Second Century Ventures
Second Century Ventures is the strategic investment arm of the National Association of Realtors, focused on funding innovative technology companies with real estate implications.
In a rare move for the association world which typically operates under rules and cultural guidelines that are very different than the corporate world, NAR aimed to be “innovative.” The returns fund the operation entirely and is not funded by member dues.
How companies get funding
In conversation with Second Century Venture’s Managing Director, Constance Freedman we learned that NAR’s strategic investments in the past helped members and ended up making profit, so when NAR turned 100, the fund became a more concerted, formalized effort rather than based on opportunities at the time. The fund was officially branded and bean partnering with technology companies that were pushing innovation in the real estate space.
Second Century’s most recent investment was in IfByPhone, a voicemail system that is hosted via cloud, allowing small businesses like Realtors to have a more robust voicemail system offering call routing, assigning of different phone numbers for ad types, helping to mitigate the costs of losing business.
Freedman noted this technology as particularly appealing to NAR members because 65% of all calls to Realtors go to voicemail and 80% of failed calls end up with competitors which amounts to major losses.
“Using Ifbyphone® for REALTORS®, agents can focus on clients and prospects while Ifbyphone is handling the forwarding and tracking of leads,” said Irv Shapiro, CEO and founder of Ifbyphone®. “Real estate agents can spend the majority of their time in the field, responding to those leads, managing customer relations and working toward more sales, while maintaining a nimble virtual office with Ifbyphone®,” he added.
Must benefit members
The selection process is not an executive at NAR making buddies with a vendor on the expo floor and throwing them money. As with any major venture fund, there is a formalized process with one of the largest requirements by Second Century is an established market need, proof of concept and $2 to $20 million in annual revenue. The fund aims to help companies looking to grow rather than seed small startups, and all companies must have a clear benefit to membership. The funded companies are typically folded into the NAR Member Benefits package.
The fund approaches and is approached by hundreds of companies each year and may back one or two out of the group. Practitioners that seek to get involved in the process are encouraged by NAR to contact Second Century Ventures.