October 25, 2018

Harnessing the grassroots strength of your REALTORS® association


With more than 1.3 million REALTORS® and 75 million property owners affected by public policy change across the United States every day, it’s no surprise the annual NAR Conference set for next week focuses so heavily on advocacy, especially on the local level.

Before appeals that impact the local real estate climate spread like wildfire among homeowners and buyers, they’re first discussed by local municipalities from school boards to city councils.

However, it’s not guaranteed you’ll hear every concern through the grapevine, or be able to vote a REALTOR® the next open seat on city council. And unless you have superhuman abilities, it’s impossible to attend all these municipality meetings yourself.

To help harness the grassroots strength of your REALTORS® association, CurateLOCAL is the virtual fly on the wall for all local discussions across your state.

We are powered by cutting-edge tech that goes to your state's counties', cities', villages', and towns' websites each week. On these websites, CurateLOCAL gathers the most recently posted minutes and agendas documents from all the local government meetings, including commissions, committees, and boards.

Our artificial intelligence then reads through and pinpoints needle-in-a-haystack keywords related to key issues your governmental affairs team wants to keep tabs on, such as “sign ordinance”, “zoning code rewrite”, or “impact fee”.

This allows you to see only the relevant snippets of discussions that are impacting the real estate market in all counties, cities, villages, or towns across your state, displayed verbatim on your association’s CurateLOCAL dashboard.

By consolidating the reliable and consistent information from all municipality meeting minutes and agendas each week, our goal is to optimize the way associations — at the state or regional level — know which communities are discussing policies that impact REALTORS® right now and help government affairs teams prioritize advocacy strategies more effectively in the long run.

October 12, 2018

Expert Take: 3 things your advisory board won’t do for you

Written by construction business development professional Matt Matson


Actively leveraging an advisory board or council is an excellent business-development strategy and one that I highly recommend. Made up of prominent executives with significant business stature, an advisory board can provide you the experience, insights, and connections to land big deals.  

However, if you are looking for an advisory board to be the panacea for all your business development deficiencies, you will be disappointed. Here are three unrealistic expectations of advisory boards that you should keep in mind while managing them for maximum efficiency:

1. They will bring you deals! They are there to advise you on deals that you bring up to them and to help you land those deals.  While on occasion they may bring you an opportunity, it is unrealistic for you to expect them to drive opportunities to you. They can help you open doors, so use them to do so, but don’t expect any gift-wrapped deals handed to you.

2. They will carry the relationship. They won’t. Only a select few (if any) will be interested in developing a relationship with you beyond their advisory board duties. You will need to invest in these relationships, particularly when they are new to you. That means that you will have to take the initiative to call them, schedule lunches, and activities on their calendars (get on the good side of their admins) and make sure that they can make the advisory board meetings. Remember, these are busy executives running businesses of their own.

3. They will stay engaged without getting something for themselves. While board members may be well intentioned, the “What’s in it for me?” principle applies here. Make sure they have reasons to stay engaged. Confirm your executives will be at the board meetings. Engage a group of executives that can equally benefit from each other — don’t have board members from just a few industries or disciplines. And, yes, have regular, engaging meetings at destinations that board members will want to go to. They don’t have to be in Hawaii in January, but a club or restaurant with a private dining room should be a staple.

Advisory boards can be an effective sales tool for your business. However, they are not substitutes for the business development work that must be done every day to be successful. Use them wisely!

0Robert “Matt” Matson has over 25 years of executive operational and consultative experience in business development and marketing with start-ups to Fortune 500 companies including: Kennametal, Belkin International, CDW, Motorola, Ingersoll Rand, Novartis, Pepsico, SAIC, ABB, Sealed Air/Diversey and most recently with JP Cullen. You can contact him at: m_matson@email.com or 262.290.1555.

September 20, 2018

Desk of the Developer: To AI or not to AI

Powering Curate is innovative tech created and made better everyday by our Chief Technical Officer, Dale Willis, and the rest of our development team. We’ll periodically stop by the Desk of the Developer to show you what the team is up to, and how their changes are helping our customers become (and stay) the local experts in their market.

Desk of the Developer-blog

Sci-fi flicks aside, artificial intelligence (AI) doesn’t exclusively equal “robot”. It is everywhere around you, from Siri in your iPhone to searches you make on Google. AI is designed to help you automate mundane and routine tasks, so you can focus more of your time and energy doing more “on-the-fly” responsibilities, such as writing an email to a real estate developer or calling an architect in your network — things only you would know how to react to in the moment.

For the first installment of our Desk of the Developer series, CTO Dale Willis took some time to explain how exactly we’re using AI, the foundation of our software, at Curate and how it can makes our job (and, ultimately, yours!) a whole lot easier.

<h1> From the Desk </h1>

I think that AI is one of the single most important topics to discuss today, it has the power to revolutionize many aspects of our daily life.

On a weekly basis, Curate scans all publicly-available meeting minutes from municipalities within a state looking for insights for our customers. All new documents that we discover need to be searched through for relevant content. Doing this by hand would be a daunting task — we see nearly 100,000 new documents each week just in the Midwest.

Due to the amount of new documents every week, we need to have a way to narrow down what we want to search through in some way. In most cases for us, discussions about upcoming construction projects. To show the power of AI, I’ll discuss how this task would be done without and with AI.

<b><u> Without AI </u></b> we would come up with a list of words that could be relevant to our customers, perhaps “new building”, “renovation”, and “building addition”. Now, we could tell our tech to search through all of our new documents and only focus on the documents that contain those keywords. However, there are a few reasons why this “brute force search” breaks down very quickly.

For instance, what if these documents worded these keywords differently, but — in the topic of discussion — meant the same thing? The only solution without AI would be to build and maintain a massive list of keywords.

As you can imagine, this process would be highly inefficient. It would be like telling a police dog to look for a specific clothing item of a missing person rather than their scent. If you told the dog to look only for the missing person’s jacket, he would completely overlook their glove laying on the ground. But if the dog were searching by scent, he surely would have known the glove belonged to that missing person equally as much as the jacket.

<b><u> With AI </u></b> we can use something called a “word-embedding space” to make our searching more efficient. This is an exciting new area of AI that converts words into numbers in a really smart way to look for keywords and their “relatives”, or keywords that have similar meaning in context but aren’t worded the same. Word embeddings are numbers that are close together if they tend to have “relationships” in English, such as the words in the diagram below.

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 5.47.43 PM

For instance, the sentences “The new building permit was filed” and “The building addition permit was filed” are both very simple sentences, which show that “new building” and “building addition” can be interchangeable in certain cases. Based on this example, the word-embedding numbers for “new building” and “building addition” would be really close together, maybe 1.3 and 1.35. The numbers themselves are not important, they could just as easily be 354.6 and 354.7 — the important thing is that the closer they are the more related they are.

Now, if we wanted to search for words similar to “new building”, what we could do is search for words whose numbers are close to “new building”, say, everything between 1.25 and 1.35 would match our search. As long as our word-embedding space is accurate, all we need to do is convert each word in the document into its corresponding number and then find all the documents that contain a number close to what we are interested in.

This is very similar to how humans would perform this task: If I gave you a document and said, “Please find all sentences discussing new construction,” undoubtedly, even if the words “new construction” didn’t show up in the sentence, you would find sentences that are relevant because they are related to the topic of “new construction”.

But, we don’t have time to sit down and do this for thousands of documents each week ourselves, which is why word-embedding AI uses numbers to pick out the most relevant information for us — a process that is faster, more accurate, and more consistent than humanly possible.

Hopefully, this sheds a little light on exactly how AI is used today, and how we’re using it at Curate.


September 06, 2018

Roll Call: Taralinda, CEO & Co-Founder


What is your role on the team?
As co-founder and CEO I do a little bit of everything, but in all seriousness I’m heavily involved in our customer development and customer success efforts, advise the data quality and product efforts, and take primary responsibility for the operation of the business.

What got you interested in entrepreneurship?
Dale, who is both my husband and co-founder of Curate, has always been actively involved in creating products or services that change how people use and view technology through his PhD research in computer science. Talking about ideas non-stop at home definitely got me interested in entrepreneurship, and this was solidified by earning my MBA to learn some concrete pillars of innovation.

What is something being CEO of a startup taught you about leadership that you never learned in a business class?
At Curate, we all take turns leading the company. In an established organization there is a well-defined hierarchy which I studied extensively in my MBA program. Here we all work together to move the company forward. It’s like taking a big road trip with your friends — we all take turns driving the bus. My goal is to make sure the right person is driving and making decisions at the right points in the road, and I’m humble enough to know it’s not always myself. When you surround yourself with incredible people you have to give them the freedom to be creative and solve problems.

If you could pause all responsibilities for two days and visit any place in the world, where would you go and why?
I’m very fortunate to have the freedom to travel now. My motto is “have laptop, will travel” and some of my most productive work at Curate has been in places around the globe. We’re a remote friendly office and I’ve taken conference calls in some odd places. That being said, I’d likely go off the grid and spend some time sailing in a remote location.

What has been your most memorable experience with a customer or potential customer?
Seeing our customers believe in us, our product, and our mission to change how people access valuable municipal information is all so exciting. Everything we do is driven and shaped by our incredible users  just last night someone called me about a research project they were trying to do and within an hour we were able to add a feature to the website to help them get information more easily. Hearing that “wow” from our customer makes it all worthwhile!

The startup environment is often described as “life in the fast lane” — before Curate, where did you learn this work ethic?
I’ve always had positions that required 110%. I’ve worked as a facility manager for an entertainment venue, as medical staff on the field for D1 sports teams, and I’ve been involved in hundred of weddings (a high-stakes event that has zero room for error!). But my work ethic really came from my first job out of college project manager for the construction of an almost $100M facility. During the busiest part of the project I started by day at 5am with the first construction crew and ended my days around 6 “relaxing” on the couch with my laptop, wine, and some nice emails. I loved every second of it. Still to this day I’m most productive between 6pm and 12 midnight!

What challenge do you face most often in what you do?
Most of our customers or potential customers have been in the industry for decades and are very experienced in what they do, and the process of finding projects has traditionally been a matter of talking to the right people at the right time. The challenge I face most often is debunking the stigma that our technology is replacing those valuable face-to-face interactions. We built our technology keeping the user’s network they’ve nurtured for years in mind, which is why Curate supplies each general contractor only the most relevant and lucrative information for their team. Never before has this kind of “tailor-made” technology existed for GCs, so once we defeat the stigma people are excited about the possibilities that have never before been possible!

What was your “aha moment” that made you realize something like Curate could be beneficial to those in the construction industry?
I knew that there is a significant challenge in how people find early and reliable information about future construction projects  I personally fielded many phone calls from vendors too late in the process. When we started building I had too many cups of coffee meeting people and hearing their personal feedback and experiences with public data and that has shaped the company we are today. (It also fueled a fairly significant caffeine addiction!)

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
There is so much planning that goes into building a product, but unless you are getting feedback while you build your product it could be useless. If you aren’t grossly embarrassed by your beta product, you’ve waited too long  trust me, I was horribly embarrassed at version 1.0 of Curate. But it’s the quality of the product that matters, not adding every last premium feature.

What motivates you to come to work everyday?
I’m always motivated by our mission to change how people access public data, our customers, and to be honest, the amazing group of people who are part of the Curate team. I feel incredibly lucky to work with such talented people who are committed to changing the tide in accessing public data.

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