Inman is interviewing leaders in the real estate industry. Here’s David Greenberg, founder and CEO of Updater.
Why’d you decide to start your company?
I was previously a corporate lawyer before I started Updater, and the thought of starting a tech company had never crossed my mind. However, when I discovered that the entire relocation process was broken, I thought, “Someone is going to fix that someday with an awesome app and it’s going to be a huge business.”
Then, the more I thought about it, I figured it might as well be me.
Describe a time when you felt particularly insecure about the future of your company. How did you bounce back?
Our first year was a serious struggle. I had no insight into hiring engineers, building products or raising money. I was a corporate lawyer trying to start a business from scratch with no experience. Filing our certificate of incorporation in Delaware was about the only thing I knew how to do to correctly. I had a hard time raising money initially, and it was unclear if we could get the company off the ground.
A sane person probably would have given up after nearly a year of trying, but I was very stubborn. Looking back, I think that’s actually a great attribute for an entrepreneur.
What’s your favorite activity outside of work and why?
I love playing tennis in Central Park because, for an hour, I forget about everything else in the world.
A sane person probably would have given up after nearly a year of trying, but I was very stubborn.
What’s your favorite classic piece of literature and why?
“The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. It’s new, but a classic already, in my opinion. The lessons he teaches are so important that it’s a must read for all tech entrepreneurs.
Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?
No, my father started his own business in his 30s as well.
What would you describe as your company’s biggest victory since you started it?
The past six months have been huge for Updater. Everything we’ve been working on has really started to click — the number of real estate partners using Updater has grown 20 percent month over month, and we’re seeing virtually no churn.
Both real estate companies and the end users are loving our product. I couldn’t be more excited.
What’s been the biggest obstacle your business has encountered, and how have you dealt with it?
For Updater to function smoothly, we ask our real estate partners to inform us when their clients are moving, so we can send them a personal invite to a version of Updater customized specially for their move. This requires a very basic integration.
We have been surprised to discover that many of our real estate partners are using antiquated technology systems that makes it hard for them to export their own client information or integrate seamlessly with third-party technology. We’ve done our best to educate our partners how important it is to take back control of their client information so that they can use it to improve their business and optimize their client experience.
What puzzles you most about the industry?
We’ve seen some agents express concern with letting their own brokerages see who their clients are and gain access to information about their clients. This mistrust indicates something is broken in these relationships.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about building a business?
I view my job as CEO as follows: I need to set the strategic vision and hire the best possible team, then get out of their way and execute on that vision. Therefore, I focus most of my time on setting strategy and recruiting the absolute best people in the business. Without those people, we can never be a great company. I learned the hard way that it’s simply not possible to build an amazing company without amazing people.
I need to set the strategic vision and hire the best possible team, then get out of their way and execute on that vision.
What’s the most overrated real estate technology?
I think social media can be a giant time-suck for most agents. Building loyalty online is extremely difficult — you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck by building loyalty offline, where it can more easily convert to real business.
How will the role of the real estate agent change over the next five years?
Clients can, of course, search for their own homes these days — I believe that the agents who will stand apart from the competition are the ones who add the most value with deep expertise and ease the transaction process so that it’s smooth, quick and seamless for clients.
What motivates you more: power or money?
Neither; it’s all about solving a challenging problem.
What is your biggest professional fear?
Failure to solve that challenging problem!
What is your biggest personal fear?
Whom do you respect most in the industry?
I respect Tony Hsieh from Zappos for elevating the customer experience in e-commerce and encouraging others to do the same in their industries.
Describe what you do in one sentence: As the CEO of Updater, I set the vision for our product that’s revolutionizing how Americans move, and I find the most talented people in the industry to help me implement the vision, and then I get out of their way.
Degree, school (if applicable): B.A., University of Pennsylvania; J.D., Cornell Law School
Location: New York, N.Y.
Are you a real estate leader who’d like to participate in our profile series? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.