The Real Estate Dish: 20 Minutes with Chris Drayer of Revaluate
Join QuantumDigital’s EVP and CMO Eric Cosway as he gets the latest dish on real estate trends and technology with Chris Drayer, CEO and Co-Founder of Revaluate, a platform that leverages artificial intelligence to help mortgage and real estate companies identify people in their database who are most likely to move in as little as 48 hours. In his role as CEO, Chris oversees investor relations, business planning, product development and marketing.
Eric: Chris, welcome to the podcast.
Chris: I’m glad to be here. Thanks so much for having me. It’s an honor. I appreciate it, Eric.
Eric: Chris, can you give us a little bit of background in your current role as CEO and Co-Founder, and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Chris: Well, day-to-day basis is, I call myself a “firestarter” because I like coming up with new ideas, and building companies, and products. But, somewhat ironically, what I think I do most of the time is what a lot of CEOs do, is put out fires. So, it’s sort of that yin and yang I guess, if you will. So we spend a lot of time working with different data and testing, and trying to come up with new solutions to further improve what we’re doing. You know, there’s also the promotional marketing aspect to it, and hiring of course. So, pretty much just wearing a whole lot of different hats that people in this role get to do on a daily basis.
Eric: So, I think if I’m correct, Revaluate is almost six years old.
Chris: Yeah, it’s about that.
Eric: And the real purpose is to help really look at agents’ SOI [Sphere of Influence] and look for likely movers. It’s to use a lot of data, predictive analytics and social data, to drive up those most important people in the SOI so the agent can focus on them. Would that be a correct way of describing what you do?
Chris: Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. We work in both the mortgage and the real estate sectors so that where I differentiate ourselves is that those two different verticals we approach with basically the same tool. But, both loan originators and agents and mortgage companies and real estate companies have these vast databases of contacts. Some people, on an individual basis, would call it their SOI. Some people would look at a bunch of leads that they bought from the Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com type places, and they’ve reached out to them in the past, they’ve already invested in those in the past. But they’ve got this huge kind of list of email addresses and contacts that they’ve purchased. What are they doing with them? Are they able to keep in touch with those people? Are they able to keep in touch with all the people at their golf club, their church, their soccer team for their kids? All those people in their sphere? Not generally. Generally, real estate people are so good at networking, they have a whole lot more people in their network than they can talk to on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis.
Eric: So, what you’re doing is you’re stack-ranking all the time, from the behaviors you see, from the predictive algorithms you run. I remember one you talked to me about the different “D’s” of events that take place—divorce, diamonds, diapers, diplomas—and you’re searching for those, and you’re continually scoring people. Is that how that works?
Chris: Yeah, so we kind of assign a temperature or a score to every prospect in the database for our clients. So, zero to 100, yeah. The higher the score, the more likely their propensity to move is in the next six months. And, you’re exactly right. It’s kind of goofy. I’m into nerdy things like alliterations, but we call it “The Data D’s.” It’s basically the things, the data, the life event triggers that cause people to move. That which causes people to move are the D’s that you mentioned, so, death, divorce, diapers, diamonds, diplomas, downsizing, the daily grind, dumpsters, discretionary income, downsizing. All these things indicate, with a high degree of likelihood, that someone might be moving in the near future. And so that’s our job is to go out and, as you said, to find that information, to pull it in, and build these profiles out for these prospects, so that we can have a better understanding of where they are in that life cycle.
Eric: Well, that makes perfect sense. And one thing I thought was a really smart move is you reached out—it was to Altos Research—to bench test your data and your success rate. Can you tell us more about that?
Chris: For those that don’t know, Mike Simonsen over at Altos Research is, really, an amazing guy, and they’ve got a great company there that can help real estate agents out—and I don’t know if you’ve talked with him, Eric, but he’d be a good person for you to chat with as well—but, they have this vast data reserve of transactions. And so we were able to take our data, our predictions, and we said “Okay. In one year, here’s all the people that we identified that were likely to move.” Give them a sample and say “Altos, of those people that we identified that were likely to move, who actually put their home on the market in the MLS?” And so that was a really neat white paper that we were able to do with Mike over there at Altos, and had some really unique and cool findings by going through that research process. But the main point is, hey, we want to constantly improve Revaluate’s algorithm. How do we do that, and how do we indicate that we’re making success? And that’s that benchmark that we needed.
Eric: So, if I’m doing the math right, what they’ve concluded is one in four of the database that you’re washing through actually did make a transaction within a year.
Chris: It’s pretty remarkable. It’s 19.5%, so one in give which, if you go based on cold calling, which is 1 in 50, it’s just leaps and bounds better. And that doesn’t even include people that are like first-time homebuyers that aren’t listing their house on an MLS because they don’t have one to sell. So, we’re only able to identify, with that study, those that listed a property on the MLS. We’re pretty excited. Our customers have been self-polling, and we surveyed them internally for two years that we’ve been surveying, and our six month average is significantly higher than that 19.5%. It’s up in the low 30s. But, I think reality is somewhere in between the two. 6:24
Eric: Yeah, well don’t hire me as your CFO because my math is so bad.
Chris: I appreciate it, the rounding up. That was very kind of you.
Eric: I was trying to help you out, but you know I actually undersold it, because now it’s upwards of 30%. But, one thing I’ve liked about your company, when I first met you, is you weren’t really making a bold claim. You were saying “Listen, there’s a percentage of your database that we’ve ranked and scored. You probably need to spend time with them.” And, maybe I’m wrong, but I didn’t get a sense you were making a bold claim that this algorithm is perfect. You were saying, “Well, this is what we’ve come up with from all the behavioral stuff we’ve found. You might want to contact this person and start engagement.” Did I get that right?
Chris: I think that’s a nice way of looking at it, yeah. I’m real. I’m not trying to make stuff up or overpromise and under-deliver here. This is data. There’s crazy things that happen with data. And so, that said, let’s be real about this conversation. Everyone knows it’s a numbers game. So, let’s see, what is a sample size that’s significant enough? It’s got to have more than 1,000 contacts for you to even find value in working with Revaluate. But, we have customers with 100,000. We have customers with a million prospects. So, it really doesn’t matter. We’re going to go and score these databases all the same, and we’ll have the average results for most people. And that’s going to be “Hey, let’s give you this lead and say this is someone you probably already know, they’re already in your database. Why don’t you just pick up the phone, call them, and go grab coffee with them?” It’s a pretty basic premise.
Eric: Absolutely. I think that’s really smart, and you’re just helping the practitioners in the field use their time better. Because, obviously, there’s a lot of data, it’s overwhelming, and yours is just percolating important leads, or important events about leads, to the top so the Realtors can focus on them.
Chris: I think that’s a great plan. I mean, that’s basically what you guys (QuantumDigital) do too, right? It’s let’s make the agent more efficient. Let’s create tools that help us engage with the right people at the right time, and do it for them so that it’s automated.
Eric: Yeah, you got the attention of Inman. You won an Innovator Award in 2017, and you’re also a part of Swanepoel’s Top 20 Trendsetter’s group. Tell us more about that. What was the “a-ha” or “wow” that they picked out from your company that they were pretty excited about?
Chris: I think people think of artificial intelligence in, kind of, a couple of different ways. Some people think of it as like, “The Terminator,” or something kind of scary, and futuristic, and bleeding edge. But those two that you mentioned were back in 2017. And we’ve matured quite a bit since 2017 in our quality and our customer service, for that matter, our ability to deliver quality to our customers. And so it is. It’s an evolution. I think Brad and Stephen both kind of similarly saw this was something that is up and coming in the industry, and going to be more and more important. We also saw the online lead business starting to mature, and people kind of looking back and saying “Now, what should we do with our sphere of influence? Are we ditching that? Is it something we should still be paying attention to?” And so, I think those things kind of all aligned nicely at that time, and that was where we really started growing, at that point.
Eric: You know, it appears to me the more I learn about your company, there’s a couple of tracks. One, it’s a great plug-in to a CRM, or to a robust, bigger system as a scoring mechanism. And then, it’s commercially successful at the per-agent level to use on its own. Is there a particular track that you’re moving the company towards?
Chris: Well, we started with individual agents, and then we started with teams, and then brokers, and now we’re doing more enterprise-size deals. I think that’s kind of a typical growth pattern for companies. So, that’s where we find ourselves now is we’re still servicing our individual agent customers with high quality, but we’ve also been able to now establish the credibility to get into the major players of the industry as well.
Eric: That’s cool. The beginnings of your company was through the Boomtown Accelerator Program, where you had to pitch the company at that time. Tell me how that process worked?
Chris: Startups are kind of fun and stressful. I had this idea, and I took it to the Kauffman Foundation, which is sort of an entrepreneurial hotbed in Kansas City. We were living there at the time. They liked the idea, they fostered it and kind of incubated it. And then, my good friend and CTO Tim and I pitched it to Boomtown Accelerator in Boulder. Now, for clarity, for our real estate friends, not at all related to BoomTown ROI in Charleston. Greer and those guys are awesome, but not affiliated. And, yeah, we pitched it to them, and they said “Man, this has got legs.” And, they brought us in, and we actually moved the family out here, and did the demo day presentation. And, we’ve pivoted a bit since that presentation, and where we were then. And that’s to be expected. You learn and grow. And then, got some investors, and a VC firm, and just kind of kept growing the company. And, it’s been a fun ride.
Eric: Yeah. It’s a great success story, and you’re poised for great things to happen. I really like your model. So, you went to University of Kansas, and I believe you were part of the sailing club.
Chris: Yeah. That never fails to get a laugh. So, “Oh, yeah. You went to Kansas and you were sailing.” Classic. Yeah, Kansas, long known for their sailing pedigree. But, yeah, I grew up kind of all over. I lived in San Diego. We’ve got a summer place up in Northern Michigan on the water, so sailing has sort of been part of my life forever.
Eric: Are you still doing it now?
Chris: You know, there are opportunities. I do have a little boat here in Colorado, but I do more skiing than sailing now, unfortunately or fortunately, I guess, depending on the season.
Eric: And the other thing, the audience probably doesn’t know about it, you were into competitive barbecue one time, and you actually went to the World Series of Barbecue®, the American Royal.
Chris: Yeah, I could have a lengthy conversation about how to properly smoke a pork butt or brisket. It’s a good time. You know, it’s basically a party with the kind of wrapper of a contest. But, it’s good times and our team did pretty good. We’ve won some awards, placed in the top three several times, in different categories. But, that is a whole other world, and if you see any of that stuff on the food channel, it just is the tip of the iceberg. It’s very cutthroat, competitive, hardcore. And every aspect is monitored. And there’s sort of a data measuring, tracking nerdiness to it, as well. It’s science and part art.
Eric: How does one get started in that, in the first place?
Chris: I don’t recall how, I think it was strictly invitation. It was probably over a beer, and it was like, “Hey, you should come down.” I don’t recall. But, yeah, and then you have to learn all the rules, and what to do and what not to do. It’s kind of like anything else. If you have a passion and you want to excel at things. And, I don’t like doing things part way. So, if you’re going to cook, you might as well cook in a contest.
Eric: Yeah, you’ve got a great, eclectic background. I also know a little bit. You’re a musician, you played piano, trombone, upright bass, and you were even in a marching band at University of Kansas.
Chris: Yeah, the marching band was so that you could get into the KU basketball games. We’ve got a pretty good basketball pedigree there at the University of Kansas. It was hard to get tickets, and so if you were in the marching band, you could get into the basketball games for free at the time. So, that was a no-brainer. That was easy.
Eric: Yeah. So, what do you do outside of work these days?
Chris: Doing a little bit of trail running, recently, here in Colorado. The office is in Golden, and for people that go skiing, once you leave the Denver area and start going up in the foothills, you go through Golden, Colorado. It’s known for Coors Brewery, but there are seven other breweries in Golden, as well. So, yeah, there’s a bunch of trails right outside of the office, and we just take off and go running, up into the mountains. It’s pretty fun.
Eric: Have you seen a mountain lion recently?
Chris: Did you hear that story?
Eric: Oh, man. I don’t know. That sounds a little scary to me.
Chris: Yeah, the story of this guy, I guess my age, was out running by himself on the trails, and the mountain lion pounced on him and he had to kill the mountain lion to save his life. The mountain lion had his hand in his mouth, and I guess he choked it with his leg. So, pretty remarkable. That was not me.
Eric: I’m just thinking about that. I live in Texas, so you know, the equivalent would be walking around and seeing a snake pop out at you. But, that sounds kind of scary. But, I’m sure you’re safe when you’re out there. And, if you’re running in a group, you’re probably in great form as well.
Chris: I don’t run in a group, I’m probably not safe, and I have run into snakes. So, yeah, it is more risky than I probably should be doing.
Eric: You probably do, but make sure you carry a phone.
Chris: That’s right.
Eric: Are there any challenging experiences that kind of set the tone for who you are today, and have reshaped you as a CEO and a leader?
Chris: You could call it either fortunate or not fortunate, but I went to four different high schools growing up, in three different states. And some people are like, “Man, that sounds terrible.” And there were terrible parts to it. But, there was also this really amazing skill that came out of it, and that’s adaptability. You have to be able to adapt to a different environment, and see change as something that you want to embrace. I think I came out of all of those moves much better and stronger, and more willing to look at a situation and evaluate it for positives, and negatives. And I think that’s what allowed me to find Revaluate, and build Revaluate, for sure.
Eric: That’s fantastic that those skills are set early in who you are, and have shaped who you are today. So, if you were to give any coaching tips or advice to young entrepreneurs, or people that are going through startups like you did, what would be the one or two things you’d want them to know?
Chris: The reality. So, again, I’m a data nerd. So, the reality is that most startups fail and they fail quickly. At the same time, most people are going to tell you that your idea is terrible. So, you have to weigh the advice of others, telling you that your idea is bad, versus the fact that most startups fail. And, really, have some time to think about it yourself, and decide, “Is this the right direction to go?” As you’re going down that path, and continuing to take each step forward, you have to be willing to, as I say, be adaptable. And, hey, things are changing. What is the changing environment that we’re in right now in real estate? And how crazy is it that iBuyer is here and so prevalent, right? How does that affect my startup right now? How does that affect an entrepreneur trying to start something in the real estate space? Man, you know what? We just don’t know for sure. No one does. But, it’s a pretty exciting time. There’s a lot of change going on. And that means there’s a lot of opportunity for new startups to launch. And so, definitely encourage people to start new ideas, to test them, and then talk to a lot of people, find a lot of mentors and advisers, that you trust, that will give it to you straight. That’s the advice I’d give.
Eric: Ah, very good. And, you know what? With the changing times, your adaptability will probably serve you very nicely.
Chris: Yeah, I think that everybody could use a little more adaptability in life.
Eric: Well, Chris, this has been fun. Thank you for your time today. I really enjoyed getting to know you better, and understanding your company and your origins. All the success in the future with Revaluate. You guys are poised for very, very good things.
Chris: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Eric. I really appreciate the time, and it’s neat to chat a bit with you, and look forward to talking to your audience in the future.
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