Interviewer’s Note: When we interview people for REIW, we like to find interesting people with interesting and often unique views on the real estate industry. These are people that you would love to talk shop with over lunch and people who challenge your thinking about our industry. Randy Standard is one of those people.
He founded VoicePad – a unique integrated voice response system that has grown rapidly in the real estate industry, but that is not what sets him apart from others. What sets him apart is his unique perspective on the real estate consumer and how they want to do business. Enjoy!
Q: Tell folks a little bit about yourself and how you came to start
A: My mobile Telephony career start in 1985 with a recently organized company called Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems. We were building this “new animal” called a cellular telephone system in Dallas and San Antonio, Texas. We launched service with 6 analog towers in San Antonio thinking this was all we would ever need:) The experience was extremely entrepreneurial for a 100 year old phone company. What was most interesting about the technology was knowing how it was going to affect everyone and how they connected to others…they just didn’t know it yet. Our first customers were Physicians, Attorneys, and….”bookies” (people who needed to be connected…and could afford a $2500 mobile phone and 40 cents per minute for the privilege of secure mobile communication).
Over a 20 year career in the wireless industry, I was transferred 9 times. This meant I became intimately involved with the experience of being a motivated home buyer. I purchased my first home in 1988. It was 1500 square feet and $69,000. The interest rate was north of 14% on the mortgage. My Realtor had a conflict on the day when she was to take me to look at houses. She reached into her trunk and shoved a 10 pound MLS book into my chest. She said if I told anyone that she had given the MLS book to me…she’d have to kill me. That day, as I drove neighborhoods of interest, I felt empowered as I had every listing at my fingertips. As I look back, that seemed to be the original “spark” that all home buyers should have property information as part of their home search. 12 years later, I had the opportunity to build such a product.
Q: How is Voice Pad different from the old fashioned “hotline”.
A: First of all, I have a lot of respect for the original providers of “hotline services,” and even more respect for the agents that “endured” the manual nature of keeping information up-to-date on these systems. At VoicePad, we aspired to advance IVR (Interactive Voice Response) technology in several ways: First, we needed to eliminate the need for the agent to record individual property presentations with a high-quality automated speech platform that provided up-to-date information in multiple languages from any phone. Next, we had to integrate the service with updating listing data to provide accurate information on ALL properties…not just some. Finally, we had to develop a friendly web interface for agents to manage the leads generated from the system as well as add unique property features and content to their property presentations. VoicePad is really more of a mobile search solution as opposed to a “hotline” solution.
Q: Where do you see the real estate industry going in how it interacts
with the consumer?
A: Over the past 15 years or so, the real estate industry has “invited” the consumer on-line to look online images of homes. The problem was that the consumer stayed anonymous on the web. This created the need for additional products and strategies to extract the identity of these potential home buyers. One day soon, we’ll look back on this “experiment” with the web search as not entirely positive for industry professionals. Mobile search will improve the opportunities for success. More importantly, it will be “safe” to get in a car and drive neighborhoods again.
Q: How is this type of solution for the phone different than browsing
for listings online?
A:The telephone is an opt-out environment (i.e caller id delivery). The web is an opt-in environment that keeps the buyer’s identity confidential. Opt-out medias simply generate more leads…it’s just math. Yes, the U.S. consumer is “going mobile,” but with only 32% of U.S. mobile subscribers base having the requisite mobile broadband subscription to render a web page on their phone, it’s just a little early to count on an iphone application to change the real estate industry. In 7 years, the number will be just 50%. Look for mobile technologies that (1) can reach all mobile subscribers and (2) use a solution that delivers potential buyer’s identity without having to ask for it. VoicePad can search any active listing from any telephone and deliver leads on every search. That makes VoicePad pretty unique.
Q: Last question, if you had to start your business over again, what is
the biggest thing that you would do differently? and why?
A: Most new technology companies fail due to mistiming the market which results in insufficient revenues to maintain operations. We got lucky in that our market timing was spot-on. We “gutted” this out as a start-up, used our own money and didn’t take (available) venture capital funding. Today, the company has no debt, owns it’s intellectual property and has been averaging 100%+ year over year growth on average for the last 4 years. So, we are very fortunate and I really wouldn’t do anything differently.