Wong Delivers Keynote at Technori Pitch
Wong talks @properties’ partnerships with local tech startups and the past, present and future of @properties
@properties co-founder Thaddeus Wong delivered the keynote speech to an audience of more than 500 attendees at the Technori Pitch meeting held on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the Chase Auditorium in downtown Chicago.
Founded by tech entrepreneur Seth Kravitz, Technori is the third largest monthly startup pitch meeting in the U.S. Over 180 companies have launched on the Technori stage. The theme of this month’s meeting was real estate, so Technori tapped Wong to talk about the past, present and future of @properties.
Wong recounted how he and @properties co-founder Michael Golden met at a small brokerage firm, where the two were the only brokers in the office who wore ties. They both grew frustrated with the lack of support they received from management and vowed to build a company that would operate “in service to the real estate broker.”
@properties was born in 2000, around the time the dot-com bubble was at its peak. Many real estate startups were attempting to automate the business, offering DIY models at discounted fees. Thad and Mike did the opposite, committing to a bricks and mortar operation and investing heavily in traditional marketing. @properties didn’t have a website for its first year and a half in business.
By 2008, @properties had around 700 brokers and 4 offices in Chicago. The company was profitable and growing fast. Then the housing market crashed.
“We were faced with a decision. Our competitors were cutting services, cutting staff, shuttering offices. We had 700 brokers who had helped us build this company. We felt we had a moral responsibility to these people,” said Wong.
So @properties, which had never taken on debt, charged ahead – opening new offices, developing new training programs and investing in new marketing. Recruiting exploded, and the firm grew to 1,300 brokers in 10 offices by the end of 2012 – just as the housing recovery was in full swing. Today, @properties has 1,700 brokers in 18 offices in Chicago, surrounding suburbs and Southwest Michigan.
Wong said one of the challenges @properties now faces is maintaining the culture of a startup despite being the largest independent brokerage firm in Illinois. “How do we keep it fun and stay on the cutting edge?”
One way is by partnering with technology startups in the real estate space. Since 2013, Wong and Golden have made investments in, or formed partnerships with, four tech firms:
- Yapmo, a software that takes communications off of e-mail and puts it in an app that lets users filter messages by topic
- TurboAppeal, a company that automates the property tax appeals process
- Kahoots, which makes it easier for users to categorize and share contacts
- PointDrive, an online presentation software that increases engagement and personalizes client communications
“Our main criteria for investment is ‘Will the product or service enhance our brokers’ relationship with their clients,’” said Wong. “Our value proposition has to be about more than just helping someone buy or sell a home. We want to raise the bar of professionalism and service for our brokers, our company and our industry. ”
About a half-dozen tech startups delivered pitches following Wong’s keynote.
Watch for more information on @properties’ partnerships with local technology startups and how they can enhance your experience of buying, selling and owning real estate.