As real estate sales have become more complex, real estate brokerage firms are wrestling with how to manage the massive flow of information generated from sales and purchases of investment properties. One San Antonio startup has developed a web-based software solution that addresses this widespread pain point for real estate brokerage firms. Brokerage Engine launched its software as a service (SaaS) platform in March and formally formed in April with four co-founders, two from the brokerage world, two from the tech world.
Brokerage Engine’s chief financial officer (CFO) Brianne Alston had been working as Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty CFO for over six years (and at the firm for a total of 14 years), working closely with its broker-owner J Kuper. Kuper Sotheby’s has been in business for 40 years in San Antonio and Boerne, but recent acquisitions triggered their expansion to the Austin market. With growth came the challenges of managing large-scale operations efficiently with accurate accounting.
“We saw a lack of functionality in software for what today’s real estate brokerages need,” Alston said. “We needed something that could help us manage listings, digital marketing for each listing, as well as support a brokerage’s operations with data on management, closing transactions, and accounting. What we realized we needed was a ‘brokerage in a box.’”
After looking for a software solution on the market and not finding one that worked well, Alston moved the Kuper Sotheby accounting department from Alamo Heights to Geekdom in 2016. Co-founders Kuper and Alston were intent on finding partners who could help develop their idea for a new brokerage software platform.
Geekdom co-founder and mentor Nick Longo introduced Kuper and Alston to an experienced developer who also happened to have experience in launching a startup that eventually became the global leader in cloud hosting. Longo’s introduction led Alston to none other than Dirk Elmendorf, co-founder of Rackspace Hosting. Dirk and brother Brett became both co-founders of and investors in Brokerage Engine.
As the startup’s chief technology officer, Dirk is coding the software with one other senior developer. The startup has hired two junior developers from the May 2018 Codeup class and plans to look at Codeup’s July graduation class to find two more developers and an additional senior developer.
Brokerage Engine is also looking to hire 20 to 30 people to work in accounting and customer care and support. Many brokerage firms do not have enough staff to cover if a key accounting person is out of the office for any length of time. Responsible for the overall experience of the startup’s products and services, chief experience officer (CXO) Brett Elmendorf emphasized how the Brokerage Engine platform tracks all real estate transactions so anyone in a brokerage firm with permission can access the software for the latest data.
“We’re looking to hire those foundational members of our company,” Dirk Elmendorf said. “The first 20 hired at Rackspace went on to run the company in one way or another because they knew and understood how it worked, so we’re looking for those key members of Brokerage Engine to join as we grow.”
Creation of the software platform has quickly evolved into an enterprise business that has spawned three companies. Brokerage Engine CEO Kuper will also continue to head the Kuper Sotheby brokerage company. Its accounting department has moved into Brokerage Engine to provide support for customers using the software platform, which can handle all client accounting. And because plans are to license the software to other brokerage firms, Brokerage Engine is in essence, creating a software company to handle that business segment.
Brokerage Engine’s platform includes an app so brokers can access cloud data and upload on the go in between appointments. The startup is already generating revenue, and as word has gotten out about the new platform, there is a customer waiting list. After self-funding the software development, the startup is about to start its Series A round of fundraising.
Dirk Elmendorf is excited that the San Antonio ecosystem provides so many opportunities for “industry experts to collide with technically skilled people to create real businesses,” he said.
“I think the latest wave of growth on the internet is going beyond building the internet up [which is what Rackspace did with cloud hosting] to revamping entire industries,” Elmendorf said. “The business people with experience in an industry are the key to unlocking a market because they understand the industry—you cannot build what you do not truly understand.”
According to Elmendorf, in today’s competitive software market, you differentiate your startup by choosing business partners that can speak directly to your customers in their language. Brokerage Engine’s business founders know the real needs and challenges of running a brokerage. They can highlight the true value of Brokerage Engine to others in the industry.
“Tech has gotten easier,” Elmendorf said. “The hard part is getting customers to know that your solution is the one to choose. We have a solid idea that can only be created when you have expertise in business and tech—you have to cross disciplines to discover things and innovate.”
Featured image: Brokerage Engine co-founders (from left) Dirk Elmendorf, Brianne Alston, and Brett Elmendorf stand in front of the Brokerage Engine office at 601 Delaware Street in San Antonio. Not pictured is co-founder J Kuper. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.