A new venture capital firm — purported to be the first-ever created by a multiple listing service — launched late last year by the California Regional MLS has a name, a refined target and a clear business pitch.
Venture MLS Fund I will back startup technology companies that are focused on improving the often outdated technologies powering MLSs across the nation.
The company is offering an instant testing ground for startup companies focused on technology that improves the broker and agent experience working with the MLS, and it plans to invest $10 million in its effort.
“Despite real estate’s position as the world’s largest asset class, professionals in the industry’s residential sector depend on antiquated technology,” the firm says on its website. “As any working real estate agent or broker can tell you, the tools this workforce uses need innovating.”
Leadership of the CRMLS have already begun making investments, announcing in December the creation of the then-unnamed venture fund and an investment in real estate data platform Perchwell.
The investment followed CEO Art Carter’s comments about recent acquisitions by Compass and Zillow.
Carter had previously talked about having been “burned by situations where vendors that we’re relying upon may not be ultimately owned by organizations that our brokerage community feels comfortable with,” referring to Compass’s acquisition of offers tool Glide and Zillow’s purchase of showing management firm ShowingTime.
CRMLS has been pursuing strategies of growth and partnerships of late. In February, it partnered with Bright MLS, the nation’s second-largest, to develop and launch technology products for its more than 200,000 combined subscribers.
The MLSs previously told Inman the venture fund and the collaboration agreement are separate ventures. The group did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The firm’s live website says investors too often focus on companies that are looking for vertical integration, whereas Venture MLS will focus on products specifically for real estate professionals.
In announcing its creation, the firm said it would rely on the industry connections and experience of its management team to choose investments.
“The fund will select and invest in only the companies that match its vision for the future of real estate technology,” the group says. “Since the fund’s managers have unparalleled knowledge of the customer needs…Venture MLS alone can provide investors unique confidence in a significant return.”
CRMLS claims that more than 110,000 real estate professionals already use the CRMLS, the largest in the nation. Venture MLS is leaning on that reach for an advantage with investors and companies.
“The people who use MLS technology want higher-quality products, more control over their product choices and better guarantees that the tools they use will continue to work in their interests, rather than the cross purposes of outside companies.”