As we approach the new launch of Upstream, we reflect on our path and what has changed to create our renewed momentum. We inevitably reference a flywheel. It’s a powerful metaphor that succinctly describes our new partnership with CoreLogic and why 2019 is different.
Although the flywheel goes back to the Neolithic spindle and the potter's wheel, it was more significantly used by James Watt over 200 years ago in his steam engine, the invention that powered the Industrial Revolution. It is highly efficient at capturing, storing, and releasing energy. And in Upstream’s case, delivering energy at rates beyond the ability of an energy source.
Our partnership with CoreLogic leverages two dynamics that make our flywheel spin fast: force and friction (or lack of friction).
The more force you apply to a flywheel, the faster it spins. Before we signed our partnership agreement, CoreLogic assigned two strong teams and began to work on Phase 0 and Phase 1 concurrently. Our board and broker supporters never wavered; they continued their support, even doubling down on resources. Getting all stakeholders behind moving forward and working in unison created a massive amount of force.
The second thing James Watt would recommend is to eliminate friction in your flywheel. If you’ve worked with me on anything, you know I’m a believer in eliminating friction. The first day the teams met in Irvine, we did the usual “who are you and what do you do,” but within the first few hours, we were a single unit. Discussing pain points, customer needs, and deployment scenarios without friction. If you’ve ever been in these meetings with executives, sales, product and technologists from multiple companies, you know there’s positioning, need for control, ego and unnecessary “friction.” It hasn’t happened. Everyone involved walks in every meeting with an attitude of “what are we trying to solve and how can I help.”
The old mantra, “If you want to build a great company, your product has got to be ten times better than the competition,” is out of date. Today, if you want to build a great company, the experience has to be ten times better. It’s not what you do that matters; it’s how you do it. This is our mantra, and combined with force is creating both leverage and momentum.
What Did This Flywheel Produce?
It’s been only five months since signing our partnership agreement, and we have launched Phase 0 into production and are beginning to onboard a few, select brokers and complete a production field test. In parallel, we’re continuing the development of Phase 1 and have targeted a summer release.
As a reminder, we are calling Phase 0 “Simple Broker Controlled Syndication.” In this version, a broker can sign up (self-serve) and set up their account, including billing (for when we eventually invoice). They can add administrative accounts, configure their MLS(s) and add their vendors. As they add vendors, they can assign a “payload,” allowing them to control the amount of data each vendor receives. In legacy systems, the vendor receives a full feed regardless if they need all the fields or access to photos. The broker “hopes” the recipient discards the data they don’t need for their offering. We have created templates (payloads) that can limit access to potentially sensitive items such as photos or sales history. And the broker has full visibility into their last access and if there are errors in the feed. Now you’ll know why that price change wasn’t updated on XYZ site!
The select brokers in Phase 0 will allow us to field test a few critical, but fundamental tenants of Upstream.
We’ll additionally use this time to optimize the onboarding process and integrate hundreds of vendors.
We are concurrently working on Phase 1, which focuses on the large, infrastructure task allowing brokers to enhance their listings with high-resolution photos. Sending high resolution, non-watermarked photos, and branded video tours to your marketing vendors will be easier than ever. Phase 1 will also include enhanced firm record access. Not just agent rosters. Information about your offices, team configurations, and even internal staff (office managers, listing coordinators, etc.) are available as well. Finally, we’ll top off this summer release by allowing a broker to schedule listing distribution by vendor and begin aggressively engaging the brokerages that have signed agreements.
Field testing after only five months. This could only have been accomplished with teams and supporters working together to create massive action while eliminating roadblocks. Our flywheel is in motion, but it’s an entirely different revolution it’s powering.
Today we officially announced our partnership with CoreLogic replacing RPR as our vendor. We are excited to make this announcement and about the future of this initiative. We’ve been working closely with CoreLogic for almost six months to ensure everyone is aligned on Upstream’s promise to the brokers. A promise to provide brokers with better tools to exercise their fiduciary duty to protect and control their firm and client’s data.
Navigating Upstream through industry waters has sometimes felt like Class V rapids as we learn and maneuver to reach our goal. The greatest lesson throughout this journey is the need for alignment. Alignment of stakeholders, alignment of mission and alignment of incentives. “We are very excited about our partnership with CoreLogic. Their team has demonstrated an understanding of our needs, a willingness to work through the complexities, has deep relationships with MLS’s and brokers across the country, and a track record to get the job done,” says Real Estate One CEO and UpstreamRE Chairman Dan Elsea. “They collaborated early on to ensure all parties were appropriately set up and aligned to succeed.”
So, what’s different with this new deal? Let’s start with what’s the same.
Brokers remain in charge of the initiative with its board and operating agreement unchanged, maintaining its “cooperative style” operating structure. The Board of Managers remains elected by the Upstream members to manage and direct the initiative. And Upstream will continue to drive the product roadmap, marketing, sales, and governance, and quoted prices will not be increased.
Why is this better? What propels Upstream’s future?
CoreLogic has outstanding experience, relationships, and coverage across the MLS community. They are the perfect choice if you want to align better with any MLS. Upstream has always looked to partner with the MLS community, but we are better with CoreLogic by our side. Their platforms already cover over 60% of the US, and they adroitly understand regional nuances and issues MLS CEOs face. With the Trestle platform, we can create a custom product for brokers that leverage their enterprise infrastructure and integration architecture. Over 300 vendors are already integrated and receive data today!
Finally, CoreLogic embraces our desire to align, adopt, and promote the RESO standard. Few vendors have the resources and broad coverage we can leverage to help push national adoption.
So, what’s next?
The teams have been working together on an aggressive, multi-phased roll-out. Brokers will receive deployments as early as Q2 that give them syndication control and administrative accounts. Shortly after, users can “enhance” listings with high-res photos, documents, etc. And they’ll receive vendor management and distribution reporting. We will follow with role-based accounts, roster management (agent, staff, team, and office) and team features. All this in 2019!
We’ll end the year building Add/Edit functionality looking to deploy in the first half of 2020. Innovation won’t end there as we plan to add client record management, transaction fields and even add customizable broker fields to their managed data in subsequent phases.
Proper alignment early has created powerful, internal momentum. There is a lot to be excited about in this new partnership. We added experts who have navigated these waters to our team.
This is an exerpt from a message sent to Upstream participants, investors and supporters fom our CEO, Alex Lange
I was hoping to post an update before the media blitz, but we should never be surprised by how fast news spreads about movement in our industry. If you haven’t seen the news, Upstream is making big changes that are great for the project, practitioners, and MLSs.
We’ve learned a ton over the past few years, and frankly, NAR has been instrumental in helping us define the product, understand friction in deployment and navigate the political environment. Our refined understanding of what it will take to implement Upstream’s dream lead all parties to agree that we should amicably separate and seek new options.
Upstream has vetted and select a new vendor to power our initiative. We have solidified early deal terms and will announce as soon as we have signed the definitive agreement.
It’s been an exhilarating journey but not remotely as exciting as our renewed prospects with our new partner. They will dramatically accelerate our rollout and vendor adoption. They will leverage what we’ve learned and incorporate it into their extensive and reliable platform.
If you can’t tell… I’m thrilled!
But before the rumors start, I want to set a few things straight…
I apologize for being so quiet while working on these deals. I believe more than ever that 2019 will be phenomenal for Upstream, practitioners and the industry.
I'm looking forward to announcing more details of our new partnership soon. For now, if you want to read more about the transition, you can go here.
We seek to create efficiencies by reducing redundant entry, help brokers distribute deliberately by giving them control over who can access their data and inspire innovation by removing artificial barriers when the broker allows.