What I'll be looking for at Inman Connect next week

[Full disclosure: Inman News is a client of 1000WATT Consulting. I was President of Inman News until 2004.]

Real Estate Connect NYC is next week. Attendance is way up, and so is the mood. If you have not registered, consider doing so. I promise you’ll learn a ton, meet interesting people and come across things you had no idea existed.

It’s a great way to start the year.

And this year” well, I think it’s going to be a big one. The rumblings of 2009 –the RPR, Google’s moves, consolidation – were premonitory; 2010 will bring about structural change (or damage, depending on where you sit). Connect is where all the people involved in these changes converge. Things happen at this event.

Here are a few things I’ll be looking for next week:


RPR reaction


It’s been two months since the RPR was announced. It’s about time for the other shoe – or deal – to drop. I’m not talking about the launch of the RPR product, or the announcement of MLS partnerships. I’m talking about the reaction from other players, like:

Move.com, which is sitting on $3.5 million worth of property search and display code that I guarantee you is bad-ass. I would not expect smart people like Erroll Samuelson and Curt Beardsley to be content mothballing something like that, would you?

First American, which went from looking like a loser in all of this (if public records data is offered to many of its existing MLS clients for free through the RPR, they could take a big hit) to being in an oddly advantageous position. The company, which seemed to be even more conflicted about licensing data versus going consumer direct than LPS has, now gets to watch their competitor go out on a limb while they (speculating here) work on a dozen different strategies for sawing it off.

Big brokerages and franchisors, many of which have been dealing for years with weakening value propositions, will almost certainly formulate a response – either singly or collectively – to the NAR going direct to their agents with a major technology/data product.

MLSs, which generally need to wake up and vote for Lincoln, may be moved to think more actively about their futures. I’m not expecting miracles, but I do think the RPR will serve to speed the significant data sharing and consolidation moves made in 2009.

We can count on some moves along these lines.

New energy in search

Connect has always featured tech, media and business people from way outside real estate. There’s a reason for this: we get a peek beyond where the category sits today.

This year, I’m looking for a forward view of search. I expect three of this year’s keynotes will deliver it:

Max Ventilla, CEO, Aardvark. This company has managed to harness the social graph into a slick discovery and decision support engine. If you want to find something, or get an answer to a question, Aardvark finds the best person among your online connections to deliver it. We all know that searching for a home or a Realtor is a process heavily freighted with elements of social interaction and trust. I’d like to see this human dimension mixed in with property data.

Dennis Crowley, CEO, FourSquare. Foursquare is one of the hottest Web startups around right now. The FourSquare app mixes mobile, location and gaming in a manner that is fun, informative and fosters social connection. Real estate has always been about place; and it has always been a mobile business. Foursquare shows us how that might be taken to the next level.

Mark Josephson, CEO, outside.in. Outside.in has been around for several years, but it seems its time to shine has come. The company, which scours the Web for hyperlocal media and neatly organizes it, received a $7 million investment from CNN just before the holidays. They’ve also released some pretty amazing tools in the past few months. Despite mountains of data (demographics, school reports, etc.) it’s still pretty hard to capture the ambient noise of a place in real estate search. What Outside.in is doing suggests a solution.

WordPress wonderland


The days of the “agent Website” are numbered. And generally, this is a good thing. The world no longer needs animated .gifs and .asp spaghetti that entwines agents in mediocrity.

WordPress is being pulled, pushed, hacked and otherwise massaged in hundreds of ways you never anticipated. Home search plugins, custom themes and increasingly sophisticated and secure content management take this platform well beyond “blog.”

By my rough estimate, the agent website space is a $100 million per-year business. Two thirds of that will evaporate in the sun of open source; but there’s a sizable play there. It will be fun to watch those trying to make it.

There are two sessions dedicated to WordPress at Connect. I’d make sure to be there.


Sam Sebastian, director of local markets for Google, will be on stage with Brad Inman to talk about recent moves by the search giant. I don’t expect him to spill the beans on strategy, but I will be listening closely to what is said (and not said) in response to what I expect will be some pointed questions.

A good Italian restaurant in Midtown not run by a celebrity chef.

Seriously. I have no interest in Mario Batali or that other guy with a TV show. I want Baked Ziti or a good Chicken Parm, with spumoni for dessert.  If you’ve got tips, please let me know.

I hope to see you next week!