Friday Flash: Bot why?

If you pay attention to the chatter out there in the broader tech world, you know that messaging, artificial intelligence (AI) and bots are hot stuff right now.

It’s hard for me to explain what a bot is at this point because things are still coming into focus. But I guess you could say that a bot is a means of interacting with people and service providers (or complex algorithms that emulate them), through a mobile interface most of us would recognize as being like “chat” or “texting”.

The best way to get your mind around this is to just dig in. Check out Kik, Telegram and Magic. Read up on Facebook M. Or download and play around with the new Quartz news app, which isn’t truly a bot, but will give you a quick sense for how a “messaging” user experience can be applied to something unexpected.

Inman reported this week on a company called Riley that offers lead response and management in a text-based interface.

There’s a lot of silly stuff playing in the real estate technology theater these days, but this feels real to me.

This week I sat in a conference room with a bunch of really smart people who showed me a future without online real estate leads.

It was a transcendent experience.

The “online lead” has been dangled over the head of the real estate industry like a talisman since the early 2000s. It has held us in its thrall even as we saw its falsehood : 2% conversion rates, scattershot lead forms, the brutal verbs – capture, route, drip, close.

The modern lead is the product of an online real estate world based on IDX, listing portals and Google Adwords. It feeds people who fill out forms on listing pages or landing pages to buy-side agents who then mostly don’t respond.

Maybe these non-responding agents don’t suck.

Maybe the customer acquisition paradigm they’ve been sold for the past 15 years sucks.

The paradigm is showing signs of strain. Would Zillow be forced to hire “first responders” to jump on inquiries from its site and apps on behalf of agent advertisers if they were generating something other than what we have become resigned to accept as a lead? Would all the portals be hustling to generate seller inquiries if buyer leads were a big, sustainable business?

I dunno. I may be completely wrong. I am just a person who listens to a lot of brokers, agents and startups and then thinks about what he hears. The counter-narrative is that we’re entering an era where young, agile teams work portal leads through an efficient, tech-forward process. That’s certainly happening.

But I am increasingly impressed by the idea that the future belongs to agents who leverage technology to farm their own clients and keep them forever. A small group of companies are forming around this paradigm.

I can’t stop looking at this photo:


We work with Realogy on their FWD Innovation Summit, a daylong event that connects startups with Realogy executives and broker/owners. It’s a chance for young companies to get in front of people who make decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of agents worldwide.

It’s a good room to be in. The winner gets $25,000 and placement in Realogy’s new ZAP Store. Everyone comes away with new contacts and ideas.

The application deadline is April 18th.

Enjoy the weekend.