After cancelling its real estate technology conference last year due to the coronavirus, the National Association of Realtors is bringing it back, along with its main event: a head-to-head contest in which startups compete for a cash prize.
The 1.48 million-member trade group’s third annual Innovation, Opportunity & Investment (iOi) Summit will be held August 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel in Dallas, Texas. The event is best known for its “Pitch Battle,” a contest hosted by NAR’s for-profit investment subsidiary, Second Century Ventures, in which aspiring real estate tech startups vie for $15,000 in cash and the attention of venture capitalists and others who could help them make a splash in the industry.
Pitch Battle hopefuls have until July 9 to submit an application. The application form asks the mission and value of the applicant’s product, the applicant’s target customer and market, how many companies or individuals are using the product and the applicant’s business model and pricing structure, among other questions.
The application also asks whether the applicant is “led by” or “majority owned by” a woman or women, an individual or group from an underrepresented racial or ethnic minority, a disabled veteran or veterans, a LGBTQ+ person or persons or none of the above.
NAR spokesperson Quintin Simmons told Inman those demographic questions were “certainly not a selection criteria.”
“However, equality and representation is a core value of NAR and it is something we want to understand from applicants about their startup, as well as a desire to understand their funding stage, area of real estate-industry focus, and their product stage, among other aspects,” he said via email.
“A decision to invite a company to participate in the Pitch Battle isn’t based on any one criteria, but rather all are factors we want to understand as we look to select the best companies to go head-to-head in the Pitch Battle, which has become a highlight of the iOi Summit.”
According to the contest’s terms and conditions, chosen contestants will have to complete a 30-minute coaching session, coordinated by NAR, by August 6. On August 17, contestants will have four minutes to make their pitch live and in person and will then have to answer questions from the Pitch Battle judges. The winner will be announced on August 18.
“Pitch Battle contestants will be required to explain their new tech innovation or service and provide a detailed account of how it will improve the real estate industry,” NAR said in a statement.
Ines Hegedus-Garcia, director of strategy and innovation at Avanti Way Realty, will emcee the event. The judges will choose the winner based on these criteria:
- Definition of the problem or opportunity
- Solution to problem/opportunity
- Impact of solution/idea
- Feasibility of marketing and implementing the solution/idea
- Presentation style
On-demand photo-editing service BoxBrownie beat out 15 other contestants when NAR held its first pitch battle at its inaugural iOi Summit in San Francisco in 2018, and Curbio, which renovates homes for sellers and gets paid at closing, won against 13 other contestants at the second pitch battle in 2019 in Seattle.
According to NAR, the prize package is winner-takes-all and includes:
- A 10 x 10 booth at the 2021 Realtors Conference & Expo (a $3,800 value)
- A live demonstration from the theater in the NAR booth at the 2021 Realtors Conference & Expo
- An article feature about the Pitch Battle winner in RISMedia and Realtor Magazine
- A meeting with an SCV executive
- The opportunity to present the prize check during the presentation ceremony to the winner of the iOi Pitch Battle 2022
The iOi Summit will also feature sessions such as “Can Tech Drive Fairness & Equity in Housing?” “PropTech Deal Flow in 2021 and Beyond” and “The Federal Government’s Role in Technology Acceleration.”
After some delay, NAR held its first in-person conference since the pandemic began, the 2021 RPAC President’s Circle Conference, on June 20-23, 2021 in Marco Island, Florida. Its next solely in-person event will be the Government Affairs Directors (GAD) Institute on July 20-22 in Denver, Colorado, followed by the iOi Summit in August.
Asked whether any iOi sessions will be live-streamed, Simmons said, “NAR believes there is great value in the networking and relationships built at the iOi Summit and we are beyond thrilled to be able to hold the event in-person this year. That said, as in all of the prior years, certain sessions will indeed be livestreamed this year. I expect to have more information later this month.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comments from NAR.