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Realogy FWD Innovation Summit: Taking the pulse of the startup community


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The 2016 Realogy FWD Innovation Summit has always been tech-centric, and many of the companies at the event this year are rushing to figure out ways to use technologies that help people communicate more seamlessly and efficiently.

Like most people these days, real estate agents and their clients are so busy that there seems to be a focus on using technology to help. In fact, more than half of the finalists had an underlying theme of facilitating communication or helping yoke together multiple systems of communication.

The more ways we have to connect, the more platforms we have, the easier sometimes it is to get fragmented and see those communications lead to feeling more disconnected.

Just as Slack has seen great adoption in bringing together aspects of email and social media behaviors into a single platform, there’s a desire in real estate to bring order into this world.

There’s a desire in real estate to bring order into this world. #FWD

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Artificial intelligence

Real estate currently sits in an interesting space between the completely mobile world and the traditional world of relationships and papers.

The future of communications seems to lie somewhere between the intersection of machine learning with human interaction. Artificial intelligence is about enabling technology so that it can do what it does best and leave more time for humans to do what they do best, connect directly, eye to eye.

Alex Perriello, CEO of Realogy, keyed in on the fact that some of the most interesting ideas this year were born out of necessity and came from those who have been working in the trenches of real estate deals. In an industry where often the freshest ideas come from outside of real estate, this year seemed to reverse that trend.


Another important takeaway was the idea that no technology or product truly lives in a vacuum. How a product fits into the existing universe, what other products it can connect to and integrate with is as important as the product itself.

FullSizeRenderPeople are easily overwhelmed by the idea of another platform, another new app to use or language to learn; but if it works well with things they already use and fills a gap, then it has a better chance of success.

As Brian Boero pointed out on stage, working with partners that people already know and love will increase adoption rates.

In his excellent summary of the conference, Joseph Rand noted that three of the companies were thinking deeply about lead follow-up: Riley, Call Action and Skyler360.

This is an acknowledgment that more and more real estate agents are aware that somewhere in the lead process there is money being left on the table.

Agents and brokerages are making substantial investments in lead acquisition and are realizing that they might not be doing all they can to get the most out of each lead, especially the ones that aren’t immediately ready to transact.

Out of the search box

There’s also a lot of excitement about pushing real estate search further. Whether it’s voice control, as we saw with the IBM Watson powered Ask Doss, or the expanded features offered by Relola, this mirrors some of the things that already seem to be afoot in the industry.

The actual mechanics of real estate search haven’t really shifted much over the past few years since real estate search apps became ubiquitous. It seems in some ways like we are on the cusp of the next phase in real estate search that might be yet to reveal itself.

Communication in flux

The internet is on a massive push toward widespread video adoption, and we’ve seen Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter all recently incorporated live video options into their offerings. Brad Inman recently did a broadcast announcing the Inman Innovators that was well-attended and showed the power of live video. The tech contest itself was broadcast live on Inman and viewed by thousands of readers.

Snapchat has led the way in showing that video is not just passive engagement, it’s now, on its own, becoming a bona fide communication tool. Roofshoot introduced an app that makes creating real estate videos simple.

Like it or not, your face is your business card, and the more times your clients can see you, either in person or on video, the better chance you have at staying top of mind, which, all technology aside, is still job number one in this industry.

The more your clients can see you, in person or on video, the better you stay top-of-mind.

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Putting it all together

One of the best parts of being at the summit itself is being in the room and soaking up the excitement. The connections made and deal-making done in person are a good reminder that even the fastest technology doesn’t quite replace that eye to eye connection.

Deals are still made with a handshake and with a synergy of opportunities. Energy and enthusiasm were seen both on stage and in the room. Some of the most dynamic teams paired a tech expert with a people expert.

Deals are still made with a handshake and with a synergy of opportunities.

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It’s a dynamic I’ve also noticed in successful real estate teams, that one person handles the organizational details of the transaction while the other person is the hub and the connector. What’s interesting about a company such as First, which uses predictive analytics to prioritize communications, is that it strips away the confusion and provides a clear plan of action.

Congrats to all of the finalists, and I look forward to seeing you at the Inman Innovator Bash.

Audie Chamberlain is the founder of Lion & Orb. You can follow him on Instagram or LinkedIn.

Email Audie Chamberlain.

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