Friday Flash: Paying attention

I have emceed two events in the past three weeks.

This isn’t really my job, and I’m starting to worry about becoming a Seacrest-like cipher, but it does have one important and ultimately helpful effect: I am forced to pay attention for long periods of time.

I have to listen to every word every presenter utters because I need to ask follow-up questions or offer some sort of synthesis. No email, texting or tweeting for me. I am 100% ON.

I thought I’d share just a few of the many insights I gathered from having done this.

Three weeks ago, 1000WATT hosted Turn On, our first-ever event for clients past, present and future. 150 people came to our home city of Portland, OR for two days of provocative, intelligent, eclectic, creative and sometimes deeply moving presentations arranged by my partner Marc Davison.

To give you a taste: we had an Italian fashion show and a presentation on blowing up IDX. You can see some pictures from Turn On here.

Some of the things sticking with me:

Daniel Whittington of the Wizard Academy scrambling the demographic and psychographic paradigm that guides so much marketing these days. For example: “From a marketing standpoint, the only important quality people who love yoga share is a love of yoga.”

Bob Hoffman from the Type A group systematically dismantling our current obsession with Millennials. Bob pointed out just how economically insignificant this young cohort is compared to the wealthiest and spendiest group of people in the history of capitalism: Americans over 50.

Matt Beall of Hawaii Life making the case that creativity is a skill to be developed, not a gift given to a few. You just need to make time for it. His statement “Have you ever said: I was checking my email and had this really great idea?” hit me like a ton of bricks.

Pat Stone, CEO of WFG National Title and former president of Fidelity National Financial, walking us through the regulatory and legal reality of working deep within the real estate transaction. He described how during a recent data and technology audit of his company, inspectors walked around the outside of his buildings peering through windows, checking whether or not they could see customer data on desktop screens inside. Somehow, he remains optimistic about making the transaction faster and easier. I would not bet against him.

Jordan Geller, owner of the world’s largest collection of Nike sneakers, showing and telling us how his passion took him from being considered an outlaw by the brand to a valued and very meaningful partner. Knowing your stuff –  and caring – will power you through almost any barrier.

Sherry Chris opening up about an experience early in her career that made her the empathetic leader she is today. My takeaway: if you’re “too busy” for people, you’re missing the point.

Fashion designer and boutique owner Rachel Gorenstein showing us how she lovingly shaped her family’s story into one of the most beautiful brand stories I’ve ever seen. So many lessons for real estate companies here.

I sat on stage for two days of this. I am glad I did.

This week, it was the Realogy FWD Innovation Summit where I watched 15 young real estate startups pitch and demo their hearts out in front of nearly every executive at one of the world’s largest real estate enterprises. All while being simultaneously live streamed to thousands around the world by Inman.


I have a heartfelt respect for every one of the founders that took the stage.

1000WATT has worked with Realogy on the FWD initiative since Alex Perriello, President and CEO of Realogy Franchise Group, had a vision for connecting with early stage real estate startups four years ago. Since then, FWD has become a unique window into real estate innovation.

I liked all 15 companies that pitched at FWD for different reasons, so I’ll just share some high-level observations I took away:

First, user interface, while of course important, is mattering less and less. The power of many of the applications that were presented had everything to do with what you couldn’t see. The algorithm. The data. The computing power. The artificial intelligence. There’s less to see and show, but that’s the point. The best applications today are all about what we don’t have to do, deal with, or navigate.

Several FWD companies’ products were in this vein.

Second, we’re seeing more specialization. There are many mature subcategories within real estate – transaction management, lead management, “video”, home search, moving, etc. – areas where the incumbents have pretty much taken things as far as they can. What I saw at FWD were companies circling back and addressing specific people or problems with great focus.

There was a transaction management application focused on the period in the deal right before the close where things tend to go analog; a lead response and management tool focused specifically on phone leads; a moving website and agent network tailored to the specific needs of military families. A video app designed around a set of common Realtor use cases.

Lastly, and importantly, given what I point out above, several of the companies at FWD make integration with other applications a priority. As new applications proliferate in an industry notorious for wildly variable business processes and habits, software that doesn’t play well with other software is doomed.

I’m in Slack all day. It’s the most valuable software I have ever used. But I also use Google Drive, Dropbox, Invision, Droplr and other applications I need within Slack. I pulled these things together in a few clicks. The true value lies in the compilation. I can’t wait to see this trend unfold in real estate.

That’s all for now. Time to get back to work.

Enjoy the weekend.