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CLIENT: SkyWire Media, Inc.
JULY 20, 2006: In Business Las Vegas
The scene is all too common. You drive up to a home with a "for sale" sign in front of it, go to the flyer box, only to find it empty.
A call to the agent usually involves voice mail. After five or six similar experiences, you find yourself fielding calls from Realtors hours later while you check off your grocery list and try to remember which house is connected to which Realtor.
One local company, SkyWire Media inc., is hoping its technology solution, Virtual Agent, will make these experiences a thing of the past. The service, sold to Realtors, allows potential buyers to call a toll-free number found on a sign to receive the listing information via a download on their cell phone. The idea was born out of a real estate listing text-messaging program SkyWire was already beta testing with local Realtors, said SkyWire president Shawn Harris.
"What we found with the strictly text messaging system is that there is a generation gap up to about 37-and 38 year-olds, who know how to text. A little higher up in age, they don't know how to text, but they know how to dial a number," said Harris.
Starting his company in November 2005 and putting about $500,000 into it so far, Harris hopes the tinkering he has done since January with the text messaging system, and the subsequent implementation of phone data downloads such as pictures and other property data will pay off for local realtors and agents in other markets.
"What we've found is that real estate agents are looking for a better system (than flyers), and this works really well," added Harris.
When a prospective buyer dials the Virtual Agent's number and inputs the property code, the listing real estate agent also gets a text message so he or she can follow up with the prospective client as well. This feature also allows a Realtor to create a database of people who have called on his listings, allowing them to send messages via telephone in the future if, for example, a seller lowers the price or adds buyer incentives.
"It's important to know that we are not a spam company," added Harris about the service, assuring that callers won't receive mass e-mail advertisements. "Callers also have the option to receive listing information via e-mail as well," he added.
SkyWire Vice President of Sales Jason Cribbs says the softer real estate market around the country and in Las Vegas actually makes for an ideal time to market Virtual Agent.
"It's fair to say our market is in a bit of a slump...real estate agents in a lull look for better ways to market properties."
Virtual Agent costs $49.95 per month for the service, and agents pay 99 cents for each listing code. Cribbs also clarified that once a listing is sold, an agent can recycle, or use the same code for a new listing.
With independent re-sellers going up in other markets, such as New Jersey, Dallas and Phoenix, Cribbs estimates about $1.5 million in monthly sales within a year.
"We truly believe this product will be an easy decision for real estate agents to make," Cribbs added. "We have a format to utilize independent resellers in other markets rather than hiring full-time staff. We've come up with a package for resellers where they get a percentage of gross revenue for each zip code."
Harris has lived in the Las Vegas Valley for 12 years and worked for two companies providing technology services such as cash registers and more sophisticated offerings to casinos. He said that while there are other opportunities for his company in the gaming community, for now Virtual Agent is the big focus. Although sales will be nationwide, he said there are no plans to leave Las Vegas.
"Las Vegas has been good to us and we love being here. I was instrumental in getting (his past employer) to relocate here from Santa Barbara," Harris said.
Cribbs also said that this year's testing of the product is not seen as an end, but an initiation of continued learning of how better the Virtual Agent product can be.
"We even stopped people in grocery stores and would ask them, 'Does this make sense?' to try to get a sense for what worked," he added. "It's a constant work in progress. We're going to add features to allow Realtors to have better tools. We're absolutely not looking to strike out with any single Realtor."
Return to: 2006 Feature Stories