Real Estate

‘We’re Transforming The Industry’: Side CTO Ed Wu

Two top technology execs, Ed Wu of Side and Chris Cox of Keller Williams, discussed their respective approaches to the ubiquitous conundrum of how to best serve agents with “self-contained” tech.

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Meeting the technology needs of agents continues to challenge brokerages across the industry.

Chris Wu | Photo by AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

Two top technology execs, Ed Wu of Side and Chris Cox of Keller Williams, discussed their respective approaches to the ubiquitous conundrum in Las Vegas from the stage of Connect during a session on “self-contained tech platforms.”

The two CTOs agreed the hurdles remain high and that internal solutions have to play a role in resolving adoption issues and stimulating innovation.

Cox doesn’t love the term “self-contained,” however.

“I think being self-contained is probably a rarity,” he said. “We believe at Keller Williams that what we need to do to serve agents best is offer an open platform, a mix of core proprietary solutions and third-party solutions.”

The Side team sees it somewhat differently. While the industry offers plenty of effective options in CRM and consumer search, agents are still missing out.

“What we’ve chosen to do is build in areas that no one has chosen to innovate yet,” Wu said. “Which is why I believe we’re building things that have never been built before.”

According to Wu, Side is transforming the industry by digitally addressing productivity, time saving, and “things that help you run your team in ways that are significantly more efficient.”

The wide variety of third-party choices for building tech stacks can be a burden to agents looking to advance how they work. The choices are growing by the day, and systems meant to address one need, such as marketing, can become redundant when “stacked” with a CRM that also provides marketing tools.

Yet, brokerages trying to circumvent the open market with a “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality aren’t really meeting the market.

“Value is really driven by meeting agents where they are, and being driven by their needs,” Cox said. “We’re crystal clear on that as a mission.”

On the issue of engaging with agents to drive innovation, Wu was adamant. “There’s no question about it. Our incentives are aligned with agents, if they succeed, we succeed,” he said.

Chris Cox | Photo by AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

The breadth of emerging proptechs is a concern for Side. Not from the perspective of competition, but philosophically.

“There’s a lot of point solutions out there, tons of them, that are just built for one reason, and that’s to extract value from agents,” he told the audience. “It’s yet another subscription, another service that they don’t really need that provides an incremental amount of value.”

Of course, even the best internal solutions have adoption problems. Both executives agree that the agent feedback loop, ongoing input to features and continuous support, are imperative to ensuring engagement and building the best possible tools for agents.

“You have to spread awareness, but ultimately you have to create something of value,” Wu said. “Every single thing that we’ve shipped is the direct result of feedback that we go from agents, and this is the culmination of those ideas.”

Keller Williams deploys regular user reporting tactics to track and react to dips and surges in software usage.

“First, we look at how satisfied are our users,” he said. “Secondly, you have to look at the rate they are engaging, how frequently are they using the capabilities you provide, and what is the month-over-month adoption rate?”

To provide the best software, Wu says it comes down constant attention to detail and showing that you care.

“Every single [developer] who joins us goes through this, they can’t build software from an ivory tower, they need to learn what an agent does on a daily basis and embed themselves with a team for a day, for a week, for however long it takes to build that empathy.”

Email Craig Rowe

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