Brendan King’s new brainchild: MyFrontSteps
Real estate technology company VendAsta Technologies Inc. today announced it has received $3 million in a first round of funding from Victoria Park Capital to build out MyFrontSteps.com, a social software initiative focused on the home and home services industry. MyFrontSteps will connect users of social networks and allow them to share information about their home and home experiences with friends, families and others. The site "allows people to open their ‘black book’ of … service providers and share their experience with … anyone via the social network of their choice," according to the announcement.

The company’s first product, called StepRep, will allow home-service professionals to monitor, manage and build an online identity and reputation, and the site also will assist consumers in finding and choosing home-service providers by viewing information about them shared by others. "MyFrontSteps and StepRep will allow their customers to showcase their products and services via online social networks," said Brendan King, MyFrontSteps CEO, in a statement. King formerly served as chief operating officer at Point2 Technologies, a company that offers online marketing tools for real estate professionals.

VendAsta, launched in January 2008 in Saskatoon, Canada, has plans to expand its teams, which are working on a variety of projects, the announcement also states, and the company is hiring software development, creative and business development professionals.

Industry consulting group targets online ad spending
Consumers have quickly migrated to the Web en masse for real estate information, but it’s not too late for the industry to catch up, says a real estate consultant who has formed a new company focusing on online advertising. Ken Jenny, a real estate industry veteran who founded the tranCen consulting company, is now a part of Mediatise, a separate consulting group that he formed with two partners. Michael Bonfils, an online marketing professional, and Ginny Cain McMurtrie, who worked in marketing for Prudential California, Texas and Nevada Realty and Mortgage.com, are also partners.

Many brokers are still in the dark when it comes to figuring out how and where to spend ad dollars online, said Jenny, managing partner for Mediatise LLC who has held management positions with Prudential Real Estate Affiliates and Coldwell Banker Residential Affiliates and served as CEO of RealEstate.com. "People don’t understand how to make online ad buys and placements," Jenny said. "I think the industry needs some help to kind of translate what they need to know, and independently measure what they (do) online."

Companies need to measure and monitor the returns they get from online and offline spending alike, Jenny said. And while it can be costly to pay for sophisticated Web analytics though companies like Omniture, Jenny said it can pay off in understanding which ad buys are most productive. "The most important part is that you are monitoring (Web traffic)," he said. "Very few brokers have metrics on their Web sites to analyze and figure out where traffic is coming from." Going online is not just about buying advertising or distributing listings information, he also said, and companies should make sure that their company and brand are visible across the Web. It’s about "being seen in the right places," he said.

Google tool shows interest in search terms
Online search giant Google has launched "Google Insights for Search," a tool that allows users to compare search-volume patterns for specific regions, categories and periods in time for a given search term. Interest in the search term "housing bubble" peaked in early 2005 and has since declined, for example, while the term "credit crunch" peaked in early 2007. The term "subprime" spiked in third-quarter 2006 and again in first-quarter 2008, according to the tool, and interest in the term "foreclosures" has been building since mid-2005. And the tool allows comparisons of multiple search terms: see this example.

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