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NAR REach announces first company accepted into accelerator program, Pro.com

NAR REach has announced that Pro.com is the first brand to be part of their accelerator program, and applications end this week.

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The National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) strategic investment arm, Second Century Ventures has announced Pro.com as the first brand that they have selected to be in the third graduating class of their Reach tech accelerator program.

Pro.com helps homeowners to price projects, find quality certified local professionals, and finish their home to-do lists, under the leadership of Matt Williams and his team of former Amazon execs. The home services marketplace enables real estate professionals to help homeowners get accurate pricing on home projects.

Transparency and timing

Just visit Pro.com and see that transparency is the name of the game – we liken the site to the TrueCar.com of home improvement projects wherein a sliding scale of prices is given for each unique project, right up front. The company is already funded to the tune of $17.5 million, and the site was born out of frustration with how much time and effort it takes to find out how much a project will cost (the first question anyone wants to know, and often what holds people back from embarking on any investment, large or small). They saw how fragmented the industry was, and how difficult it is to get quality work done, so they pounced.

The consensus with our team is that the timing is great for REach and Pro.com to be partnered, as transparency is no longer a buzzword, it is a requirement. As the large real estate portals draw their swords against each other, the industry often forgets that transparency can be about so much more than just listing data (just ask the CFPB), because transparency in any data is a top reason people don’t pull the trigger on a purchase (imagine going to Amazon and not seeing any dollar signs – you’d be out of there in a heartbeat).

NAR REach applications are still open

This is the first company to be announced for the 2015 Reach accelerator program, and applications will be open through March 19th. The remaining companies will be announced in April.

The focus of the REach program is to provide a platform from which technology companies can launch into the real estate vertical, most of whom are not real-estate specific. Past participants include Updater, BombBomb, SmartZip, and SendHub. Many other accelerators take ideas and turn them into MVPs (minimum viable products), but REach takes existing brands and skyrockets their potential footprint in the real estate industry.

Why is Pro.com perfect for REach?

In a statement, Williams said, “It’s an honor to be accepted into this year’s REach accelerator program – the knowledge, resources and support will be invaluable to us as we grow.”

“Pro.com is ideally poised to take full advantage of the REach program, as they and all participants will benefit significantly from access to real estate leaders – from education to mentorship to market exposure,” said NAR President Chris Polychron. “While Pro.com is applicable to so many individuals, it hits on a sweet spot in the real estate space, as in this day and age, Realtors® are going well beyond the transaction and often times act as an advisor to homebuyers and sellers, who turn to Realtors® when making improvements to their homes.”

Constance Freedman, Founder, Managing Director at REach(TM) and Managing Director, Second Century Ventures; Vice President of Strategic Investments, NAR tells us that Pro.com is an interesting addition to the REach program, “because of the fact that 54 percent of Realtors’ business is from past clients and referrals, and Pro.com can help Realtors add value, even after the transaction.” Bingo.

How this came to be, and what’s next?

Williams tells us that they heard about the REach program by participating in various real estate events, and considers this an opportunity to serve the industry even more deeply. Because most home improvement projects take place 90 days before or after a transaction, Pro.com believes that their site is an important tools for real estate professionals who are called upon to make these “deeply personal recommendations and referrals” – it’s much easier when the pros being referred are of vetted quality.

So yeah, yeah, buzzwords about transparency and quality, but what does that really mean? It means that no one pays to be featured on Pro.com, that they certify their professionals not only by verifying licenses, insurance, and bonding, but by actually calling their references of past clients. Williams says they’re similar to Uber in that consumers pay money for action, and they are actually helping as a service (whereas we look to home repair sites like Angie’s List that offers the opposite).

Williams encourages others to apply to REach, as it is “the best program for anyone looking to make inroads into the [real estate] industry,” and that it is “truly rare to have access to people with this much knowledge of an industry.” Williams also asserts that the available mentoring, resources, and events will help Pro.com to continue to “revolutionize” the space. In the future, they hope to have a Realtor-specific product.

Freedman says this is a tool that Realtors can leverage, and we suspect that with these two teaming up, this will become even more true.

#NARREach

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Real Estate Technology

Should digital assistants have empathy? Big investors say yes

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Bonding with your digital assistant might be more likely than you expect with ElliQ. The rising numbers of AI assistants have created unique interactions.

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ElliQ assistant

It sounds crazy to think that you could form an actual bond with something like Siri or Alexa, but actually, humans are pretty dang good at forming emotional connections to machines. For instance, a Canadian company threw an entire retirement party for five mail delivery bots. People will use Roombas as a substitute for companionship, not unlike a cat or dog. Humans just seem to enjoy connection – even if it’s with a lifeless robot.

Intuition Robotics is taking this desire for emotional connection a step further by working to create digital assistants that can more easily bond with their human companions. At the moment, their biggest product is ElliQ, a robotic digital assistant designed to bond with eldery users. In fact, according to Intuition Robotics, their average demographic falls between ages 78 – 97.

And ElliQ seems to be doing its job. The company reports that customers interact with ElliQ regularly throughout the day, even holding conversations with the machine, and are more likely to listen to ElliQ’s suggestions, which often include proactive behavior like getting outdoors or eating more vegetables.

By working to create a more empathetic and emotional digital AI, Intuition Robotics has started to discover a whole world of new possibilities. And they’re just getting started, having recently raised another $36 million to continue research.

One of their plans? Combining these empathetic digital assistants with the automotive industry.

Imagine an assistant that could suggest you pull over when it senses you’re getting drowsy, or provide something to talk to during longer drives. Plus, unlike ElliQ, which stays put while you move around, you and the assistant will be together in a car, making it easier for the AI to learn your preferences and habits.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Intuition Robotics, which has recently majorly expanded its workforce. A digital assistant that can provide a better emotional connection to humans has a world of possible applications, from nursing homes to elementary schools.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about a more empathetic AI – the marketing capabilities alone are something I’m side-eyeing. That said, humans have been befriending vacuum cleaners and we’ve turned out alright, so for now, let’s focus on the positive possibilities that could come with tech from companies like Intuition Robotics.

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Real Estate Technology

Private browsing will be pushed into the mainstream this fall – ready?

(TECHNOLOGY) Private browsing is making strides, and your entire company should be pushing for all teams to use the new features.

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Browser privacy is at the forefront of many consumers’ concerns in a digitally advanced world, so it’s no surprise that companies like Apple and Firefox are expanding their browsing features to encompass more aggressive privacy options. According to Digiday, that push will happen early this fall.

A private browsing company called Neeva will also feature in this fall endeavor, encouraging a shift to their product (an ad-free, subscription-based browser) alongside Apple and Firefox. Neeva would theoretically charge a “minimum” of four dollars per month, allowing users to experience a much more private web browsing experience for far less than the abstract cost of more traditional options.

Neeva’s fundraising fervor can be, in part, attributed to the success of Brave, a similarly privacy-focused browser that makes use of Tor to protect unwitting users from unfriendly data inquiries.

Apple’s foray into more extreme privacy options comes in the form of “Apple Private Relay,” which is a feature that can prevent websites from viewing the identity of a visitor.

Firefox’s approach is a bit more platform-centered, with its initiatives including more active showcasing of its built-in VPN and safety features.

Digiday acknowledges that privacy-forward browsing has been available for years, but it tends to reside “mostly on the fringes of society,” with browsers like Tor succumbing to slow load times and stereotypes regarding things like criminal activity and a disproportionately high conspiracy theorist population.

But data privacy is extremely important, now more than ever – and dispelling those stereotypes in favor of education is crucial if the public is going to shift away from browsers and browsing habits that, respectively, look pretty and feel convenient while continuing to endanger and victimize consumers.

For a company like Apple to be moving toward an increase in privacy feels like a paradigm shift – if for no other reason than when Apple makes moves, everyone else tends to sit up and pay attention. Firefox’s push may be a little less surprising given the features built into the browser, but the timing isn’t a coincidence.

Private browsing, at least to those who know it best, has mainstream value, and it’s on its way.

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Real Estate Technology

Secret list of reasons why your Facebook ad was rejected

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Save your marketing team time with this secret list of Facebook ad rejection reasons.

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You read the rules, spent time optimizing target audience, double checked all the visual elements, and your Facebook ad is finally ready to go to market. You’re expecting the latest email from Facebook to be about billing details, and instead receive the dreaded (albeit common) rejection letter.

You’re left wondering how your your content have possibly violated the Community Standards. Turns out text like “Meet other seniors” or “Depression getting you down?” violates a “personal attributes” rule.

Directly addressing the user with terms like “you” or implications about identity like age, race, and gender aren’t permitted. So you remove that, only to find your ad rejected from the ad auction once again. There are hundreds of reasons the site can reject your ad.

You can quite literally spend hours pouring over Facebook’s Advertising policies, but we have a shortcut – Jane Manchun Wong put has together the most extensive list we’ve ever seen (click to enlarge).

facebook ad rejection reasons

Understandably, illegal content is rejected. You won’t find ads for drugs or counterfeiting services. Likewise, anything even kind of sexual or potentially offensive (like someone flipping the middle finger) violates the standards. No ads for mail order brides or anything the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would regulate either.

Okay, so obviously you can’t advertise illegal things on the mainstream internet. Especially not when Facebook is asking users to respond to surveys about if the company is good for the world.

However, there’s some grey area once you move past obviously unacceptable content. QR codes, a popular ad novelty, are a reason for rejection. Likewise, if your ad features a picture of Mark Zuckerberg, it’ll get slapped down.

Feel like mentioning the spy cameras? Nope. Have an ad about lasers? Nah. Animals? DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Oddly enough, Instagram references aren’t allowed either even though Facebook owns the company.

Although Facebook is trying to uphold their values about safety, voice, and equity, enforcement of these principles is often flawed.

Bra and underwear retailers struggle to get their ads approved even if the content is not sexual in nature. An ad by Harper Wilde, an online bra startup, featuring a plain bra on a colored background was rejected on the grounds that the link leads to a site featuring adult content.

Since Facebook rejects anything focused on a single body part or that is too zoomed in, exposed bodies on an underwear site certainly violate the terms. While Facebook is attempting to hold up a moral code of not offending users, implementation isn’t consistent.

Although Facebook technically has a link to appeal disapproved ads, users report the link is either broken, or returns an auto-generated response with no way to follow up with a person.

We can certainly appreciate that Facebook now bans the obnoxious “before-after” gifs of someone’s belly fat disappearing to the backdrop of a tape measure, and rejects blatantly offensive material.

facebook ad acceptable

Attempting to provide higher quality content that doesn’t shame or offend users is a noble goal.

But when everyday products can’t be advertised, and robots are enforcing grey area, it’s time for a better appeals process. At least now you know what not to include in your next Facebook ad, even if it is legit.

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