Countdown to Celebrate 2015: HipPocket

This has been a busy week for me, but that's not an excuse to ignore my goals. So, in the ongoing effort to research and discover more about the various competitors in the Start Up of the Year competition, here is HipPocket from Dallas, TX.

The Product

HipPocket is a iOS-based private social media platform for real estate agents to connect and share listing information. In order to use the app, you must be a licensed real estate agent in the United States and provide your registration number to be verified before you will be allowed to use  the service.

In its launch May 1, 2015, HipPocket presented itself as a network where realtors can connect and share hip pocket and pre-MLS listings in the online community. The app puts all interactions about a specific listing in one spot for all to see and respond. You can find that information and planned upgrades on their site HERE

 For someone like me who is not directly involved with real estate on a regular basis, I found this to be a little confusing at first. So I contacted Penny Gardner. She is an agent and trainer for Windermere Real Estate Tri-Cities. She is also a friend with whom I work as a basketball referee.

I learned some new terms from Penny that helped me understand exactly why this app was created. A hip pocket listing is an exclusive listing that a realtor has an exclusive agreement to handle. A MLS is a multiple listing service where all properties available for sale in a local area can be researched. Once the property is sold, contract details are also available on the listing service.

All agents who are licensed and pay their dues have access to the listing service. When Penny saw the pre-MLS listing feature on HipPocket, she had a concern about regulations regarding withholding listing information which she said was a Washington State rule. I was unable to answer that question for her based upon the information on the site.

My lack of understanding of the real estate industry may also be an issues here. I don't think I was asking the right questions, but that's why my site exists. I get to learn about new ideas and explain the process by which I figure them out.

Comparable Products

 As I searched for similar products for agents, I mostly found apps that were access to databases of information about property values, document handling, and how-to advice for handling specific situations with pools, loud neighbors, and zoning issues. HERE is a Forbes article about 10 good apps for things like that. 

A knee-jerk reaction is Zillow or Trulia. These apps are buyer-based. HipPocket is agent and broker focused.

I then refined my search a little to social media networking for realtors and agents and found THIS post about how to build and cultivate a solid online presence. 

I again refined my search to private social media networking sites for agents and brokers, and HipPocket was among the first three non-paid results. HERE is the exact results page at the time of post.  

I said many times on Twitter no one really comes up with an original idea. What most people see as innovation is really just familiar ideas with small tweaks repackaged into the next best thing. Social media is not new, but the way HipPocket is looking to leverage social media looks new. Success in the real estate world depends on building a solid network of connections. It will be interesting to speak with the team in Las Vegas.

 The Team

On the ABOUT page on the site, you can find the team and advisors for HipPocket. I will focus here on the two founders. 

James Bohan-Pitt is the CEO. HERE is his LinkedIn profile. He is an experienced marketing executive in the technology world. He also founded SiphonLabs. HERE is the CrunchBase info on SiphonLabs.  Their last activity on angel.co was in 2013, but the page link for the announcement is no longer active. Their last tweet was July 2013.

I called the yellowpages.com number listed for SiphonLabs, LLC and the nice recorded voice told me the Google subscriber I was attempting to reach was not available. I did call at 2:50pm Western Daylight Time on a Friday. 

Clay Stapp is the Hip King and primary customer of HipPocket. He owns a residential real estate brokerage called ClayStapp+CO. His LinkedIn profile is HERE. He has been a boutique real estate broker for many years. Homes handled by his Dallas firm have been featured on the DIY Network. According to THIS Dallas Business Journal post, his first real job was as an auditor for Arthur Andersen.

Funding

According to Angel.co, HipPocket has raised $305,000 in funding so far with four different investors. In the seed round, the valuation was $650,000 and then nearly doubled in the second sound to $1.25 million. 

The people supporting HipPocket are no joke. Just clicking on their names on the Angel.co page shows each of their portfolios and experience as extensive and successful.  There are two others listed as investors from previous rounds. Most likely they are family (William Bohan-Pitt looks like James' father) and friends like  Ramano Sprueil. He is an doctor and professor at Southwestern University. HERE is his LinkedIn profile.  

Closing Thoughts

This idea is full of smart, connected people and money. Dallas is a growing start up community, and there is plenty of money there to make this idea happen. I hope I get a chance to talk with this team in Las Vegas. Given their perceived star power, it may be difficult. I'd like to talk to them about who is actually working on the app. 

Both Clay and James are not technology guys. They are idea guys. With the money and networks available to them, this might be a situation where they have contracted out the actual construction of the app. 

My friend Penny Gardner downloaded the app at 1pm West Coast time on Friday September 11. She entered her information into the app and is still waiting to be verified. I asked her to keep a diary of her experience and share it with me. I know it will provide great insights into the UX of the app.  I will post an update here when I get the story.