Originally published on Inman News.
Duke Fan leads the product team at RealScout. His team is geared to redefine the online home search experience and the connection between agents and home buyers.
I love building things — consumer experiences, Legos, road maps, teams. When I was in elementary school, I told my parents I would build software when I grew up, because it was taking too long to get it over 1,200 baud modems. But to build really cool things, you need a really great team. I’m super-fortunate to have been part of the Toolbar and Personalization teams at Yahoo, the mobile team at realtor.com and, as of July, the fun startup team at RealScout.
These experiences and colleagues taught me how to be analytical and creative, how to focus on our end user and their entire experience, and how to forecast, sell and manage risks. Most importantly, I learned the value of people and how to align our efforts and talents to confidently invent something new or produce something great. Silicon Valley does not lack ideas, capital or hackers. But we place a premium on high-caliber teams and our ability to execute.
Because I encouraged my team at realtor.com to invent tools the industry hadn’t seen before, we developed multiple firsts: the first mobile app (and mobile web) with a fluid, draw-your-own search tool; the first site to offer search by school attendance boundary zones; and the first app to offer agents their own collaborative search experience.
When rapidly innovating and charting new waters, however, many efforts don’t pay off.
A few years ago at realtor.com, we built geofence alerts for saved listings in advance of the iOS 7 release. However, in live testing, we noticed that the alerts would interrupt driving directions. So, we pulled the feature from the release at the last minute.
Setting a product vision, I’ve found, helps harness the talent and drive of a product development team. Our vision for RealScout is to build the ultimate platform for matching homebuyers to homes. To do this we’re creating both an in-depth buyer questionnaire and an advanced set of tags for both listings and photos that will help agents cultivate targeted, relevant searches for their clients.
Favorite Twitter account.
@RandallsRoom, a third-grade classroom where the teacher inspires the kids to inspire us all.
What is your favorite food?
Sushi and tofu. No particular order.
What is your favorite video game or book?
I love video games. But my favorite laugh-out-loud book is “Bombardiers” by Po Bronson.
What is your favorite city?
Tokyo. Only because I’ve never stayed in New York City longer than a couple weeks at a time.
Who’s your favorite band or singer?
A Tribe Called Quest. (OK, Justin Timberlake, too).
What do you hate about technology?
I hate that it needs to recharge or restart. I love that nearly nothing is impossible.
What is one thing you would like to fix about the real estate industry?
I would like to fix the notion that homebuyers and sellers don’t need real estate agents. And the way I’d do this is by fixing how agents demonstrate their value to their clients. I understand that people don’t need bad agents, but not everyone realizes how important a great agent is. I think we can fix that.
Do you think technology can change the industry?
I am absolutely certain that technology can change the industry. In short, we’ve just scratched the surface with mobile computing, and we’ll also need technology to help agents and homebuyers make sense of the growing tidal wave of data.
In or out of real estate, is there one problem, large or small, that you would like to solve?
I believe financing and insurance desperately need attention. The bar and barriers for homebuyers are cumbersome and inconsistent. Being able to afford and provide a stable home is a huge factor in the widening income gap. And the irony is that our economy won’t likely thrive if we head toward a day when only the 1 percent can own real estate.
I’m not suggesting we should encourage people to purchase something they cannot afford, but I do believe our industry is making things more expensive than they need to be (closing costs, insurance rates, title and legal costs, overregulation …).
What motivates you?
Purpose and people. I need to see that what we’re doing will have an earth-shaking impact in our market space, if not society at large. I am also motivated by my teammates on whom I rely, and the folks who rely on me.