I’m neck-deep in getting the September Red Dot on the Real Estate Platform out the door, but had to pause and poke my nose in to give an award for a minute.
Inman reported on the 16 startups at the new Innovation, Opportunity & Investment Summit conference that NAR is putting on as I write this in San Francisco. One of the featured sessions was a “Pitch Battle” where startup companies would have 3 minutes to pitch a panel of judges on why they should win the $15,000 prize.
Here’s the list of companies in the Pitch Battle, according to Inman News. I have added brief descriptions/taglines taken from each company’s website.
- Glide: A Safer, Faster Way to Prepare Real Estate Documents (i.e., forms)
- CurbCall: Making Real Estate Safer, Smarter and Faster (by using an app for an unrepresented buyer to “summon” a nearby real estate agent)
- ActivePipe: Simplify Your Email Marketing (has automation, “unique algorithms and interactive call to action pages” and so on)
- RealSavvy: All-in-one Real Estate Platform for Agents, Teams & Brokers (i.e., “custom websites, CRM, IDX, mobile apps)
- BoxMLS: Push the boundaries of your MLS — Finally, an alternative search that provides real-time, cross-MLS data and tools for agents, brokers, and their clients (from what I can tell, it’s a MLS front-end)
- zavvie: Get HyperLocal. Get listings. (“zavvie – the world’s first HyperLocal marketing automation platform for real estate. We built a system that does it for you!”)
- RealKey: Close loans faster and with less effort: A simple yet powerful solution to help you cut through the noise and pains of mortgage lending (some sort of fintech company with a software solution for loan officers and mortgage brokers?)
- DocuSketch: AI-Powered 360 degree Documentation & Automated Sketches: Increase efficiency & reduce risk with DocuSketch, a scalable, affordable, 360-degree documentation & Automated sketching platform powered by artificial intelligence. For insurance claims management, property inspections, appraisals, home warranty & more.”
- first: “You know Jessica loves Korean food. We know she’s thinking of selling: Win more listings with cutting edge data science.” (I assume it’s predictive analytics leadgen of some sort.)
- kleard: Kleard is using technology to help create safer open houses and showings (agent security app, verifies buyer information)
- Quigler: Simplified process: The buying and selling process gets more complex every year, But Quigler simplifies it. It’s like a personal GPS that guides you turn by turn, through the maze. It takes everything required of a real estate agent by federal/state law and the Code of Ethics, from A-Z, and organizes it into easy-to-follow “to Do’s.” It makes real estate real easy for agents, buyers, sellers and renters. (I think this is a to-do list for real estate app of some sort.)
- W+R Studios: We craft simple software tools that make real estate agents look awesome in front of their clients. (We know and love Greg and Dan, and their company… hard to call these guys a “startup” in any sense of the word, but OK!)
- gabbi.ai: Capture more leads and close more deals with an AI assistant that never sleeps (like it says, an AI assistant that can book showings, follow up with clients, and help agents manage tasks)
- BoxBrownie.com: Your secret weapon for property marketing — High quality photo editing, virtual staging, floor plan redraws & renders at unbeatable prices (basically a photo editing/image manipulation agency)
- Flow Labs: Smarter Water Management: Real-time water & leak monitoring for commercial real estate (exactly what it sounds like)
I just saw on Facebook that Box Brownie, the online imagine editing service out of Australia, won the prize. Congratulations to Box Brownie!
I thought it was a fun event to piggyback on to give my own award, which comes with no cash prizes, no investor interest, and really, nothing at all. It is for innovation, and is called the Shiva Award.
The winner out of that group of 16 is… BoxMLS. Congratulations on your Shiva Award!
Let me explain why.
Shiva, The Destroyer
8 years ago (holy shit, that’s a long time ago), I wrote a short blogpost titled Shiva, The Destroyer. Here’s what I wrote:
The real estate industry in particular has a love-love relationship with creativity. NAR has its Game Changers, Inman has its Connect Create developer challenge, companies are lauded for their innovations, individuals praise for their creativity in using social media for real estate business (or whatever new creative thing they’re doing).
What I wonder about today is whether people truly worship creativity, or pay lip service to it. Do you really want innovation? Are you sure you’re prepared for what creativity means? Are you certain that you want creativity in your life, in your business?
The Hindu deity Shiva is often said to embody destruction and regeneration, like the forest fire that clears out the dead leaves and old growth to enable new shoots to emerge. To embrace creativity and innovation, then, is to embrace destruction. Are you ready?
Or thought of another way, when you look at the innovations in the industry today — whether mobile apps, CRM technologies, social media, RPR, or whatever — you might ask, “What part of the industry does this innovation destroy?”
If the answer is “none”, then that thing, whatever it is, is not innovation. It is, rather, incremental improvement; a marginal gain in efficiency. It isn’t the automobile, but faster horses.
Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe incremental change is all that we need.
Innovation is not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes, incremental change is all we need.
What I find amusing from time to time in real estate technology is how many companies claim to be game-changing, disruptive, innovative… and not one can answer a simple question: “If you are successful, who do you put out of business?”
The only possible choice in the list above with creative destruction potential is BoxMLS.
If BoxMLS is successful, it could put CoreLogic, Black Knight, FBS and other MLS vendors out of business. Because database is cheap and easy. Business rules are more complicated, but not that hard to duplicate. The front-end is where all the action is, where all the differentiation is, and BoxMLS is superior to any MLS front end I have seen to date.
BoxBrownie… maybe puts a hurt on some photo editing guys and gals on Fiverr? Faster, easier forms? It’s nice, but who does that threaten? Water monitoring? Better to-do lists?
That isn’t to suggest that these companies are not offering value, or useful tools, or productivity enhancements, or whatever. I’m sure they are. They didn’t get to where they are by not offering value.
But Value != Innovation. Value can be incremental, and a business can be successful without innovating all that much. My point is that innovation is inherently destructive of the status quo, of the existing order. Uber. AirBnB. Amazon. Apple. These companies put others out of business, and can ruin entire industries. Hydraulic fracturing technology (“fracking”) has geopolitical ramifications.
So, if you want to know who the real innovators in real estate are, look for companies with the largest legion of haters. Zillow. Redfin. Opendoor. Project Upstream. Given just how conservative real estate industry is, just how resistant to change it is, it’s a pretty safe bet that the level of innovation is directly correlated to the level of fear and loathing aimed at it.
Here’s to hoping that BoxMLS does not catch a lot of fear and loathing, but I award it the first Notorious ROB Shiva Award. It might be the last one I award as well, unless you guys find that cute and interesting.
Ok, back to work.