Recapping Constellation1’s recent conversation with LionDesk and RESO.

On April 22, 2021, long-time RESO contributor, Data Pipeline Architect at Constellation1, and real estate data expert, Rick Herrera, sat down (virtually, of course) with President of Constellation1, Andrew Binkley, and LionDesk President and Founder, David Anderson, as part of the RESO Remix event. Their conversation about the pain points and hurdles related to MLS data management drew on their unique experiences in real estate, and the lessons they shared are sure to be of interest to companies that are just starting out and established ones that are experiencing new challenges when it comes to real estate data management.

At Constellation1, we learned things the hard way: we became a data expert over the years because we took the long route, setting up and combining data feeds from more than 500 MLSs across North America over 20 years and putting in the work of cleaning, deduplicating, combining, and synchronizing that data. The result was the creation of a center of excellence that has come to be known as Constellation1 Data Services. What was once solely an internal benefit can now be enjoyed by the entire industry.

LionDesk is a California-based tech company with a customizable CRM tool for real estate, mortgage, and small business professionals. In just five years, it has grown from a small startup to the number-one provider of a CRM as a member benefit for MLSs and associations in the industry today, growth that has no doubt been facilitated by its partnership with Constellation1 Data Services. It too realized that there was a better way to manage its data.

On their separate data paths, what top lessons have Constellation1 and LionDesk learned?

Importance of collaboration

If data management is your pain point, like it is for many companies, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. As David Anderson put it, he wished he’d arrived at the decision to work with a data partner sooner. “It would have saved me about a million bucks,” he said, “but here we are today, and now things are going pretty well.”

That’s because, at the start, LionDesk bravely set off to conquer data on its own. The team spent the better part of a year setting up an internal data process and infrastructure, including databases, pipeline, a complex data ingestion system, and more. But after a year, David pulled the plug, realizing that the time and resources needed were too great and that it would never be as easy as they’d hoped. His ultimate goal was to balance speed to market, cost, and the time value of opportunity. By partnering with Constellation1, LionDesk started saving money immediately and freed up resources to focus on what they do best: refining their customer experience and adding new features.

Looking back, David said that one major lesson he learned was the importance of collaboration. LionDesk asked itself, “what are we currently working on right now where someone else already has the problem solved, and can we partner with them?”

At Constellation1, we’re no stranger to collaboration, either. Collaboration is at the foundation of our relationships with both our data customers like LionDesk and the MLSs where all the data comes from. You might say Constellation1 is the collaboration coordinator, establishing productive and profitable connections for all parties involved.

“There is no standard API when it comes to MLS relationships,” Andrew pointed out. Each one is unique, and Constellation1 has been working with MLSs for so long that we already have valuable (and valued) relationships with most of them. We’ve built a reputation for knowing what we’re doing and working collaboratively and respectfully, so establishing new MLS relationships is a lot easier for us than for someone who is just starting out. We’ve been at this for so long that we know just by hearing about an idea whether or not an MLS will allow it.

Areas of opportunity and growth

Real estate is growing and changing, as are companies’ data needs.

As Andrew pointed out, RESO has done so much to help develop a standard that acts as “binding arbitration” when data fields don’t line up or disagree with each other. This has been a major asset to the industry as a whole.

By collaborating even more, RESO members can help make things even better, for example, by creating performance standards for listing photos. Rick reminded attendees that they can get in touch with the RESO R&D Workgroup do help do just that. Joining RESO, a network of people who are working together to set standards and find solutions, is a great opportunity, and by participating, you will be bringing fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.

Parting wisdom from the pros for new real estate tech entrants

  • You don’t know what you don’t know. So, open your ears, learn as much as you can, and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start by learning the difference between IDX, VOW, and BBO data sets, and then take it from there.
  • Start slow and build as you go. Trying to set up 100 MLS feeds is a recipe for failure from day one. Start small, start slow, build your product, and expand when you’re ready.
  • Be upfront about your goals. MLSs have rules for how their data can be used. Develop your use cases early and consult an expert like Constellation1 if you’re unsure whether what you’re trying to do will even be possible.
  • Talk to as many people as you can. Other tech entrants, entrenched companies, end users, their customers, and more are all stakeholders you must engage to be successful in this space. Have those conversations, take good notes, and apply what you learn.
  • Don’t develop a solution that’s looking for a problem. Instead, identify a real problem, then fix it!
  • Leverage the industry community. There is a rich and dynamic community of people and companies out there who will be able to help you avoid a long list of mistakes by sharing their experience and expertise.
  • Only one way to eat an elephant. David Anderson grew up hearing his grandpa quote a famous proverb: there is only one way to eat an elephant, and that’s a bite at a time. You will encounter problems and obstacles, but by sinking your teeth into manageable chunks, no problem is too big to solve.

To watch the full playback of Rick’s conversation with Andrew Binkley and David Anderson, visit the RESO website here.

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