Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur: Aaron Kardell on the CRMLS partnership


KardellThanks to Split Rock Partners for underwriting our Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur series. 

Last week we learned that Minneapolis startup Mobile Realty Apps had partnered with the California Regional MLS (CRMLS) — the largest of its type in the country.

Founded by veteran tech entrepreneur Aaron Kardell in 2010, Mobile Realty Apps creates digital tools for real estate agents and consumers to locate properties quickly and easily on their mobile devices. Specifically, the app allows members to instantly search all CRMLS property types, edit listings and upload photos from their mobile devices — in addition to HomeSpotter augmented reality technology.

How is this significant and what kind of impact will it have the bottom line?

The CRMLS deal — and their respective 73,000 agents — was enough to push us over the 200,000 agents serviced mark. By a number of respective measures, we are now clearly #1, #2, or #3 in the MLS / enterprise broker / franchise markets we service. And while I can’t provide a specific number, I will say that this deal definitely resulted in a double digit percentage growth to our top-line recurring revenue numbers.

Split Rock Partners

What is the nature of the “partnership” with CRMLS?

CRMLS is now a customer of ours through a multi-year site license agreement. Essentially, all member agents of CRMLS in the greater Los Angeles area will have smartphone and tablet access to their MLS system through a white-labeled app that we provide for CRMLS without an additional fee.  There is also a portion of the agreement that allows us to upsell additional services to their member agents.

How did you make it happen?!

At the risk of divulging too many competitive details, there are some nuggets in here that may be helpful to other entrepreneurs, so I will try and share what I can:

In my recent Startup School talk, I admitted it took me a while to realize I actually needed to get out of the building and start talking to potential clients. To that end, in the fall of 2011, we started sponsoring a variety of industry trade shows. I attended one that fall where I met someone from the CRMLS team. We kept an open dialogue that eventually led to me flying out there in spring of 2012 to present our solution to a committee. I remember that trip like it was yesterday because it’s the only time I have traveled alone through airport security with at least a half dozen iPads.

The committee really liked our solution and I received word back that they wanted to have us in their upcoming MLS app store (where we would have an opportunity to sell directly to their members). While I was thrilled with the positive feedback, I was disappointed they didn’t want a site license agreement at the time.

Long story short, time transpired, I kept in touch, and for a variety of reasons, we didn’t launch in their app store. In a meeting last fall it was mentioned that they had narrowed it down to two other vendors for moving forward with a site licensed solution. They were, however, intrigued because we were still the only vendor with a key feature of interest to them.

This winter, we were exploring some paths forward in our MLS business and as part of validating an idea, I reached out to my contact. I said, “if we gave your members ‘A’ for free, and offered ‘B’ and ‘C’ for an additional fee, would you be interested?” I also asked if they had signed with either of the others yet. Long story short, it re-sparked a deeper conversation which led to them wanting their members to have more than just ‘A’ and they were willing to pay for it.

I think this is the first time I really explored a freemium model, and in the end offering something for free led back to a more traditional looking sales arrangement for us. I’m not sure whether to peg this sales cycle at 4 months or 30, but either way I guess it shows that persistence pays off.

What’s next for your company?

We have had some meaningful staff additions across the board as of late bringing our team size to 25. We are now laser focused on new product launches and updates this fall and winter, while making sure we keep our growing client base engaged and happy.

We have an aggressive but approachable plan to triple our recurring revenue and double our staff from this next year, adding to key areas across the board. And separately, I’m talking with key parties about raising our next round.

Anything else you would like to add?

We have a lot to celebrate, but I’m most excited about the path ahead of us.


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