As a refresher, what was your business and your progress at the time of the last Harbus interview?
CIMLS.com (The Commercial Investment Multiple Listing Service) is a commercial real estate research service. We collect and provide access to a huge database of information ranging from property listings to local market demographics. At the time of the last interview we had a database of $50 billion worth of real estate and had started enjoy a consistent revenue stream by advertising commercial properties on a subscription basis.
How has your business changed since then? If so, what prompted the change?
The establishment of our business in the listings marketing area has allowed us to fund the growth of our research services. Currently researching an investment requires visiting 10 or more resources and hundreds of dollars for multiple data services. We have aggregated a large array of online and offline resources to provide a one stop shop for property research with over 100 data points per address. Some data is from existing sources that are difficult to access and navigate such as assessor records. While others are unique to CIMLS – such as our Buzz Score which measure the social media traffic about a given physical location. This data is currently available in Boston, MA and Portland, OR with Seattle, WA and Dallas, TX coming online in the next couple weeks.
What significant milestones have you since hit (funding, user-base, etc)?
We have several national partnerships in place that have enabled our listings database to grow 600% to $300B in property listings in the last four months. Additionally our data mining services have cataloged an additional $600B in property records. This has quickly pushed our membership to over 280,000 and doubled our site traffic.
What is your next step in the venture process?
Build bigger partnerships. With over 50,000 firms on board we’ve had some really great success working with regional brokerages. Now that our solution is proven, it’s time to set up partnerships with the large firms. This enables us to provide their employees and customers with a seamlessly integrated offering customized to their organization.
Has your opinion changed at all about starting a venture?
Not one bit. When I saw the great potential in this venture I really didn’t have any choice but to see it through. Bootstrapping this company has been much harder than I expected. However, it has brought great rigor and efficiency to our operations. At the end of the day I’m still motivated to build a truly great service that changes the way our industry operates. None of the challenges to date have come close to overshadowing that mission.
What have been the biggest challenges, and what lessons have you learned so far in the process?
Design matters. Just a couple weeks ago we decided to redesign our website – mostly graphical changes. With no change in site functionality we saw a 30% drop in bounce rate (people that visit only one page) and 20% increase in pages per visit. Practically this equates to nearly doubling of our useable traffic.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
There is a ton of data flying around out there that is just out of touch. Web 2.0 was about the rise of data. The next wave of technology will focus on organizing it and making it consumable. Almost any venture you can think of moving forward will need to learn to harness organic (Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter) and institutional (US Census, Municipal) data. Even as business leaders it is important to learn to leverage APIs and sharpen up those SQL skills!
Cy Khormaee is a member of OI taking a leave of absence to run CIMLS.com– a free and open commercial real estate research service. Formerly he was a Technology Evangelist at the Microsoft Corporation focused on Social Computing. Prior to his role as an Evangelist, Cy was the Program Manager responsible for the analytics engines behind MSN.com and Windows Live Messenger ad sales. Cy holds a Bachelor in Computer Science from the University of Washington.