NEW YORK — One way to consider the future of real estate technology is to look at its newest innovators. Today, nine real estate startups took to the stage at Real Estate Connect New York City to pitch their latest products in a "New Kids on the Block" panel.
These companies are helping take the industry beyond broad concepts like "social media" and "paperless" to offer specific tools, such as a social media search engine and a digital offer platform.
A roundup on the companies presenting today:
- Curaytor: Launched today, Curaytor is a "conversation search engine" that collects and organizes the "best" conversations on Facebook and makes them searchable. While people feel comfortable asking their friends for movie recommendations on Facebook, "if you want to ask a business question, it’s kind of awkward," said Jimmy Mackin, Curaytor’s co-founder. Therefore, real estate professionals tend to ask those questions in relevant Facebook groups, but those conversations "have a really short shelf life," he said. "That’s really what inspired us." Right now, users can search 50,000 real estate-related conversations in Curaytor’s database, he added.
- NuOffer: NuOffer CEO Imraan Ali is also a Realtor. He co-founded NuOffer with the aim of offering real estate professionals technology that was simple, easy-to-use and time-saving. "Buyers need to have a good experience, but they’re not the only consumers," he said. "Realtors are also consumers. Why don’t we have a better user experience?" NuOffer is a mobile application that allows agents to create, submit and respond to offers digitally. "I can write an offer in two minutes anywhere with a Wi-Fi signal," Ali said. The company has raised half a million dollars through Realtors who liked the product and wanted to invest in it, he said.
- Contactually: This Web-based service is a relationship management system for real estate pros that connects their email, social media and phone contacts in one place. Contactually helps agents automatically manage and regularly follow up with their top contacts, fostering relationships with people that already know and like them, said Tony Cappaert, the startup’s co-founder and chief operating officer. "We help you stay in touch with people that matter," he said.
- Sensopia: Founded in 2010, Sensopia created MagicPlan, an iPhone mobile app that creates floor plans using pictures and eliminates the need to draw or measure. "If you put a floor plan on a listing, you get 53 percent more views and 30 percent more visits," said Pierre Gaubil, Sensopia’s CEO and co-founder. The app has been downloaded 3.3 million times. While previous versions of the app have had spotty performance, Gaubil said a new, improved "3.0" version would launch at Real Estate Connect.
- Apartment List: San Francisco-based Apartment List won a Webby "People’s Voice" Award in the real estate category last year. John Kobs, Apartment List’s co-founder and CEO, said the rental listing site’s uniqueness stemmed from the comprehensiveness of its data, eliminating both scams and the need for users to visit other sites. Apartment List is a lead generation site for landlords and takes a share of every closed transaction. The company is profitable and has never raised venture capital, Kobs said.
- BlockAvenue: A location-based platform, BlockAvenue "connects people, place and social activity on a block-by-block basis," said Anthony Longo, the company’s founder. "It helps you and your clients answer that question of what’s it really like to live there, on that street, on that block, on that cul-de-sac." The site includes data points on crime, sex offenders, transit options, local amenities, restaurants, schools and user-generated reviews of blocks.
- Revestor: "We invested in Revestor because we found that agents were working four to six hours a day trying to find homes for their investor clients," said Bill Lyons, the company’s founder and CEO. Revestor allows users to search for homes for sale by the highest possible returns, including cap rate and cash flow. The site currently includes multiple listing service listings but will soon contain auction properties as well, Lyons said.
- HomeLight: Backed by Google Ventures, HomeLight is a referral-based site that says it matches homebuyers and sellers with unbiased real estate agent recommendations based on transaction performance data. Today, the site rolled out client reviews of agents. "Transaction data is not the only facet of an agent’s resume; their client satisfaction is also important," said Drew Uher, HomeLight’s co-founder and CEO. " Rather than trying to mitigate the role of the real estate agent, we’re … trying to use technology to make the agent irreplaceable."
- Ucloser: This Louisville, Ky.-based startup offers real estate professionals branded home tool kits to give their homebuyers and sellers to organize their buying and selling experience, including checklists to guide them through the process. Ucloser is currently a cloud-based Web application, though a downloadable app is coming soon, said John Williamson, founder and CEO of UCloser.