Our experience at Realogy FWD
We just got back from Realogy FWD 2017 and I thought I'd share our experiences as they might be useful for other startups in the future.
tl;dr: If you've got a technology startup and residential real estate is your customer, this is probably the most efficient sales event you'll attend. Also, out of the out of the 100+ who applied and 15 who were invited, Transported made it to the top three! 👍🏼
Realogy FWD is an annual event hosted by the Realogy Franchise Group. Even for folks in the industry, Realogy's scale is surprising when you put it down on paper. They are the franchisors of some of the largest brands in residential real estate (Sotheby's, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, Better Home and Gardens to name a few). They control about ~20% of the US residential market.
They are the 800-pound gorilla and for any technology startup selling into the sector, I can't think of a better place to be— if you can score an invite.
Some observations in no particular order...
Most of 15 of the selected companies were high quality. Most shipping products, most with real traction and sales. Great entrepreneurs. There were a few with basic MVPs, but for the most part these were seed stage-ish companies.
This turned out to be a huge win: getting to know other founders. We've already got a few partnerships in the pipeline with companies we met at FWD and connecting with others who are fighting similar battles was incredibly helpful, both emotionally and strategically.
Realogy takes the event seriously
Alex Perillo, Realogy's former CEO and now chairman emeritus, founded the event five years ago and he threw his weight behind it. It still shows.
The entire event was run well and everyone involved took it seriously. Top execs from Realogy corporate, as well as top franchisees were in attendance.
If you are invited to come you will get access, you will get attention, you will be taken seriously. It's not a golden ticket, but you will get a great swing at bat.
We made it to the final three!
We didn't get a giant ceremonial check but we did get an awesome glass trophy:
Many props to Hurdlr, who took home #1.
Tips and advice
You are going to have problems with your live product demo.
A FWD rule: Live product demos only, no slides or videos.
Live demos on stage are always a problematic thing. This law of physics is compounded if you are traveling from out of town, if many companies present back to back, if there is a tight schedule, and if you have specialized hardware (like VR!). Many events like FWD have gone away from the live demo to relieve both the participants of stress and the audience of delays (e.g. here was Transported's pitch at LAUNCH 2017). All things considered, the event went pretty smoothly and the attendant IT team on-site is to be commended. Still, I can't help but think that time we spent futzing and setting up and testing and doing it all again could have been more productively spent meeting the people we were there to meet!
Learn how to pronounce "Realogy" before you get there. Hint: you are probably stressing the wrong syllable.
Yes, it is worth your time to apply. And if you get accepted it's worth investing enough time to get your stage show in top shape.