The Upstream Pivot with FBS CEO Michael Wurzer
I had a chance to sit down with Mike Wurzer again at NAR Midyear to discuss the recent announcement about Upstream, well not really doing upstream anymore. This was recorded before NAR announced the details to their additional funding. More on that in a later blog post.
The first step of problem-solving is to assign blame. Right?
That seems to be part of Upstream’s tactics in explaining their delayed progress at NAR’s May Legislative Meeting in DC. They succeeded in raising the heartrate of today’s guest – by implying that a lack of cooperation from vendors is to blame for the snail’s pace of the project. Upstream also made a big announcement regarding what they term as a pivot, but may be more appropriately called a 180.
Michael Wurzer is the President and CEO of FBS, an employee-owned company committed to exceeding customer expectations. Their signature product, Flexmls, is a standards-driven technology platform connecting real estate professionals to their customers with collaboration tools that deliver timely and accurate information. FBS products serve 185 organizations and 2,000-plus agents in the real estate sector.
Under Wurzer’s leadership for the past 20 years, FBS has worked to constantly evolve and embrace change. They were among the first to build a web-based system, striking a balance between the stability of being an established company and creating a culture of innovation. Today he examines the Upstream pivot in detail, discussing how the Upstream messaging has evolved over time, the pain points the initiative was working to address, and the need to foster collaboration among industry players.
The major players in the Upstream initiative
How the Upstream messaging has evolved over time
The major Upstream pivot announced at NAR’s Legislative Meetings
How the pivot was influenced by feedback from experienced MLS professionals
Greg’s take on the fundamental change in premise of the Upstream initiative
The pain points the Upstream project was working to address
The buy-in for Upstream from big brands
Upstream’s explanation for its delayed progress
The need to foster collaboration among industry players rather than assigning blame
The CMLS campaign to highlight the value of the MLS
The controversy over RPR’s team of developers
The confusion re: the meaning of a ‘live demo’
The ability to enter a listing from third-party system as a RESO objective
The evolution of technology in the real estate software space
Success stories in MLS system consolidation
The beauty of competition in shaping market dynamics
Zillow’s next steps in light of the Upstream pivot
The need for clarity of communication re: syndication
What the Upstream pivot means for AMP
Wurzer’s prediction of what’s next in real estate tech innovation
Upstream as ‘another option’ rather than a revolution
Connect with Michael Wurzer:
Henry Ford is credited with saying, ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ True innovation provides you with the tools you didn’t even know you needed. Today’s guest understands the challenges of the real estate industry, and he created a platform that provides a unique solution tailored to the work we do. A solution that will make you wonder how you ever did without!
Tyler Gordon is the CEO and Founder of Agent Inbox, an all-in-one communications platform that empowers MLSs to launch a market-wide platform that allows every agent to communicate with every other agent about any listing, from any device, within any product. Agent Inbox seeks to build the messaging infrastructure so that everyone involved in the real estate transaction (including vendors) can effectively communicate via one system.
After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in finance, Gordon went to work for Grooveshark, an on-demand streaming music service, where he built their data products and market research team, boasting a research panel of over 300,000 participants. From there, he joined the family business, a real estate brokerage in south Florida. Realizing just how difficult it was to be a real estate agent, Gordon set out to solve some of the problems he encountered – and Agent Inbox was born. Today, Gordon explains the nuts and bolts of Agent Inbox, sharing how the tool works with any app under the MLS umbrella. Listen and learn the benefits of a single communication system that connects all the stakeholders involved in the real estate transaction!
The shift in how people communicate
The idea behind Agent Inbox
The installation of Agent Inbox
How to access Agent Inbox
How the Agent Inbox infrastructure might be used to include other industry stakeholders
The benefits of Agent Inbox
How Agent Inbox was conceived
The trend toward specialized products
Where Agent Inbox is already up and running
The user-friendly nature of Agent Inbox
The benefits of messaging (vs. email)
Connect with Tyler Gordon:
LIVE from the RESO Spring Conference 2017
‘…You’re building a new infrastructure. You’re building a brand new interstate, and one of the hardest things is the off ramp and the on ramp.’
RETS has been a solid technology standard for fifteen years, and many vendors are resistant to make the change to API. But as the needs of mobile shift the industry, a new ‘interstate’ is necessary. Today’s guest is prepared to discuss the details of this controversial pivot.
Jeremy Crawford is the CEO of RESO, the organization responsible for the creation, promotion and adoption of standards in the real estate industry. RESO seeks to fuel innovation and help streamline the real estate transaction. Crawford has been involved with RESO since 2010, serving on its Board of Directors and co-leading the Education and Outreach Workgroup. He has a unique combination of talent and experience, with an extensive background in information technology and corporate management. After graduating from East Tennessee State University with a degree in computer science, he landed an IT position with Safeco Insurance. From there, he worked in network management for BB&T Corporation and MarketLinx (a division of CoreLogic). His resume also includes leadership roles as CIO of SANDICOR, CIO and COO of MLSListings, and COO of Aculist.
Crawford explains the need for a pivot away from RETS to API, the benefits of saved search portability, and the progress of the transition to date. Listen in to understand the steps being taken to improve the permissioning process and who might play a role in further advances.
The controversial pivot to API
The progress of the move to API
The vendors who are taking advantage of API capabilities
The benefits of switching to API for established vendors
Progress with regard to the challenges of permissioning
Who is responsible for permissioning process
Connect with Jeremy Crawford:
LIVE from the RESO Spring Conference 2017!
In a world where your every move is tracked via geocode through your Starbucks orders and Instagram posts, there is an abundance of data. And those who know how to interpret that information can learn an awful lot about a person and her behavior, using it to either market or serve … or both. The world of real estate is no different, and there is much buzz in the industry regarding an innovative new data solutions product for agents.
Remine is a Big Data company that delivers predictive analytics to real estate professionals exclusively through their MLS. They analyze property records, transactional history and consumer data to determine someone’s propensity of buy, sell or refinance a home. Their user interface utilizes heat maps and other visualizations to help real estate professionals contextualize data, identify new leads and win more business. The team is comprised of successful agents who understand the needs of real estate professionals.
Jonathan Spinetto is the COO of Remine, and he has been a licensed agent since 2002. Using his own custom technology systems, Spinetto has completed over 3,000 single family residential transactions. As both a practitioner and a technologist who offers unique insight into industry trends, he delivers keynotes internationally around Big Data in real estate.
Lucie Fortier is the newly appointed VP of Product. She brings an understanding of the MLS space and a great deal of implementation experience to the Remine team. Fortier spent the last five years as Senior Director of Operations at CoreLogic, where she was accountable for the support and execution of a suite of Real Estate web-based applications delivered to 600,000-plus agents in the US and Canada.
Spinetto and Fortier articulate the specifics of the Remine product and how it ties together property attributes with data about people in order to provide meaningful insight for agents. Listen and learn how Remine is different from other companies that offer predictive analytics and why they chose to partner with MLSs.
How Remine employs data to help agents find prospects
Why Remine doesn’t fit into a particular product category
The types of data Remine has aggregated and linked to MLS data
Why Fortier joined the Remine team
The beauty of providing meaningful insight that agents can use
The difference between Remine and other companies that offer predictive analytics
How Remine democratizes the data to help agents be proactive
How Remine fills a gap in the real estate tech space
Why Remine chose to partner with MLSs rather than sell directly to agents
The importance of face-to-face demos
The necessity of stewardship when it comes to data sharing
The responsibilities of a company like Remine to share appropriate personal information
The Remine implementation schedule
What Fortier brings to the table as VP of Product
How Remine adjusts predictive analytics to localize to a given area
How Remine is funded
Connect with Jonathan Spinetto and Lucie Fortier:
Pioneering Innovation in Real Estate Tech with WolfNet CEO Joel MacIntosh
LIVE from the RESP Spring Conference 2017!
Talk about being at the forefront of new technologies… Today’s guest was working to develop ecommerce in the mid-1990s, streaming video in 1998, and consolidating MLS data in 2000.
Joel MacIntosh is the CEO of WolfNet Technologies, a real estate tech pioneer offering highly configurable IDX and VOW property search applications, MLS data standardization services, and property search API services. WolfNet accesses data from 600-plus MLSs in North America, offering the most accurate and up-to-date MLS data in the business, and the company serves national franchises, brokers, agents and MLSs.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management with a BS in Entrepreneurship and Business Management, MacIntosh founded WolfNet in 1996 as a work-for-hire web development company. WolfNet moved into the real estate space in 2000 when a broker approached the firm with an interest in "Broker Reciprocity", and they have been developing groundbreaking products and services for the industry ever since.
MacIntosh was recently named one of the 200 Most Powerful People in Real Estate for a reason, and today he shares how WolfNet stays on the cutting-edge of real estate software innovation. Listen and learn about their flagship products and services as well as projects in the works around photo image categorization and AI.
WolfNet’s journey from work-for-hire web development to real estate tech
WolfNet’s flagship products
Why MacIntosh favors the consulting aspect of his work in the data space
How WolfNet pioneered data sharing among MLS systems
Why most bigger players prefer direct database access over RETS
The benefits for WolfNet of building their own API
The two main WolfNet customer profiles
The ‘magic number’ of MLS markets at which point a company benefits from aggregating the data itself
How the numbers validate the concept of consolidation
WolfNet’s client base
How the data services component of WolfNet was conceived and productized
The built-in permissioning WolfNet offers
How WolfNet’s additional features connect data points to add significant value
What is involved in WolfNet’s image categorization and tagging project
WolfNet’s new data loader product
Vendors introducing AI in the real estate software space that impress MacIntosh
Connect with Joel MacIntosh:
“If the MLS industry had a face, that face would have a facial tick – because it’s always threatened by something or someone.”
With such constant scrutiny, you’ve got to have a pretty thick skin in the MLS business. And if your goal is to consolidate, let’s say the listings for the entire state of California, you’d better be even tougher. Today’s guest on Listing Bits faces such across-the-board resistance daily as he works to convince real estate professionals that giving up a little local control is worth it in the long run.
Art Carter is the CEO of California Regional Multiple Listing Service, Inc. (CRMLS), providing products and services to over 82,000 subscribers. CRMLS works to connect real estate professionals throughout the state of California via access to the most data at the lowest cost possible.
Carter spent nine years working for the Pacific West Association of Realtors as they pushed the envelope on innovation and brought the association world to a new level before moving to CRMLS in 2005. For the past 11 years, he has been dedicated to making a difference in the daily lives of Real Estate Professionals. He is best known for leading the data share revolution in Southern California.
Carter has been named one of Inman News’ 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders twice, and he is a member of the Dr. Almon R. “Bud” Smith, RCE, AE Leadership Society in recognition of dedicated service and commitment to advancing the association management profession. Listen in as he shares the progress CRMLS has made toward listings consolidation in California.
The disparity between consumers and agents/brokers when it comes to data access
How agents and brokers respond to the prospect of listings consolidation
The unraveling of calREDD
The history of CARETS
The advantages of data shares over an aggregated database
Why CRMLS seeks to consolidate listings for the entire state of California
The politics preventing consolidation
Where the resistance to consolidation comes from
The progress CRMLS is making toward consolidation
The benefit of implementing a ‘system of choice’
Solutions for the permissioning issue
Why the MLS industry itself should resolve the permissioning issue
The primary purpose of the MTP Project
Carter’s advice for MLSs seeking to consolidate
Connect with Art Carter:
Sifting through listing data is no one’s idea of a good time. But both brokers and technology providers spend a lot of time and money managing information from multiple MLSs. Would you be interested in a tool that could offer you a competitive edge by way of data access and control? Trestle might be the tool for you.
Kevin Greene is a real estate tech executive with expertise in business partnership development, strategy and product management. He has worked on both sides of the real estate aisle, serving as a broker for two years before crossing over to the vendor side of the industry ten years ago. He joined the team at CoreLogic this past July, where he serves as Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and New Initiatives at the leading global property information, analytics and data-enabled solutions provider.
Greene attended Auburn University, then served as paratrooper in the Army to pay for college. He received his degree in business administration from Jacksonville University and had a stint as a textbook sales rep with Prentice Hall before going to work for discount brokerage Help-U-Sell. In 2007, he got a lead through Monster.com for a job in real estate tech sales with what was then Fidelity National Financial. Greene rose through the ranks to become VP of MLS Solutions and then Senior Vice President of Business Development at Real Estate Digital before landing at CoreLogic. Today he discusses his new role and the potential of CoreLogic’s new Trestle initiative.
CoreLogic’s current objectives
The Trestle initiative
How Trestle was conceived
The benefits of an aggregated feed
How a tool like Trestle might facilitate the shift to APIs
The default agreements available through Trestle
Trestle’s pricing model
The cost-benefit analysis of utilizing Trestle vs. in-house staff
The phases of the Trestle launch
Connect with Kevin Greene:
Amy Gorce is the President of Clareity, the leading provider of security products and single sign-on services for the real estate industry. Their innovative products service over 850,000 agents daily and directly serve the majority of MLSs, associations and brokerages across North America.
Gorce entered the real estate industry in 1997 when she was hired by Intermountain MLS because of her experience in getting systems online. During her stint there, Gorce grew the organization from 2000 to 5000 members and tripled the listing data coverage area. As CEO, she received the Idaho Association of REALTORS Presidential Award for contributions in MLS leadership and technology.
In 2004, Gorce was approached to join the team pioneering data security company Clareity, and she transitioned to the vendor side of real estate technology. Her initial position with the company was as COO, then she moved to Executive VP before becoming President in early 2016. In her current role, Gorce works to design a vision for Clareity built on strategic thinking about the future of the company and the real estate industry in general. On this episode of the podcast, she outlines upcoming Clareity workshops and discusses industry issues from API integration to permissioning. Listen and learn what Clareity offers agents and brokerages and the company’s role in real estate tech moving forward.
The agenda for Clareity’s upcoming MLS Executive Workshop in Scottsdale
The consolidation of brands within Clareity
The intention of the Clareity Developer’s Workshop
Gorce’s role as President of Clareity
The value proposition of Clareity for agents
Gorce’s take on the permissioning process
How traditional vendors might evolve as new apps drive traffic away
Connect with Amy Gorce:
Rebecca Jensen is very busy. She's the President and CEO of Midwest Real Estate Data LLC (MRED), the real estate data distributor for the greater Chicago area. She also serves on the boards of Broker Public Portal (BPP), a national consumer-facing property search experience powered by MLS data, and the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS), the trade association dedicated to strengthening the MLS industry.
Jensen began her career working the tech support line for what is now UtahRealEstate.com. She rose through the ranks by creating her own positions in the small company, eventually serving as CEO at the age of 29. Under her leadership, the company developed a new in-house MLS platform, including an integrated public-facing website and mobile apps.
Jensen also served a full term of six years on the board of the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO), acting as Board Chair from 2011 to 2015. During her tenure, the organization went from being a project within the NAR to a standalone nonprofit with support across the industry. On this episode of the podcast, she shares her journey from tech support to CEO. Click and listen to find out what drives Jensen, her take on the role of organizations like RESO, COVE and CMLS, and the direction of the MLS industry.
Connect with Rebecca Jensen:
Michael Wurzer is the President and CEO of FBS, Creators of Flexmls. FBS is a 100% employee-owned company, and every employee-owner is committed to exceeding customer expectations. Flexmls is a standards-driven technology platform connecting real estate professionals to their customers with collaboration tools that deliver timely and accurate information. Their products serve 185 organizations and 2,000-plus agents in the real estate sector.
Before taking over for his father at FBS, Wurzer enjoyed a seven-year career in law, primarily defending publicly traded companies in class action litigation. He also worked as the Assistant General Counsel for Aveda, a botanically-based hair and skin care manufacturer for beauty professionals. The method of thinking employed in legal analysis and writing provided unique preparation for his eventual work in the field of real estate tech.
Under Wurzer’s leadership for the past 20 years, FBS has worked to constantly evolve and embrace change. They were among the first to build a web-based system, striking a balance between the stability of being an established company and creating a culture of innovation. On this episode of the podcast, Wurzer examines the staying power of the MLS, real estate software product integration and the implementation of industry standards. Listen in to find out how building relationships provides the foundation for FBS’s success.
- How a law background benefits Wurzer in the real estate tech industry
Talent in writing and communicating have been integral to his work with FBS
- The evolution of real estate tech community-building online
- The continued need for integration among real estate software programs
- Wurzer’s take on new initiatives like AMP and Upstream
- The source of anti-MLS sentiment
- The challenge of implementing standards in real estate tech
- How to solve the industry’s permissioning problem
- Wurzer foresees expanding agreements so that belonging to one MLS will provide access to a broader pool of data that can then be used
As long as the broker has permission, the vendor should have permission
- The necessity of reinventing yourself in the real estate tech business
FBS is actively developing leadership that embraces change
Connect with Michael Wurzer:
The Notorious R.O.B., Robert Hahn, is Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, a real estate consulting firm that specializes in developing and implementing corporate strategy including product management, brand marketing and social networking.
Hahn has a wide range of experience. His holds a BA in Philosophy from Yale and a graduate degree from NYU School of Law. After working briefly for a firm, he took a 98% pay cut to work as a magazine editor. Hahn’s diverse resume also includes positions at USA Networks, Inc., Kinesis Marketing and Realogy.
Hahn launched his consulting career in 2009 with the formation of 7DS Associates. He also writes a popular real estate blog, The Notorious R.O.B., and co-hosts the real estate podcast Trialogues which addresses technology, marketing and leadership in the real estate industry.
Hahn is a sought-after keynote speaker and change agent who thrives on speaking his mind and shaking things up in the real estate industry. On this episode of the podcast, he speaks to the nature of his consulting work, his candid approach to identifying industry challenges and the impending mood shift regarding standards for agents and brokers. Listen and learn what’s next for Hahn as makes an exclusive announcement about a new venture.
- The pros and cons of consulting
The “eat what you kill” model means you must continually prove value
- The differences between commercial and residential real estate
- The “tyranny of politeness” in the industry and why Rob and Greg feel a responsibility to speak their minds
- Hahn’s take on the biggest issue in real estate
The preamble to the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics outlines the fiduciary responsibility of agents and brokers
- Why it’s difficult for consumers to evaluate realtors
Lack of transparency
- How realtors themselves can help raise standards
- What’s next for Hahn and the details of an upcoming partnership
Connect with Robert Hahn:
Damien Huze is the Chief Design Officer at W+R Studios. He was born in Paris and grew up in a creative environment, watching his parents design ads on the floor of their home office. When Huze was ready to apply his own talent, the internet was just taking off. He found his medium in building websites, first for his band and then his father.
Huze has known W+R co-founders Greg Robertson and Dan Woolly since the inception of the company in 2008 when they connected over a shared approach to software design. At the time, he was running a design shop called Wake Interactive where his small team did design work for tech-driven companies including Verizon, Target and even Jennifer Lopez. Huze consulted for W+R studios, designing their corporate identity and contributing to the UI/UX of their flagship product, Cloud CMA.
Wake Interactive’s bread and butter was designing usable websites, but Huze eventually wanted to shift his focus to product design. When the opportunity came along to join the W+R team in 2015, he was ready to lead their rebranding effort and apply his talent to design from a product standpoint. On this episode of the podcast, Huze addresses the creative process, the benefits of creative thinking in business and how to view processes as a design task.
-What the creative process entails
-Generating ideas can be frustrating and ugly
-The aha moment when you find a solution is addictive
-Why Boulder is a best case environment for software design
-The level of work happening in the field there is tremendously motivational
-The potential for transformation in the real estate industry
-How businesses benefit from creative thinking
-Design goes beyond simply shaping the way things look
-Processes are a design task, i.e.: hiring, support, etc.
-How Huze approached the rebranding effort at W+R
-A brand survey revealed that the name was the most valuable element of Cloud CMA’s identity
-The rebrand was based on the word “cloud” and employs a very simple mark
-Huze’s team developed Cloud Agent Suite with complementary products identified by color
-Why continuity is the key to a polished image
-An internal transformation was required for W+R to be well-managed from a brand guidelines standpoint
-The changing value proposition of real estate agents
-Agents continue to provide crucial representation as they assist buyers in navigating the process of putting in an offer
-Agents provide local knowledge for buyers who will be joining the community
-Why focusing on one aspect of an agent’s job that is underserved is the best approach to software design
-A product that tries to do too much for too many people is a product that is not great at any specific thing
-The best way to reign in a product manager who is adding too many features
-The goal is to build a product that fixes a problem
-The designer’s job is to figure out if the product manager’s assumptions are correct by asking a lot of questions (Why?)
Connect with Damien Huze: