation process much more simpler and convenient. In this interview, the former CEO of a Botswana Stock Exchange-listed entity turned entrepreneur tells us more about her mission to use technology to change real estate for the better.

First of all, congratulations to you and your team on your Artificial Intelligence Awards win. Please tell us more about the award

Thank you, our award is for Most Innovative Real Estate Analytics Company, it comes on the back of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) tech that we use for real estate valuations on This is a testament to how our technology enables valuations to be done in a new way. Improving efficiency, accuracy, and most of all affordability. 

In your own words please tell us who Sethebe Manake is

I am a natural creative, I am a curious, innovative individual, who is inspired by challenging the status quo. Professionally, I am a Chartered Surveyor in Property Investment and Finance. I have a lot of experience in real estate finance, investments, management, and valuations.   

Briefly take us through your journey in your extensive career in real estate

I started my career as a property manager at PAM(Property and Asset Management LTD), a subsidiary of RDC Properties, after which I founded Vantage Properties as an outlet to feed my desire to inform Batswana about property investment vehicles, instruments, and opportunities. I went back into corporate at Khumo PAM, a subsidiary of Bifm, as a commercial property manager; where I managed the Debswana Pension Fund, Turnstar Commercial, Healthcare Holdings, and Bifm Portfolios,  then Asset Manager at Stanlib, where I set up the division and ultimately became CEO of Letlole La Rona. That is when I jumped off, believing I had learned all I needed to learn to truly fulfill that which really drove my passion at Vantage Properties. 

What encouraged you to make a switch from a successful +-P75k/month career in corporate to entrepreneurship?

There came a time when my dream was louder than my reason for going to work. Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband, and that is really it. 

Tell us more about your company Vantage Properties

Vantage Properties is 13 years old this year. A company set up with one purpose only, “ To inform decision making in real estate”  I just want my people to be able to draw the highest value from this great asset and not continue to be taken advantage of. 

Our drive is to make as much information available so that the market is more even so that both buyers and sellers have the same information about the reality of where the market is, and that financiers and those being financed are on the same page about what is valuable. I believe this will open up more REAL opportunities, without having people point fingers and blame each other for lost opportunities. Our services include amongst others:

  • Automated Property Valuations 
  • Market Reports 
  • Property Advisory Services 

What was the motivation for founding Vantage Properties?

I dream of a time where the real estate market is as transparent as the vehicle market, prices make sense to everyone involved.

Please tell us more about your flagship service “GoSmartValue” is an online valuation platform, it offers instant valuations, it is a connector of customers and valuers, and it is a place where one can get very specific information about a property, locality, or location that they would need to make the decision to buy or sell. 

Real estate is traditionally a physical and on-site field. What inspired you to incorporate such a tech-centric product into your business model?

We do not provide services in isolation, we understand the pressures that our clients have today and those that they will have in the future. Today’s economy requires fast decisions to be made, risks to be identified and mitigated faster. Time is money and it is essential for us to reduce the decision-making time of our clients as much as possible. Waiting for a valuation for days is absolutely unnecessary and with us, it is reduced to seconds. And that releases our clients to spend more time making more money. 

What are some of the challenges you have faced in working on such a project and how did you navigate your way through them?

We are changing the landscape of a traditional industry that has been doing things the same way for ages. So we have to deal with a mindset change, we have to deal with behavior change. These are occupational hazards for the path we have taken. Our approach to them is simple; our solution gives greater value, saves time and money. 

We have limited human involvement in our processes, reducing the bias that is inherent in human valuers. We use universal data of all the transactions in the country and that means our valuations are based on a wider data set than any traditional valuation used by other firms. 

On the other hand, what have been some of the upsides of being a trailblazer and early adopter of incorporating Big Data technologies into a traditionally non-technological field?

Technology is a part of life as we know it, the advantage of incorporating it is that we can efficiently serve all our customers at their convenience, we can offer more affordable services, and we can provide better insights in real-time. 

The rate of adoption of Big Data technologies seems to be low and slow in Botswana, both within the populace, private and public sectors. What has been your experience in terms of adoption with GoSmartValue?

I take the adoption of tech to be like a water leak, it first drips then suddenly the pipe bursts and you have a flood in your hands. So for now every single drop is a step towards the burst. 

What do you think the country stands to gain by being fast in adopting Big Data technologies like GoSmartValue?

Gosmartvalue has plenty to offer, especially in the real estate industry where it is focussed. We can get rid of posts like this one. Where we have more people understanding why certain things work and others don't work. We can stop having people swindled off their property. 

What do you think can be done to speed up the rate of adoption of such technologies in Botswana?

Education education education, Trust Trust Trust. 

We need to build trust in technology by continued collaborative education of our market. 

What advice can you give to business founders who are looking to pivot from a traditionally non-tech business model to a tech-centric one?

Go for it. Technology is so wide in scope and breadth, just decide on what you want to focus on and do it. 

From an entrepreneurial perspective, what advice can you give to our readers, women or otherwise, who are looking to also start their own businesses in real estate?

Your first step should be so that you are fully informed about the areas you want to invest in. 

Lastly, please share with our readers your contact details in case they want to get in touch with you

NB: Interview has been edited for clarity

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