There are many different paths to success if you are an entrepreneur. Many find success while they work from CIC, also known as the Cambridge Innovation Center. Some companies use the office space to meet other entrepreneurs and gain momentum. Many are looking for networking opportunities and are attracted to Venture Café gatherings as well as other educational programs. For the founders of HomeTraq, meeting other local entrepreneurs and soaking up the atmosphere during CIC events led them to the Capital Innovators Accelerator Program. The program, housed in CIC St. Louis, provided HomeTraq with $50,000 in seed funding, support services, access to other startups, mentors, and twelve weeks of classes. These resources from CIC helped HomeTraq make the right connections and learn the best methods to launch their firm successfully.
Mark Gorman and Brett O’Daniell started HomeTraq to simplify the homebuying process for consumers, realtors, and lenders. With more than 45 years of experience between them in the brokerage and real estate industries, they understand the challenges all three groups face. They created HomeTraq to completely disrupt what they see as an outdated real estate business model.
When you’re in the market for a new home, there’s a lot to think about. Where’s your ideal neighborhood? What size house are you looking for? In a competitive market, time is essential. When you can’t get the listing agent on the phone, how do you get inside a house and get your bid in before others? HomeTraq, a St. Louis real estate firm and CIC client company, wants to simplify the process and get you into houses faster and with no hassle.
High-tech Search vs. Low-tech Purchase
“Almost all consumers (98 percent of them) start their home search online, and more than two-thirds actually find the homes they want to tour without ever contacting an agent,” says Mark Gorman. “Currently, they use high-tech methods to find the homes they want to see, then run into the low-tech real estate model, requiring them to contact a real estate agent just to open the door.”
Gorman and O’Daniell are solving that problem. Send HomeTraq the address of the home you’d like to visit, the preferred time and day, and they arrange for a real estate agent, acting as a buyer’s agent, to meet you at the property and let you in. HomeTraq confirms the appointment within minutes, so there’s no need to play phone tag with an agent. All you do is show up and check out the countertops. You don’t need a complicated contract, and the agent has already agreed not to contact you after the showing unless you request it.
An App for Homebuyers, Real Estate Agents, and Lenders
CIC based HomeTraq currently works with more than 20 real estate brokerages, more than 150 agents, and a dozen financial institutions in the St. Louis area. “Our software helps real estate agents work more efficiently and show more houses, and it enables lenders to market to their existing customers,” says Gorman. “Right now, financial institutions lose 93 percent of the mortgage opportunities from their own customer base every year, because real estate agents refer customers to their own lenders of choice. In other words, consumers are often unaware of their own bank’s lending programs.”
“Exactly,” says O’Daniell. “Now lenders promote HomeTraq to their customers. We can assist them with their marketing efforts or direct them to one of our digital marketing partners. Now your bank lets you know about an app that makes it easy to tour homes immediately. That’s compelling.”
Why Work at CIC?
The HomeTraq team has chosen to work out of the office space for entrepreneurs at CIC St. Louis’ coworking offices.
Gorman says, “We were coming down here for educational events like Venture Café. Several of the people we started working with were in CIC. Then we heard about the Capital Innovators Program through our network, applied for it, and they selected us out of more than 500 applicants.”
After the 12-week educational program, the team opted to stay and work from CIC office spaces.
Gorman continues, “We looked at a lot of different places and tried working out of a few different coworking spaces, but we ultimately chose to work at CIC. It’s a thriving, energetic place to be. The facilities are fantastic and it’s a tremendous place to network.”
Making Important Business Connections
“CIC is a great place to make connections,” says O’Daniell. “Our developer was based here, which was handy. We also met one of our lawyers and digital marketing firm based at CIC. We love the idea of getting all these startup-supporting resources together in one place. Seeing how well it worked during the Capital Innovators Program convinced us to stay.”
After nearly a year Gorman and O’Daniell are still excited to come to CIC’s office space for entrepreneurs, every day.
“Weekday afternoons especially,” says O’Daniell, “that’s when you really feel the creative atmosphere. You meet people; you see what’s happening. There’s an energy.”
“There are lots of places to meet, plenty of resources, great food. We love to invite people here because it’s a great place to show off,” says Gorman. “We’ve even done real estate workshops here to expose local agents to CIC’s environment.”
Networking and Innovation
Commenting on CIC Gorman says, “You don’t get that stuffy corporate feel here. There’s a startup vibe, but the conference rooms and community space are so nice. You can use the TVs and other A/V equipment and then when your meeting’s over, you’ve got plenty of space to go for break-outs.”
“Everybody always hears these stories about the east and west coast startup communities,” says Gorman. “They don’t realize it’s also right here in St. Louis, in their own backyard.”