The eight diverse companies in this year’s REach class are all focused on ways to help you take your real estate business to the next level. The National Association of REALTORS®’ eight-month technology accelerator program, run by its strategic investment arm, Second Century Ventures, enables companies to increase their exposure to the real estate community and receive expert guidance about serving the needs of the industry.
This year, hundreds of companies applied to the program, more than double the number of applicants in 2014. The 2015 REach class, announced this spring, offers a range of services from investment consultation to online notarization to virtual corporate gifting. Here’s a rundown of each company’s offerings and how it serves the industry.
AssetAvenue (Los Angeles) is an online lender for real estate investment properties. AssetAvenue connects borrowers and brokers looking for funding to institutional investors seeking investment opportunities. The company provides short-term rehab and non-rehab loans for non-owner occupied, luxury single family homes and offers bridge loans for commercial properties. CEO and founder David Manshoory says the company is more transparent in the lending process than a regulated financial institution and users have “the ability to fund a loan much more quickly and with much more flexibility than banks.”
August Home (San Francisco) is a technology company that builds products that allow users to control access to homes remotely. Its Smart Lock system includes a virtual key built into a mobile app letting home owners choose specific people who can enter their home at designated times. Tejash Unadkat, senior director of product management, says the lock system is likely to be a big selling point for millennial buyers. “In this day and age, we’ve seen home automation help increase the value of the home and enhance curb appeal,” says Unadkat. Real estate agents can also save time by setting up access to specified workers for appointments. Property managers may spend less time replacing the lost keys of their tenants.
BoostUp (Detroit) is a down-payment savings platform to help consumers prepare for large purchases such as homes and cars by letting them solicit family, friends, and even companies for contributions and matching funds. Though the service can be used by anyone making a large purchase, the company is especially attuned to the needs of first-time home buyers who often have trouble making large payments. Agents and brokers can brand their offices with BoostUp to offer home buyers a resource for their savings. “BoostUp helps agents with marketing and media and helps them help first-time buyers,” says CEO and founder John Morgan.
Guard Llama (Chicago) is focused on improving personal safety. The company offers a small device that connects to your smartphone through Bluetooth technology and can instantly connect people to a 9-1-1 dispatcher. The hand-held device sends a user’s GPS and profile information with the push of a button. “Real estate professionals have one of the most dangerous jobs in America,” says CMO and cofounder Mike Becker. “They dress nice, they wear nice jewelry … they work alone. A lot of the time they may avoid necessary safety procedures.” The Guard Llama is meant to make real estate agents feel safe during risky situations and to encourage them to make safety a part of their everyday routine, says Becker.
Loop and Tie (Austin, Texas, and New York) is an online service that makes gift giving on the job a snap. Agents can choose a closing gift, or brokers can reward staff members with such items as chocolates, picture frames, or kitchenware. CEO and founder Sara Rodell says Loop and Tie makes it easier for agents and brokers to give gifts by allowing the gift receiver to choose between a handful of items so they’re not stuck with a gift they’ll never use. Agents often have memorable clients, but finding the perfect item can be a timely process. The service can even encourage tenant loyalty. “Property managers will purchase gifts for residents. We find resident engagement is closely related to retention,” Rodell says.
Notary Cam (Newport Beach, Calif.) is an online notarization service that allows users to upload a document, connect to a notary using a webcam, and have the document signed after the user is verified. The company lets real estate agents secure a deal online within minutes. “In real estate, you just never know what might throw a wrench in the deal, and at the end of the day, it’s about closing,” says CEO and founder Rick Triola.
Pro.com (Seattle) is a service that provides pricing for home improvement projects and helps users find local professionals to do the work, all online and within minutes. CEO and cofounder Matt Williams calls the company “the on-demand home services company for finding a pro.” The majority of home improvement tends to happen in the 90 days leading up to or after a sale, Williams says, “and so, given that so much home improvement happens before and after a purchase, we are a sure way for a real estate agent to delight their clients.” Real estate agents can help their clients find the best price and professional in the area for home improvement projects to ensure a house will be ready to put on the market at the best listing price possible.
TermScout (Denver) provides a range of business information about specific markets for real estate companies using sophisticated data-sorting technology. For example, the service aggregates data on tenants for commercial brokers and owners to find new customers or for retailers to understand their competitor’s leases. COO and cofounder Mark Frank says the company can help the commercial sector by providing information for brokers about office vacancies, up-and-coming technology products, and lease expirations. “It gives our customers a leg up when contacting their customers for the future,” says Frank.
Meet companies that have been featured in the REach program in years past and learn more about how NAR’s Second Century Ventures works to find top companies across multiple industries, and help deploy robust solutions to common challenges in the real estate industry. Members can also get involved by applying to the REach Insight Panel that helps innovators better understand the needs of real estate pros, or by recommending a company for next year’s class.
Reprinted from realtormag.realtor.org, August 2015, with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright August 2015. All rights reserved. realtormag.realtor.org