KW Labs, real estate franchisor Keller Williams’ in-house software development arm, and listing photo editing startup BoxBrownie each took home $15,000 checks and accolades Thursday after winning contests at the National Association of Realtors’ new tech conference, the iOi Summit, in San Francisco.
As part of the event, the 1.3 million-member trade group invited software developers, data scientists and others inside and outside the real estate industry to compete in a hackathon to build an innovative product that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to serve the industry.
“The iOi hackathon is a cutting-edge collaborative exercise that allowed NAR to work with technology experts to examine, embrace, leverage and be part of the change that surrounds our industry,” NAR CEO Bob Goldberg said in a statement.
“The hackathon is a piece of my larger strategy as CEO to bring tech firms that many consider to be disruptors under the tent as innovators, and turn them into advocates for our members.”
KW Labs, which launched in October 2017, beat out more than 40 other hackathon participants with an app that takes still photos and tags room attributes as an agent makes a video of a property on a walkthrough.
The type of room and tagged features of the room convert to text and allow agents to create a report that they can edit and turn into a landing page with links to the auto-generated images.
The tags are “not always highly accurate, but they’re pretty good,” Adi Pavlovic, Keller Williams’ director of innovation labs, told conference attendees.
Agents can use the flexible landing page to win, promote and close listings, Kevin Johnson, Keller Williams’ lead data scientist and the app’s creator, told Inman in a phone interview.
Agents can share the landing page link the app generates with anyone, including with sellers to show off the agent’s competency, buyers and buyers’ agents, he said.
The app is currently unnamed, but the company plans to name it in the future. “We’re still sussing out how to integrate it into Kelle and Keller Cloud,” Johnson said.
The first step will be to put the product through KW Labs’ agent testing and feedback process, he added. Agents can’t host the landing pages on their website currently, but that’s likely one of the first features that will be added, he said.
All hackathon participants built their products from scratch, starting on August 1.
Participants were required to use at least one of the APIs provided by 11 different companies, including California Regional Multiple Listing Service (CRMLS), Enodo, Foursquare, Lyrebird, Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), restb.ai, Realtors Property Resource (RPR), Solaria Labs, the San Francisco Association of Realtors and TLCengine. KW used an API provided by benutech.
Participants were judged on five different criteria: use of the provided APIs, creativity, functionality, practicality and user experience, NAR said. The seven judges hailed from NAR, MLSListings, realtor.com, BridgeMLS, NVIDIA and AR/VR Academy.
The startup pitch battle
Second Century Ventures, NAR’s strategic investment arm, hosted the startup pitch battle, which featured 16 participants who talked up their companies in a quick three minutes each on Wednesday.
“The vision of Second Century Ventures is to define and deliver the future of the real estate industry by being a catalyst for new technologies, new opportunities, and new talent,” Goldberg said in a statement.
“The pitch battle and hackathon were an exercise that broadens that vision and brings the leading minds in technology, investors and Realtors to the table to share ideas and bring the future of real estate into focus.”
At the conference, Goldberg noted that, through SCV, NAR had equity investments in 52 companies, including DocuSign, which recently went public and made NAR $20 million.
On-demand photo-editing service BoxBrownie won the startup pitch battle. BoxBrownie is one of the seven startups that are also participants in NAR’s tech accelerator REach that competed in the battle, but independent judges decided the winner.
“BoxBrownie’s most popular service is transforming images shot in the harsh sun of midday into beautiful photos that appear captured during the ‘golden hours,’ or dawn and dusk,” Inman tech reviewer Craig Rowe wrote last year.
“Its editors add clouds, pink horizons, and perfectly lighted entry-ways. Every shadow is where it should be. Interior shots can have life-like virtual furniture added or be de-cluttered by removing counter-top appliances, left-over dishes and questionable decor choices.”
The not yet four-year-old company does not offer subscriptions; agents pay a la carte.
Pavlovic, one of the judges, said the judging process involved a 40-point system: 10 points for the solution itself; 10 points for market viability; and 20 points for presentation, including sticking to the time allotted.
BoxBrownie had a “clean, quick pitch” and they also had a lot of visuals, which helped for presentation points, Pavlovic told Inman in a phone interview.
Battle judges offered several pitching tips for the competing startups:
- Be able to explain what you do, who your customer is and how you do or will make money.
- If you use slides, don’t clutter them with too much information.
- Say what your unique competitive advantage is right away and who your competitors are.
- In the first 15 seconds, say what the problem is that your product is solving, rather than focusing on features. What’s in it for the end user?
- Detail how you intend to get people to use your product at scale and gain market share.
- Be a market research expert in the space you’re in.
- Once you’re on the stage and you have three minutes, start talking about your company immediately.
- Be passionate and energetic. Show everyone that you care about solving this problem.
Pavlovic said he hoped NAR would do more events like the pitch battle in the future.
“I thought it was great NAR is giving companies like [BoxBrownie] a platform,” he said.