One of the things that often gets lost when discussing major acquisitions by big companies is the individual agent, who goes from utilizing a startup’s service to potentially running a crucial part of a business on a competitor’s platform. It happened with Compass’ acquisition of the popular customer relationship management tool Contactually, as well as RE/MAX’s acquisition of booj.
“That was a big question when we bought booj, there were nearly 20 existing customers using that platform,” Adam Contos, the CEO of RE/MAX said on a panel discussion titled, “Build vs. Buy vs. Partner: Future Proofing Your Business.”
Contos said you always get two questions: are you going to kick me off the platform, and are you going to steal my data? The answer, he explained, is no and no.
“We’re about treating customers with respect and the security of the information,” Contos said. “Nobody needs to put themselves in a situation where they’re making a bad name for their information security. That’s bad all around and bad for business.”
It’s was a common concern from some in the industry too, when Compass acquired Contactually — the idea of data failing into the hands of competitors. It’s a suggestion that rankles Real Estate Webmasters CEO Morgan Carey.
“There is a lot of fear-mongering with that,” Carey said. “It’s so ridiculous.”
Carey said, obviously there’s always a risk that a company will be acquired, and the acquiring company will do what’s best for itself, and that might mean kicking old users off the platform. But there’s no real way to know that going in.
Glenn Sanford, the CEO of eXp World Holdings, the parent company of eXp Realty, said it’s about integrity, in treating customers of the company you acquire with respect. EXp World Holdings recently acquired VirBELA, the vendor of the virtual world on which it operates its brokerage. and it has continued to serve clients like the U.S. Navy and education institutions.
“Each one of them has a wall to protect their information,” Sanford said.
Sanford also lent some insight into his company’s acquisition of VirBELA, earlier during the discussion.
“We were doing it as much to some extent, to make sure somebody didn’t come and buy the platform underneath us, as well as the other piece is, we think there are a lot of other ways to use the platform that we couldn’t do a SAAS customer that we can do now that we actually own the platform,” Sanford said.
Contos also gave a little insight into his company’s acquisition of booj, which has spurred its newest platform-building initiative.
Real estate tech platform booj wasn’t for sale, and RE/MAX wasn’t necessarily in the market to acquire a technology company, Contos told the Connect crowd. But when he first got together with booj, it seemed like the beginnings of a great relationship.
“You really need to figure out, does the talent function together between your organization and the one you’re working with,” Contos said. “You can’t buy a dream or a promise. You’re merging together, merging families and looking at what is best for our customers.”
Contos admitted that RE/MAX is always open acquisitions, if the right opportunity comes along, but doesn’t expect any acquisitions in the near-term.