Friday Flash: The innovation chokehold and paperless peril

A “real estate app store” has dangled just outside our reach for years.

Now, two companies have grabbed it.

We have the Spark Store + API, which I wrote about pre-launch last summer, and the Clareity app store, which will launch soon in partnership with Corelogic.

Greg did a great job explaining and comparing them.

I’m all for the app stores. They offer a new channel through which software vendors can sell their products, and a new place for pros to find and evaluate tools for their business. I’m happy about what both companies have done.

But what I really, really care about is how the current landscape of 900 MLSs places a chokehold on real estate software innovation. If you’re a software developer and want to build something for brokers or agents using listing data, you’ve got to approach each MLS one by one, gasping for air, to get what you need.

So it is the Spark API that excites me most about these two initiatives. It’s an MLS-compliant expressway around this miserable path.

App stores are cool, but I’d like to see more of these. came out with a “Find it first” campaign highlighting its data advantages over Trulia and Zillow.

Is this part of a “rope-a-dope” strategy?

Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman gave a TEDx talk in which he puts forth the idea that businesses with a “real world” dimension are more interesting and consequential than pure-play media or software companies. It’s good, even if you don’t agree with him.

But I’d like to direct your attention to one point in the talk (start at about 8:45 in the video) where he quotes the chief content officer at Netflix as saying “We’re trying to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.”

You see, if you’re a traditional broker, Redfin is trying to become you before you can become Redfin.

I know. I’m a broken record, and you may think I’m off-base. But seriously: watch these guys.

HomeSnap, formerly known as Sawbuck Realty, got some love at the SXSW conference this week. At the show they positioned themselves as a more evolved and human version of search, with Zillow playing the caveman.

It’s a pretty audacious claim, and not entirely without merit. It just shows you how fast things are moving these days.

Look, I’m all for paperless real estate transactions. But let’s be careful not to take things too far.

Enjoy the weekend.