Beyond the Box – Season 1 – Episode 10 – Jeff Turner, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Second Century Ventures.
On the tenth and LAST episode of Beyond the Box’s first Season, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Turner, Entrepreneur in Residence, NAR REACH. Click the links below to hear Jeff and Mike McAra discuss Jeff’s experiences with a diverse variety of founders, the dynamic of uncertainty, and using technology in the way it was meant to be used. You will NOT want to miss this well-rounded meal of an episode!!!
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: Awesome. We’re back on
Beyond The Box here. Mike McAra, your cohost and today I’m joined with the
esteemed Jeff Turner, Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Second Century Ventures,
among many other things. Jeff, welcome to the show!
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: It’s good to
be here. How are you?
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: I am fantastic! it’s
sunny, it’s summer, of course, obviously, there are lots of things going on,
but all things considered, I’m great. How are you?
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Same. Same.
Got in a great hike this morning so life is good.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: There you go! If you
start your day with a hike, you know you’re doing something right.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: I would agree,
I would agree.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: So, for those people who
don’t know you or haven’t had the privilege to know you yet, so maybe give me a
little bit of a background of who is Jeff Turner. How did you get to where you
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Oh wow. Yeah,
it’s funny these… you know, you could take 2 hours explaining how you get to
where you are in your life or you could condense it into 30 seconds. So I’ll
choose the second option. I’ve been an entrepreneur almost the entirety of my
adult life. I started my first company when I was 24-25 years old. I sold
that company in 1999.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: Good timing!
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Yeah, so I’ve
been at this a long time. My first real estate startup was a company called
Real Estate Shows, which was the first company that really did take that Ken
Burns effect and apply it to static images to create a new kind of virtual
tour. That company is still in existence, I sold it to one of my partner’s back
in 2011, when I discovered, I like to say discovered because it makes me feel
like an adventurer. I was speaking at the Australian real estate conference at
*** in Sydney, Australia and just happened to be on the showroom floor doing a
podcast with a guy named Kevin Turner, no relation. And a company logo was
behind my head during this entire podcasts and was called “Real Satisfied.” And
I talked to the founders afterwards, curious about you know what they did. It
just happened to be their first show that they had gone to. They had just
launched in Australia and it was an agent-customer satisfaction survey. Which I
found interesting. It was different than what was happening in the United
States and agent ratings. Back in the time, I don’t know if you remember back
then, but usually, it just forayed into agent ratings on their website. Zillow
was just barely getting started with agent ratings and I thought their approach
was really, really thoughtful on the way that they handled that. So, I asked
them right there then if you thought about bringing this to the US. They said,
no, I said I think you should, long story short, we ended up bringing
Realsatisfied over to the United States, sold it in 2016. I’ve been a
mentor with the REACH program since its inception in 2013 and as a result
sort of found a fondness for mentoring startup entrepreneurs. I have an
affinity for it. And, as a result, approached David Tyler who sort of head-up
Second Century Ventures with some ideas on what I thought was missing from the
REACH program. This was after I had met *********, who is the founder of
Immivure, which was the first international company to be accepted into the
REACH program based on Austin, Germany. And took over as North America CEO for
a year to help them launch the product into a different marketplace. What I
really felt was missing was an attempt by REACH or a visible attempt. But what
I couldn’t see at the time and you’ll laugh at this now, because you see
behind the curtain of what’s going on, a desire to bring in more companies from
other countries and a desire to connect with companies that weren’t quite ready
for the REACH program. And as it turned out, and as you now know, they had
already been talking about those kinds of things. It excited me to be able to
potentially participate in helping them expand, and taking an active role on a
part-time basis with Second Century Ventures and specifically with the REACH
and the growth accelerator. Not dissimilar probably to how you got attracted to
it and into the same position you are in. Your desire to go deeper into helping
these companies grow and really understand the complexities of the North
American Real Estate Market. So, that’s where I find myself today. I keep
myself busy wearing multiple hats, we talked about it before we started
recording. I still spend a good portion of my time consulting with
Immoviewer and now DocuSketch the product that we created to go to the
restoration market. I consult with a couple of different startups in Europe, as
well. I also am on the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Second Century Ventures
and with my former partners at RealSatisfied in Australia, we’re also
building a new Association Management platform from scratch on some modern
technology that we are really very excited about. So life is busy!
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: Do you sleep?
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Yeah, I do
sleep and that took longer than 30 seconds, I realize now.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: You know, that’s amazing
though because there’s so much to work from there. And it’s interesting because
I’ve been talking to a lot of people about travel, as an aside. And a lot more
people are starting to read adventure books or travel books. But you’re getting
that travel element by working with startups abroad! You’ve got a taste of
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: It’s funny,
it’s really been very, very interesting as I’ve had the opportunity to work
with founders from other countries. The difference in the thought processes
that exist, but is sometimes shaped by the culture itself, and sometimes it’s
shaped by the fact that the real estate industry just works differently in
those countries than it works in the United States. And I think sometimes…
not sometimes… all the time, those differences and experiences allow us to
create unique things. It changes the nature of the conversations, it changes
the way you speak about things because you’re having to constantly, sort of
check your own understanding of what the world looks like at the door and
listen to someone else explain how they think the world works. And I find that
refreshing and entertaining and challenging.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: It keeps the days not
boring right? Not repetitive.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Yeah,
yeah. And it makes me better, I mean it makes me sharper.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: So, on that thread then,
I guess you know, it’s and it’s a nice segway, because obviously right now with
everything that’s going on there is so much uncertainty. The economy, in
society, on travel, immigration. All of these different things. And you this
really unique lens because you are consulting, and you’re with all of these
different companies abroad, locally and in the US as well. I’d be really
curious to get your take on how each respective sort of region is kind of
viewing that uncertainty and how they’re dealing with that. Because, obviously
as an entrepreneur, we deal with uncertainty all the time. But,
obviously, that come snack to your culture too. And so, I’d be really
interested and maybe you could speak to that. You know, how the Europeans are
being, how the Americans are being, how the Australians are being and I think
that’d be very interesting.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Well, it won’t
surprise you that Europeans think we’re crazy. I’ll say this, you know
because I deal almost exclusively in my business relationship with
entrepreneurs, I don’t have a lot of diversity in opinion on how to deal with
this. You know you said it squarely, as an entrepreneur you’re used to dealing
with uncertainty. It’s just, it’s always there. You know, if starting a company
came with certainty, everybody would do it. It is that uncertainty which sort
of weeds out certain types of personalities, typically, from even deciding to
venture into entrepreneurship. And so, there is a certain makeup of an
entrepreneur that allows them to handle, I believe, handle these kinds of situations,
I won’t say better, I’ll say from a different perspective than most people.
That constant of uncertainty that’s a part of starting a business doesn’t
really change much when another piece of uncertainty is thrown into the
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: Just put it on the
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Yeah, no,
really, I don’t mean that to sound trite in any way, it’s just on another layer
of uncertainty that gets added into the already multiple layers of uncertainty
that exists. Especially in very, very early stages of a startup when you’re
really just trying to figure out whether or not your product will even work in
a specific vertical. I mean, I know we’ve talked about this and in
various situations and across all of Second Century Ventures and the REACH
Global Networks. It’s an interesting task to sort of go through the process of
vetting a company for inclusion in one of our REACH classes because there’s
uncertainty on our side of the table as well, just as there is uncertainty. But
you sort of level all of that out with your experience and your understanding
of a market and I think the thing that I’m seeing from leadership that I engage
with outside of the entrepreneurs, but inside of the real estate industry
are the leaders who are responding best to this, are the ones who seem to
be able to easily gravitate towards relaxing a bit, and drawing from their
experience to calm themself down to say, “we’ve been through bad times before,
we’ve been through uncertain times before, here’s how we handle the past,
here’s how we’re going to do it in the future, this is what I need to be
doing.”And the panic that sometimes has set in and uncertainty doesn’t set in
with those leaders.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: Well, you know it’s one
of those things where traditionally you’re working with a business plan, strat-plans,
and obviously in the entrepreneurial space, business plans don’t exist anymore.
It’s business model canvases, pitch decks, something that’s you know, because
it’s the idea that you can pivot, you can iterate and you have to learn with
all of that uncertainty. With the corporates, the larger associate players, big
franchises, they’re still in that business model, strat plan. And when the
world comes and slaps you in the face, for lack of a better analogy, and that
goes out the window, you absolutely have to do that. You know I wonder if… it
would be really interesting to hear how that parallels when you’re entering new
markets. Because you’ve brought a lot of companies to the US right and kind of
coming in there, so I’d be quite curious about that.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: I think it’s
similar, you know, for example, the Australian… actually, you know what, let’s
talk about Immoviewer and the German market. Immoviewer launches in
Germany with what is essentially a version of what real estate shows did, only
in an automated way. So, sort of think of CirclePicks or a company like that,
that is automating via a feed of images these sort of slideshow of videos. When
they launched the 360 in Europe it was met with some pretty decent adoption for
one reason, and one reason only. Most of the agents in Europe shoot their own
photos, you bring the same technology, same exact technology over to the United
States where most agents don’t shoot their own photos, and the adoption is not
the same. And so, it’s just that single difference in behaviour ends up
throwing you for a loop and forcing you to have to look at things in a
completely different way. And so, there are sometimes major differences between
one market in another, in Australia, there’s really no buyer’s side to the equation.
Vendors pay for advertising upfront. Those are big differences in a market and
how that shifts behaviour. And so, you have to sort of take a step back and
say, “okay I’ve got to approach this differently.” And thankfully, it sharpens
both sides of the equation. RealSatisfied didn’t really take off in Australia
until it came and perfected itself in the United States in a different
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: It’s funny, you mention
it that way, because of what I know of RealSatisfied, my first exposure
to them was their partnership with I believe C21 at least here in Canada. And
so you know, any C21 agents all the sudden have these RealSatisfied posts
everywhere. And I go, oh that’s interesting, how do they do that? Because,
prior to that, the prevailing, I guess, the notion of reviews and ratings was
that it was going to be, and it was kind of perceived negatively. And then here
you had Century 21 agents who were actually actively promoting it, to your
point earlier that it was this unique till that really did it thoughtfully.
But, to get there, I can only imagine the learning that it took.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Yeah, and I
mean it required a bit of an educational shift and I think because the way
RealSatisfied approached it, using a survey model, where you were really going
deeper into identifying what parts of the transaction were performed well, what
parts weren’t performed well. You gave them the option for the consumer to
provide constructive feedback that didn’t necessarily, you know, it’s possible
for you to be very, very happy with the transaction and still want to be able
to and are still capable of providing constructive feedback to the agent. If
the only thing you’re trying to assess is, you know, a four or a
five-star rating, you’re forcing me to give an overview of the entire
transaction based upon the cumulation of that experience. if the last
experience I had was bad, I’m going to rate you lower. This allowed us to
create, I think of a more accurate picture of what took place around the entire
transaction. I think, as a result, agents felt more comfortable with it and
certainly brokers felt more comfortable with it because they had access to data
that actually help them improve their processes.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: Which, is so crazy
because you take this thing that’s almost perceived as largely negative
reviews, right? It was at one point. And position it as this opportunity where
now it’s not just helping great, great product, especially on the tech side.
But it is helping grow and get that constructive feedback to actually increase
and ask the consumer’s experience. So, on that thread, I just want to
change gears a little bit, but you know right now we’re in what is a really a
negative time, I would think is very fair to say. Negative from the fact that
there’s a lot of things happening, right? Pandemic, societal changes, however,
I would really be cured on the entrepreneur’s, the optimistic view on what
hopefully this can do for us going forward and how we can look at these
opportunities to really capture this and make those positive changes. Much like
you’ve done in the past with products.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Yeah, no, I…
listen. I think there’s an interesting dynamic that’s taking place today that
is important to understand, that we’re going through this global pandemic,
globally. We see shifts sometimes that take place in technology that are driven
by one side or the other. So, consumers gravitate towards social media,
they sort of drag agents towards social media. We see agents adopt a specific
technology and they want to try and drag consumers into that technology as
well. And in this case, everyone’s being dragged toward certain kinds of
technologies by the necessity of what has to be done during this global
pandemic. And I was reading, there was an article in I think it was IEEE
Spectrum or one of the tech journals that I was reading was talking about
whether or not the coronavirus pandemic was going to make early adopters out of
all of us because these stay-at-home orders were triggering this boom in the
use of consumer technology on both sides of the equation. And I think that’s
going to be good for the real estate industry long-term. I think there’s going
to be a positive impact of both the consumer and the realtor engaging in the
use of these consumer technologies. These technologies may have been seen as
“business only” like Zoom for example. We’re sitting here on a Zoom meeting. If
I would have walked up and down my cul-de-sac 4 months ago and said “hey, have
you ever used Zoom?” They look at me like a third eye. But if I do that today,
I guarantee you every single human being on this street would be able to
describe to me what Zoom was. And that’s, I think that’s a really unique and
interesting dynamic that is going to drive the adoption of technology and make
people less technology averse as a result. You know, you’re all being forced
towards it and now they’ve touched these new technologies, they felt them.
There’s an ease that’s coming about it as a result of it that I am actually
hopeful. Yes, it’s a bad time, but I’m hopeful that it actually drives more
early adoption to technology.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: So then, just to take it
back to the real estate industry and specifically before this though, because
one of these things that people always talk about is that it’s a
relationship-based industry, it’s all about the human connection, it’s all
about the face to face. But you know, for those people that are saying, well
the technology is great but I don’t want it to replace the human element.
What’s your take, do you think you could ever replace the human element?
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: No, I don’t
think it’ll replace it entirely, but you know, I also think that we spent… we
wasted time on certain things that we didn’t need to waste time on. I look at
virtual tours as a good example of this. You know, virtual tours were always
judged and have always been judged and you know, this may not change
behaviour, but they were always judged on the marketing side of the equation. I
don’t need to do a virtual tour to sell the home, even though the vast majority
of consumers, like 84% of consumers said that I want to see a virtual tour
before I go visit a home. 2 years ago, less than 3% of homes had an actual
virtual tour and I just did the count again two weeks ago. I went onto
Realtor.com and Realtor.com has an investment in Matterport, so they have an
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: If anyone’s going to have
them, they’ve got it!
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: If anyone’s
going to have them, they’ll have it. It’s still less than 5%! We’re sitting in
the middle of a global pandemic where people can’t get out and do it and still
less than 5%. But here’s the thing, other forms of what are called “virtual
tours” have begun to emerge as well. The ability to do a virtual open house by
taking a camera in and walking around using the Zoom meeting to hold a virtual
open house. I think if we feed this through the lens of both efficiency, and
the ability to make certain that we’re delivering what the consumer is looking
for and needs. And now that the consumer is more comfortable with this, imagine
now that I’ve got you on a zoom meeting and I share my screen and I’ve got
multiple virtual tours of homes that I have listed and I can walk you through
these listings, ask and answer your questions. I’m not diminishing the value of
that relationship, I’m actually empowering a different kind of relationship.
I’m taking advantage of the efficiencies that have come from being able to
engage with someone in a different way. And now I can show you seven
properties, walk you through them, answer your questions and then take you out
to the two that seem most interesting to you. You see more, you get more
benefit, I express my knowledge and then transfer that into something that’s
more real when I have the opportunity to actually get face to face. I think
those are the kinds of changes that we’re going to see come about, where you
shift thinking about a specific technology in one way and now begin to see it
as a way to use it differently. And that’s why I think virtual tours are a good
example of where that might take place.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: Yeah, I love that. And
you know, where my mind is kind of going on this, is that not only do you get
the efficiency, but you actually get the return on life on both sides.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Agreed.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: So both the consumer and
the realtor now have that time to go to their kids’ soccer practice or play the
piano together, or colour, or whatever they’re doing with their family or work
a little bit. And you know, through this pandemic, there’s a lot of things to
talk about in efficiency, and adoption. And all of this is that ROI thing,
Return on Investment.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Agreed.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: However, there’s a
component that I’m really excited about is the return on life. It’s the no
commuting. It’s the lack of traffic. It’s these ancillaries that allow us to do
it and even if it’s 10 or 15 minutes more with our children, or whatever it
might be, is what I’m getting really excited about and I think those are the
secondary permutations down the line that could really be cool.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Honestly,
that’s been the promise of technology. And I’m not certain it’s technology’s
fault that we haven’t taken advantage of it if you understand what I’m
saying. The notion that now we’ve been forced… As much as I’m like over
zoomed, it’s 9:30 am, and this is my fourth zoom already. It’s 9:30 a.m. here
in Southern California. I’m actually becoming more comfortable in them, even
though I would rather do less of them. So I know when I will want to use this
in the future, and when I will not want to use it in the future. And other
technologies are going to be the same way. You know, we’ve been talking about
this “oncoming surge” of natural language processing chatbots that feel more
human. One of the companies in this year’s REACH class Ylopo has an AI system
called Raiya and Raiya uses certain elements of natural language processing to
give you more of your life back. I mean no one wants to be constantly tied to
their phone. If I’m sitting at my kids’ baseball game, or my kids’ track meet
and I’ve got a listing and there’s somebody sitting out in front of that
listing if 90% of the questions they’re going to ask could be answered by an
intelligent chatbot, why shouldn’t they be? Why shouldn’t that technology
engage me when my expertise and my necessity to build relationships end up
coming to the fore and introduced me into that conversation at a more
appropriate time. That to me is taking advantage of the promises of technology
in ways that give us back the things we’re most longing for. And the thing I’m
most longing for right now, as a result of this pandemic is not more business
meetings. That’s not what I’m longing for, I’m getting plenty of business
meetings in. What I’m longing for is the ability to go sit with friends and
enjoy that social contact that I’ve been missing. And there’s a part of me that
believes that we’re going to value that even more on the backside of this.
We’re going to want to have as much of it as we can have and to use these technologies
to deliver that for us.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: I love it. And you know
what, I feel the exact same way. And even on the natural language, I just
turned Siri on, on my iPhone. I’ve had an iPhone since they came out and I have
been against it, and I consider myself an early adopter. But just the text
wasn’t there and I’m still a little bit of fighting.
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: But you know,
it’s not there on Apple. Apple is way down there. Google’s way better
from an accuracy standpoint.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: I know! It pains
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Google is
like, 20% higher than Alexa even. You know, everybody’s judging this by Alexa.
I remember a conversation at NAR New Orleans between Bill Lublin, Bill Madder,
and I, and we were arguing about who is going to win this natural language
processing war. It was going to be Google or Amazon. I was arguing it was
Google because they have better data. Bill was arguing that it was Amazon
because they have so many devices you know inside. I think I’m going to win
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: I agree!
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: I think Google’s
going to win on the natural language processes.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: I saw a GIF on Twitter
the other day and they had it side-by-side and it was Google just crushing
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Just crushing
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: On that note, you
know, I think I’m taking more time than I needed to Jeff, but this has been
awesome. Let’s do it again and thanks so much for coming on the show!
Jeff Turner – EIR – Second Century Ventures: Thanks for
inviting me, I really, really appreciate it.
Mike McAra – Beyond the Box Host: Alright, take care!
— End of Podcast —
Beyond the Box: Conversations with real estate executives, venture capital partners and technologists on what lays ahead for the real estate industry in a world after COVID-19.