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Allen Alishahi & Chao Cheng-Shorland

Platforms Are Disrupting the Standards of Online Trust

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Allen Alishahi & Chao Cheng-Shorland

Co-Founders of ShelterZoom

Episode 5

June 6, 2019

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Platforms Are Disrupting the Standards of Online Trust

Platform leaders must constantly innovate new ways to build trust with their buyers and sellers. In this episode of Platform Players, Chao Cheng-Shorland and Allen Alishahi, talk about how they used blockchain technology to bring trust and transparency to the real estate industry through their CODIE Award-winning platform, ShelterZoom.

Transcript

Announcer:

This is Platform Players.

Platforms have become the tip of the spear for online innovation. Find out how ShelterZoom is disrupting the real estate industry by simplifying the process of buying a home. This is your Platform Player FLASHBACK!

Narration:

“Good morning, Chao.”

“Good evening, Allen!”

Two new friends, on the opposite side of the earth, met on Skype again…just as they had the day before that. And the day before that. And all the other days since they got connected.

Though Chao Cheng-Shorland lived in Australia and Allen Alishahi lived in New York, they used technology to shorten the distance between them, sharing their love of innovation and dreams for making buying and selling real estate super easy.

“Being a realtor is complicated,” Allen would say. And he would know, of course. He’d been doing the job for decades. “It involves so many people, so many schedules, and so much paperwork to close on a property. Technology should be making this easier – like it does for everything else. I think there should be…you know…a button”

“A button?”

“Yes! A button!”

“You know what else gets me about buying a home? You have no visibility into the process at all. How do you ever really know where your offer stands? This should be made clear. There really should be….oh….”

“A button?”

“Yes, a button!”

A button, huh? It was a simple, but complex concept.

“What if we made this button?”

“Let’s make the button!”

Before long, Chao was on a plane to New York, so that she and Allen would go full throttle on their new platform, ShelterZoom, which uses blockchain technology to transform the buying, selling, and renting of real estate.

Allen picked Chao up at the airport and the two friends saw each other in person for the first time.

“AH! I didn’t know you were so tall!”

Announcer:

Flash forward! ShelterZoom received a 2018 Codie Award for “Best Emerging Technology” and has raised 2.5 million in investment capital. The platform now engages major real estate brands, including RE/MAX, Berkshire Hathaway, and Keller Williams.

So, let's get down to the NITTY GRITTY, shall we? Kurt Bilafer! Do your thing.

Kurt Bilafer:

Hi everyone. Welcome to episode five, where we'll be discussing the always important topic of marketplace trust. The Java platform is to develop trust between all parties, and ShelterZoom is accomplishing this in some pretty incredible ways.

So, get out your notepads because I have Chao Cheng-Shorland and Allen Alishahi here today. Guys, thanks so much for being here.

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

Thank you.

Kurt Bilafer:

When you started out, did you focus more on the listings or the buyers? Which side did you focus on in the marketplace? The demand side? The supply side? What was your initial?

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

Definitely on the deal side. We know a lot of people are really doing the property search. The search problem was everywhere. But what actually really lacked in the market at the time was the deal flow. From the minute after you find your dream home, you had to go through such a lengthy process to get in touch with the broker agent. You had to go through all the paperwork.

That's really the niche we found at the very beginning and to automate and streamline this whole process. So, that's really how we started to offer acceptance. Now, after a couple of years, we saw a big demand to continue this deal flow to closing the property. Really, now, we have become an end-to-end deal provider.

Kurt Bilafer:

What sort of hurdles did you have? The reality is that people have gotten comfortable making smaller transactions online, particularly in a marketplace, but this is not a small transaction. Right? For a lot of people, this is the single largest purchase they're ever going to make in their life.

How do you overcome that and get people comfortable with, especially when you start growing in the fact that you're using Blockchain technology, which everybody associates wrongly with it being like an ICO or a Bitcoin or something like that? How do you help people overcome that fear?

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

We try to build our whole use experience – really have nothing to do with technology. We do not want to focus on the Blockchain side. Really, we try to give people the experience. So, they need to enjoy that experience. They need to be able to really see the value in this application.

That's really our focus is the business process, the business model, and Blockchain is just happening to be a powerful technology enabling that. That's really our approach from the very beginning.

Allen Alishahi:

Our philosophy is people don't really need to know what's operating it. It is so with just about everything. No one knows really what's inside of a cell phone or computer, and they don't need to know. They just need to know that if they call, they can book the restaurant or whatever.

People don't care really what's in there, but obviously, there are tremendous benefits in the Blockchain usage for real estate. That is to say the transparency, accountability, auto-ability, trust, security, encryption, and distribute the ledger. So, it really is there for them.

That's why there will be mass adoption of Blockchain real estate platform going forward. But they don't really need to know any of that. They just need to see a nice user interface. They just need to see that everything is easy to operate, and they actually get what they want done.

Kurt Bilafer:

I agree. In fact, in marketplaces, I think trust and safety, which are two of the things that you talked about, are just paramount. People need to trust the process. They don't need to necessarily understand the bits and bytes, but they need to understand it as a trusted process.

How do you help educate people on just the benefits without getting too technical? How do you help them understand that there's a bunch of vetting and onboarding experience that you have for these listing properties so that they know that they can trust it? How do you instill trust in the process?

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

One of the things that we notice, people haven't been really willing to purchase such a large asset online because they are scared of their privacy. They're giving away so much data. One of the education kind is to let the consumers know whatever they put in is what we Blockchain stays in Blockchain. No one else will be able to see; not even us. That gives them a total assurance that actually they can trust the system to put their information there, and only will be reviewed by people in the deal.

Allen Alishahi:

People will need to know. In essence, this is like the prerequisite of mass adoption. People need to know that they have security and that no one is going to sell their data. People aren't going to see who the buyer is and who the seller is. Then like some of the models that prevail today, you go on a website and the next thing you know, the data is sold to someone. It's quite infuriating I should say.

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

That's one of the things that people actually start really understanding between Blockchain and the other technology. Then other things like the transparency because that's really what one of the biggest challenges that you face…

I think the industry's well aware of that, and they're really trying to address that. So, Blockchain actually is really providing that perfect match and to really make all these –in fact, this affects the whole industry by providing that transparency and audibility.

Allen Alishahi:

Also, access to data equally to all parties involved in the transaction. So, now, the buyer knows that the offer was actually presented, and the seller knows who the buyer is and when he made the offer. The agent from the other side knows that the listing agent actually presented the offer. So, it's so easy to see and bring so much trust to the entire system, does affect the entire system.

Kurt Bilafer:

As we enter into more of these agreements, there is this concern of trust. We keep putting our personal information out there. We've seen there are tons of hacks that are happening even in some of our most trusted service providers. So, I think Blockchain is absolutely a great solution for that.

When you look at how you started and where you guys are now, what's been the one metric of success, how do you know when you've achieved your desirable outcome and announced how to move on to the next thing? Oftentimes, they call these Halo Metrics. What's the one metric that rules them all that you look at that then says, "Now, we're ready to go after another market opportunity"?

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

You want to take that? We actually always want to think out of the box, and also stay ahead of the innovation curve, but be realistic what actually the market really deeply connects with consumer needs and what actually they're looking at, and what's the maturity curve of the market.

Then we bring these two together. That really, to me, is the secret of how fast we grow because on one side, we are constantly looking at new innovation. We have to stay ahead of the curve and provide two different capabilities. Then we need to attend those different capabilities into the real value of consumers.

Kurt Bilafer:

The transparency you're providing is paramount, oftentimes, through a decision-making process that we have very little visibility into. Like, we may initiate the offer, but we don't know where it is in the process, and who has seen it, how long it has been there, and what the appropriate next steps are. So, you're solving to that, which is great.

Tell me about the very first transaction that happened on the platform. What was that like?

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

Actually, a lot of transactions happened on the platform, but interestingly, apart from those deals, Allen personally involved, his listing of this customer. We actually didn't really know it. We could tell which side on the transaction, but we didn't really know exactly what's inside the transaction. Some of our affiliates would tell us –

Allen Alishahi:

Let me answer that because I've actually had firsthand experience. When it happens, it really is exhilarating, especially from a realtor point of view because now, your negotiation chamber is in the palm of your hand. So, it really makes you happy to be able to, right from our platform on our mobile app, quickly communicate with the seller, quickly communicate with the other agent, and also to the buyer.

Then not have to be looking for people and traveling to meet them or have them come to you. The entire system is really very exhilarating because we go through a lot of headaches trying to bring people together, set up a meeting time, invite them to our office, or go to them. Then to be able to do the entire thing right from your mobile phone – this was my experience. When I speak to other real estate professionals out there, they say the same thing. They call me up and say, "Man! This is unbelievable. I cannot believe that this whole thing got done on my cellphone."

Kurt Bilafer:

For those that are listening to the podcast, what's your one piece of advice for the platforms and the marketplaces as they're early in their journey?

Allen Alishahi:

I would say make sure that what you are chasing is actually in line with what the here and now is looking for. You cannot create something that doesn't relate to the consumer.

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

And you need to solve real problems. You really try to solve real problems, bring real value, and then it could be provide extraordinary convenience comparing to other marketplaces that they don't have, and you truly have some differentiating capabilities and make it really useful. Deliver the true value back to your users and consumers.

Platform Players is brought to you by Yapstone, the premier payments provider for the platform economy. We're just in time for Tick Tock where Kurt has 90 seconds to get up close and personal with our players. Here it is, people. Your time starts now.

Kurt Bilafer:

Chao, do you have a favorite book that you're reading or that you've recently read?

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

[Laughter] I actually read a lot of the online kind of articles in the industry news and things. I used to read so many books. Gone with the Wind was my favorite book. There are just so many books I used to read, but now, ever since I've had ShelterZoom, all the time I had was reading all the industry news, Blockchain, and all the innovation stuff.

Allen Alishahi:

I wish you had asked me that question.

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

I'll get back to you, Allen. Don't worry. I'm going to ask you the same questions.

Allen Alishahi:

I would like to say I don't like to read books. I like to watch TV.

Kurt Bilafer:

Okay. That works.

Allen Alishahi:

I've always wanted to say that.

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

Allen has read so many books. He's a philosopher and a historian. Between the two of us, we've probably read about 50 to 100,000 poems.

Kurt Bilafer:

Oh, my gosh.

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

We really love poems. We have a lot in common.

Allen Alishahi:

You know, the Persian people have a very poetic kind of culture. Just growing up, you have to read tons and tons of poems like foreign language and all of them.

Chao Cheng-Shorland:

[Inaudible 15:18]

Allen Alishahi:

She always competes.

Kurt Bilafer:

That's good. So, Allen, for you, your favorite book. Obviously, you said you prefer to watch TV.

Allen Alishahi:

I do as a matter of fact.

Kurt Bilafer:

So, what's your favorite show? What do you watch?

Allen Alishahi:

I don't watch. I don't even have a TV.

Kurt Bilafer:

All right. It looks like our time's up for the day. Allen and Chao, this has been a really fun conversation. I'm looking forward to seeing how your Blockchain technology is adopted and where you go next.

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