A recent Chevy commercial wonderfully illustrated our attachment to our mobile devices and smartphones when a company spokesperson collected and subsequently ran a focus group’s collective devices through a wood chipper. Although the intention was to show how important connectivity is in our everyday life – and the real phones were undamaged in the process of filming the segment – it was a great illustration of just how much we all rely on those devices across all aspects of our existence.
Smartphones are essential for connecting us to family, friends and coworkers. They provide advanced capabilities through an ecosystem of applications that truly empower us to do amazing things that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. And they put a universe of data, information and knowledge at our fingertips at anytime and from anywhere.
As our smartphones have grown and evolved, so have the applications that intrepid enterprises are designing for them. Now, companies are finding new and exciting ways to utilize a device’s sensors so that the most relevant, timely and accurate information is provided without a significant amount of customization and effort.
One of the companies that is using the power of the smartphone to truly change the way people work and live is right here in the National Capital region – Homesnap. Based in Rockville, MD, Homesnap has created a trusted home search application that utilizes the sensors and cameras built into a user’s smartphone to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information about homes to users. The application, which is available on iTunes and Google Play, enables users to take a photo of a home and receive all of the information about it, while also delivering powerful tools and capabilities to real estate agents through their premium Homesnap Pro solution.
Homesnap is one of the many technology companies that will be presenting at the Technology Showcase during the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference. To learn more about what makes Homesnap unique, where the inspiration come from for their solution, and why Homesnap will be participating in this year’s conference, we spoke with the company’s President and Founder, Steve Barnes.
Here is what Steve had to say:
CGCS: Can you tell our readers a bit about your background, and how your experience led you to the creation of Homesnap? Where did the concept come from and how did it get its start?
Mr. Barnes: Prior to co-founding Homesnap, my career included a number of real estate-related endeavors – I owned a mortgage company, worked as a settlement attorney, co-founded the first online marketplace for settlement services in the U.S., and was a real estate broker.
My co-founder, Guy Wolcott, has a deep technology background, and we initially set out to establish a web-based real estate brokerage, but soon recognized that mobile was the place to be. One day, Guy came into my office and said we need to build, “Shazam for homes.” In other words, we needed to do something with homes that was only possible with your smartphone.
Leveraging the camera and other sensors in the phone, the Homesnap app was created so you could, “take a picture of any home to find out all about it.” Homesnap was launched in 2012 at the SXSW conference in Austin, TX.
CGCS: The real estate application and home search market is a pretty crowded one, with established players like Redfin and Zillow. What differentiates Homesnap’s offerings from those of large competitors like those?
Mr. Barnes: On the consumer-focused side, Homesnap sets itself apart from the competition with a beautifully designed app that lets users snap a photo of any home to get the scoop about it. This is a feature that people remember and get excited about. Our consumer data is also more accurate and current than that of our competitors.
But where we really stand apart is in the agent-only version of our app, Homesnap Pro. We work with multiple listing services (MLSs) to provide Homesnap Pro to their members, and they get the power of the MLS in their smartphones. They can do everything they need to do, from their phones, while they are out showing homes and meeting with clients.
Homesnap also allows agents and clients to collaborate, communicate, and share homes on the same platform.
CGCS: One thing that I find extremely interesting and unique about Homesnap is its focus on agents and realtors. Homesnap offers some innovative features for agents – one of which really stood out to me was the mobile safety features. Where did that idea originate from? What other agent-centric features does Homesnap offer that other applications and services may not?
Mr. Barnes: Like everyone else in the real estate industry, we have watched with alarm as the number of attacks against agents has increased in recent years. Agents – many of whom are women – often find themselves in situations where they are alone, meeting prospective clients they haven’t met before. We wanted to provide those agents with a feature that brought them comfort and offered protection, which they could use easily on their phones without drawing attention to it.
Our safety timer is exactly that: it lets agents check in to properties and set a safety timer, while using an app they are already using during a showing. Their emergency contacts receive a text alert if they do not turn off the timer before it runs out.
We also offer other agent-centric features, such as Facebook marketing for agents based on their recent transactions, in-app messaging so clients and agents can share homes on the same platform, and a, “How Am I Connected?” feature that surfaces all the connections between agents in an MLS based on past transactions – think LinkedIn for the MLS.
CGCS: The application is currently offered as a free download via app stores. Many free apps struggle to generate revenue through in-app purchases, advertising and other business models. How does Homesnap generate its revenue? Is it via premium downloads, ads, or other revenue streams? How do you see this evolving in the future, if at all?
Mr. Barnes: Homesnap currently generates revenue through our contracts with MLSs, who pay us in order to provide the app for free to their members. We also sell premium products like Homesnap Pro Facebook Ads and several broker branding packages.
CGCS: When many people think of the DC technology scene, they think of cybersecurity, healthcare, and life sciences companies, and government contractors. Is there a large mobile app market growing in this region? What led Homesnap to choose the National Capital region to call home?
Mr. Barnes: My co-founder Guy Wolcott and I are both longtime DC residents, so it made sense for us to launch our company here. We’ve found that the DC area has a thriving technology scene, with many mobile app developers for us to share war stories with.
CGCS: You’re going to be attending the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference at the end of March and participating in the annual Technology Showcase. Why did you decide to participate in this year’s event? What can attendees expect to learn about Homesnap?
Mr. Barnes: The 2016 Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference is a fantastic opportunity for us to spread the Homesnap story to investors, M&A professionals and technology enthusiasts.
Attendees will discover that Homesnap is quickly emerging as a prominent and valuable company in the real estate technology space.