Canadian company Real Estate Webmasters (REW) has been awarded a unique economic development loan from its government to launch an international, multilingual multiple listing service, according to its CEO, Morgan Carey, in an exclusive interview with Inman.
The Western Economic Diversification Canada program requires REW to invest its money upfront — in this case $2.58 million — and then offers its match-funding as an interest-free loan paid back over time. The total funding will then be $5.2 million.
REW was the only company in the real estate industry to receive funding.
Canada’s official announcement of the funding was made Aug. 9.
“It’s called the Business Scale-Up Project,” Carey said. “What they do is put you through an intensive audit process, with meetings and competition, and if you get through that, you unlock a special kind of loan that lets you not pay it back for three years, then it’s interest free. We already committed our funds, and now they’ll match us.”
The founder of one of the industry’s most recognized website solutions provider, which recently launched a customer relationship management platform (CRM), Carey has a vision of unifying European property marketing standards and making agent reciprocity commonplace. Europe is kind of like the Wild West when it comes to property data. It’s very localized and not shared openly among professionals.
“Europe is the first target, but the idea is to build a multilingual inventory system that can be used as an MLS anywhere,” Carey said. “Why would you build it for select languages when, if architectured properly, you can build it for all languages?”
The funding wasn’t the impetus for the project, however. Carey’s team has already committed about 15,000 project hours, roughly $1.5 million over the past year.
“We partnered with Google and an engineering company called Slalom to rearchitect our entire data system with the fundamental premise being it has to be fast, reliable and extensible to modern technologies, like machine learning,” he said.
Slalom is a private engineering and consulting firm with more than 6,000 employees. REW became a Google Cloud Platform partner in 2017.
As reported in July by RISmedia, the triumvirate will also work to establish RESO data standards in European markets.
REW’s Director of Product Development Vy Luu told RISMedia that the adoption of RESO will help coalesce inconsistent property marketing language and data overseas.
“Removing barriers relating to unstructured data allows us to bring powerful home-search technology to the entire world,” she said.
“Google came to campus and really helped us build out what the data model would look like,” Carey said. “They sent us engineers and gave us some funding.”
Carey’s team handled the front-end while Slalom and Google helped tackle engineering and build the “engine.” That part of the work is completed.
A couple of European real estate brands have been working with REW for a few years, according to Carey, and will lend their full support to the MLS system he’s shooting for.
Leading Real Estate Companies of the World hired it to audit their technologies, speak with brokers and help identify future technologies. Carey says it’s on board.
“The other player is RE/MAX of Europe,” Carey said. “I’ve been meeting with Walter Schneider and Michael Polzler. And that relationship started when I was bidding to unseat their current provider.”
Even with the industry support, funding and most of the engineering complete, Carey knows he still has to deliver a product to help convince the European real estate market that there’s a better way to market property and work with another.
“We still have to build the application,” he said. “We can’t sign anyone without a product, even if Michael [Polzler] has stood up in front of his brokers and told him I have his full support,” he said.
In terms of his own company’s products (websites and CRM) entering Europe, Carey said a translatable product should be ready by the end of this year, which will create a strong precedent for multilingual property marketing.
“We still have to build the entire backend of an MLS,” Carey said. “While our system allows for entering a listing, we can actually become the aggregator of the data, the source of the IDX.”
Carey said RE/MAX of Europe will provide access to its listings to other brokerages and that they are committed to an open system.
A major goal of REW’s entry to Europe is to create a system of data and deal cooperation among the region’s real estate businesses.
“We’ll provide them with that checkbox,” he said in reference to agents acknowledging reciprocity.
“What gets me excited about this, what I really dream about in terms of this application, are the implications of making a more efficient system,” Carey said.
“There will be significantly more transactions when you reduce the time to transact. What would a 10 percent uptick in transactions mean to Europe’s economy?”
Carey’s industry ambitions are as evident as the vibrant sleeve tattoo on his right arm, and he has the bandwidth to act on them.
“I’m not bored by any means, but I’ve hired some good leaders and built efficiencies, and it’s time to leverage what we’ve built.”
Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe