January 2, 2019
Episode 11: Adrienne Meisels
Adrienne Meisels became enamored with location technology at AOL, and now she's the founder of myPlanit, an app designed to simplify your real estate life.
I found out that the FCC was going to mandate that GPS technology be in phones and that's when I started. It was off to the races; it was going to be a massive opportunity to marry location with data.
ABOUT THIS EPISODE
Adrienne started her career in law, but technology kept calling to her. After leading the Innovation team at AOL, she went on to create myPlanit, a new smartphone app that seamlessly connects all of your contacts and location history with MLS data to simplify your life as a real estate agent.
In this episode, we discuss the early potential she saw in GPS technology, and why technology can be so powerful for working agents. MyPlanit aims to make your faulty pen and paper note-taking a thing of the past.
Learn more at https://myplanit.com/
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JON: Hello and welcome to Shop Talk: The Real Estate Show. I'm Jon Forisha and joining me on this episode is Adrienne Meisels, CEO and Founder of myPlanit, a new app designed to simplify and organize your real estate life. Adrienne, thanks for joining me.
ADRIENNE: Jon. Thank you so much for having me. I'm honored.
JON: My pleasure! Can you talk a bit about your background first?
ADRIENNE: Sure. So I started coding when I was 11 years old.
ADRIENNE: It was a while ago and it was on an old computer. I took my first formal coding class in high school. When I went to college I was very interested in international relations. My mom is from Budapest, and as a survivor of two wars and my best friend in high school, her dad became the ambassador to Pakistan and her step mom, ambassador to Slovenia. So I wanted to follow in her stepmom's path and enter the State Department through their legal division to negotiate peace treaties to make this world a better place. So I went to the university. I got two degrees in four years. One from the Wharton School of business and international business and once their liberal arts school in European history, still was involved in computers, had a computer, then have upgraded to a different computer, was doing a little programming.
ADRIENNE: My parents did not have money to send me to law school. I had to finance it on my own. So between college and Law School I worked for three years as a software developer for what used to be Anderson Consulting and Lotus Development Court, went to law school, and put myself through law school by moonlighting by coding at nights and on the weekends after my classes and my study. And then I went to a really large international law firm and I worked mostly on a complex cross border financing in Latin America and South America. But I was still involved in technology. The partners had heard about my background and I was the only associate ever on a partner committee and they asked me to join their technology committee to help them decide the future of technology for the law firm. And after four years of being an attorney, I realized I didn't want to go into government, I didn't want to go down to DC, so I left the law and I went back into technology this time on the business side. And I joined AOL at its height, and I was with them for many years as they went from the largest internet company in the world to not, not so large.
JON: That must have been interesting.
ADRIENNE: My last role at AOL, I actually ended up running their innovation team and started working in location based services really early on, all in a location based services history and in 2005. So location based services is the fact that we have a gps, a sensor in our phone talking to the GPS satellites so that our phones know where we were. And back in 2005, there was no smart phone. There was no iphone, there was no android. It was Nokia phones that we all had. But we were getting some data into those bones. And I was like, wow. And I had heard that the SEC was requiring all the wireless carriers to put gps in their system because back then people would be dialing nine slash 11 on their cell phones and emergency vehicles didn't know where they were, so it was dangerous and also costing a lot of money.
ADRIENNE: So I was like, wow, if we can get location, we can marry this data that we have on these Nokia phones with the user's location, this is going to be huge. So I put together a large strategy for what I call the old neighborhood and AOL filed five patents off of my strategy in location based services. They got granted and Facebook has acquired one of them and in the last 24 months they have filed three patents off of my specifications, off my invention. And Facebook now is using it as part in their artificial intelligence, their AI technology.
ADRIENNE: Oh yeah. So that's sort of the background before I started myPlanit.
JON: You weren't joking. That is eclectic.
JON: It sounds like you were just kind of drawn towards technology, right? Even through law school, even working in law. It pulled you back in, huh?
ADRIENNE: Yeah, like I was the only one in my, well not the only one, but I was one of very few people in my law school who actually had a laptop where I would take my notes on it and back then there was like maybe one plug in the class, so I had to strategically sit close to it in order to take my notes into my computer.
JON: Wow. So it sounds like you saw the early potential of location tracking and using location in technology.
ADRIENNE: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it's ironic because my idea with AOL, it was real estate based initially. Life is so funny, but I had been looking for an apartment in New York. AOL had relocated me from Silicon Valley back to the east coast and I was like, there must be a better way. Like what if I could have a computer somehow in my trunk and as I moved around it would just update the listings that were nearby so I could see what matched my preferences and where they were. And then I found out that the FCC was going to mandate that satellite, that GPS technology be in a phone and that's when I started. It was off to the races; it was going to be a massive opportunity to marry location with data.
JON: Wow. That's awesome. Okay. So that was your background. How did you end up coming up with the idea for myPlanit?
ADRIENNE: So I mean if it started with my fascination around location and like what I really, what I love to do is to create technology that helps people in their real world live. Like I'm not like a content person where like, oh, and it's not, there's nothing wrong with it, but like you know, here's the information on a screen and you're sitting at your desk and you know, you can scroll your screen up and down. Like I really like creating what I call utilities or services and that's location based services is all about that. And so, you know, the early seeds started when I was at myPlanit. And then I had left a client, I'm sorry, when I was at AOL and then I left AOL and I took a bit of a sabbatical and I had traveled a lot and I realize I had placed information everywhere, placed information of restaurants on post-it notes and pieces of paper I had the places I traveled to in my Frommer's travel books on my shelf. I had place information in my calendar, right? Like when's the last time I went to the dentist.
ADRIENNE: I realized I had to scroll back in my calendar to see when's the last time I went to a dentist, why can't I just look like at a dentist record and see all the times I went to the dentist, a dentist record, right? Because I know where my dentist is. Right? And that's when I realized the connection between location and time. And, you know, we live in a unified time location when reality, right? Every time and location are intrinsically tied to every single thing we do. And what I realized is that my data is scattered in all these different siloed applications and they're not connected based on time and location. And actually I'm really into the brain and the way that we humans think is based on time and location. I was like, wow, why don't we rethink our data structure and restructure it based on how humans think instead of based on how computers think.
ADRIENNE: And that's what started the idea for it. I had gone to a meeting, I was ready to get another job and I've gone to a meeting with, I won't mention the company's name, but, someone who ran, a division they did wasn't an interview because I didn't have a position. But, they were looking, you know, they were starting an innovation group. And I said, you know, I had done this before and told him about the very early idea for myPlanit. And he looked at me at the end of the meeting and he said, I really liked that idea you had, I just might steal it. And I looked at him and I was like, well, take me with it. He knew I was looking for a job and he smiled at me and I said, there's a lot more of where that came from. And he said, good one. And I went home and I was on the phone with a friend and said, how'd your meeting go? And I was like, blah, blah blah, blah, blah. And she was a big wig. She ran anti money laundering for one of the largest banks in the entire world. And so I told her, you know, he said this, he said that. And then he said, I just might steal your idea. And she said, what? She said, you're not doing anything right now. Start this!
ADRIENNE: Later I had met a woman who had a technology development. They create a software. She had a shop and she was just the opposite. And for the military they did for the military. She said, don't tell me anymore. She said, put your ideas down on paper, send me an NDA so that it remains confidential and, and presented to me and my team. And so I took two weeks and I made a powerpoint with everything moving because I know how to program, right. And showed all the screens and Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah. And they were going to invest a quarter of a million dollars on a two week powerpoint. They wanted to have the military rights and I would get the consumer right.
JON: Wow. So did that end up happening?
ADRIENNE: Unfortunately they did not invest because their r and d budget was their slush fund and they had overages and had to rent an office and some headcount was wiped out. But the fact that they were going to do that told me I already knew that, you know, I ran the innovation team at AOL for a couple of years. Like I feel like that's sort of one of. We all have gifts that's, you know, I like innovation. I like seeing ahead into the future. So I knew I had, it was just very validating and so I took that and ran with it.
JON: Yeah, it's a nice vote of confidence; that much money potentially coming to you.
ADRIENNE: Yes. And they saw, they saw how it could be used in the military.
JON: So I assume you never heard from that guy, the one who said he was going to steal your idea?
ADRIENNE: No I haven't, but I have this little fantasy that one day we will be on a panel on a stage together, and someone's gonna ask me what was the impetus to start myPlanit, and I'll lean over and look at him and say thank you.
JON: We can only hope that happens one day.
ADRIENNE: We all have our fantasies.
JON: Okay, so we've talked enough about the background of it. Let's talk about some of the key features. Why is this app cool?
ADRIENNE: So let's talk about the real estate one specifically. There's a consumer one, but the thing that we do a few things that no other technology does for real estate. First of all, when I was doing my diligence to, you know, when I investigated the real estate industry and the reason I started actually we knew that our, our consumer app, that the initial target market for us was highly mobile professionals and I had a very early version and alpha version of the app and I have a friend who is a real estate agent and I showed it to her and her mouth was on the floor and she said, oh my God, she said if you brought the listing data into this app, I would live on it.
ADRIENNE: So I then did my homework and I pounded the pavement and I spoke to dozens and dozens and dozens of agents and they showed them the app that I had and explained if I brought in listing data what it could do. And the feedback I got was mind blowing. It was awesome. And so I said, well, let me go forward and let's create a version for real estate agents. And then, you know, we can create a version for their customers. And so that's what we did. So what I realized is when agents are out in the fields, and great agents are in the field, right? They're not at their desk.
ADRIENNE: What they're using to record, "I took this client to this home," "I took that client to that home." Uh, you know, this one liked the kitchen at one, hated the bathroom. They're using a pen and paper. They have no books, they have MLS printout scattered in various folders that they're writing their notes down. And I know that it's, you know, when we write down stuff and you know, in pen and paper we're very attached to it, but it's hard, right? I asked brokers and agents, you know how much money you're losing on each sticky note. Nevermind the one that fell between the car seat.
ADRIENNE: I've had agents who told me that they'll write down notes onto the MLS printouts and two days later they go back and they don't know which client was with which home, where were the notes, right. There are agents who take their notebooks back to their office and they type their notes into word or excel or some of them might type it into their CRM. Then they're the smart ones because I had an agent. I asked her for a photo of her notebook. She lost her notebook. She backed up in the cloud.
ADRIENNE: That's cool. We do a few things. First of all, we pair the applications and the information that agents use a lot, so we are connecting their contacts and if their CRM data is coming into their phone's contacts, we're bringing in there so we bring in their context, we connect it to their calendar. We connected to the MLS data, we've connected to their photos and their videos and we connected to the places they go. So now all of that information, when you connect data together, it becomes very intelligent and very powerful. So not only is it now becoming this intelligent assistant for the agent, but also it's allowing the agent to be more efficient throughout their day because they don't have to jump from app to app to app to app to manage their business. The information is here, the tools are there, the information's there.
ADRIENNE: I have to cut at the pace, has a copy, I'd have to think about it, right. Like their brains have to actually synthesize the information from one to the next to the next. We do that for them. So our app is like a personal assistant and it's with the agent from morning until night. They wake up in the morning, they're still in bed. We will show them their calendar, their events for the day and if those events they're showing, we will bring in the MLS data with the price changes or the status changes. So they have a price drop on the first home that they were about to show. They don't even have to go into the office or check their email. We will show it to them right there with their calendar event.
JON: Very cool.
ADRIENNE: Yeah. That's the power of connecting your calendar with MLS. They want to call to say they're lying in bed and they're scrolling through their day and they see that one of the homes they are taking their clients to in two hours just had 100 contracts overnight. They don't have to go back into their phone apps or for that called us the tools to, to call their client is right there.
JON: Right. So that's super powerful. And as far as the MLS data, I mean you showed me how it can show a price drop or a price increase. How often is that data updated? I mean, is it in real time from the MLS?
ADRIENNE: So we use a data intermediary and it depends on how often they update their data. So different markets, they're actually going to a new, this is a little technical, but they're going to a new platform, let's put it that way, and the state data will come in every 15 minutes.
ADRIENNE: Yeah. So that means while you're out on the road and you're about to go to your next showing, if that price, that home, just had a price drop, it will tell you, you don't have to go looking for it. You open up myPlanit and it will be right there in your calendar and you hit the pavement with your client. Hey Joe client. This home just dropped two point three percent and now don't you look like the hero, right? You need to be the market expert, right? You need to be that neighborhood expert and we give you the tools and information to do that.
JON: You mentioned that some agents use notebooks or paper and pen to keep their notes. The real estate industry does have a reputation as being a little old fashioned and hesitant to change. How do you fight that resistance to technology?
ADRIENNE: Two things. One is that we, since we started out as a consumer app, we've had a very high focus on what we call minimal touch technology, so the agent has to do very little like we are linking in their data from their contact and their calendar in the MLS we're interconnecting it for them. We are Geo locating it when they go to a home. Well, you know, we will record that. They arrived at that home at 9:03 and then they left at 9:30. Two, we bring in the MLS data. They have not had to do a single thing. All they needed to do was have that phone in their pocket and we are doing the work for them. So we are doing 90 percent of the heavy lifting. Really the only thing that the agent needs to do, I mean they have to set up their client list and depending on their brokerage, and we do a deal with a brokerage, we can bring in the client filters there. There was this client preferences, right? Two bedroom, two bath, whatever. But they'll have to do that to set it up. But that's literally a few seconds per each client.
ADRIENNE: And then once that's set, everything else starts to interconnect on its own and they'll have to add their notes and if they went to a home that they didn't have in their calendar, they'd have to tag their client to it. And each of those, three steps, three taps. And we built something that we call the wizard, which will remind me after they leave a home that had a listing or if they don't have time at like 8:00 at night, while their memory is still fresh from that day. Hey, you know there are two homes you didn't add notes to. And they just tap that notification and we literally hand hold them through the process. They swipe to add their notes, they can speak their notes into the phone, we will index every word that's spoken, which means we'll make every word that's spoken searchable for later. And then we hand hold them. They just hit next phase, one tap to tag their client. Next one, tap for thumbs up or thumbs down. And they're done. Literally it takes a second.
JON: Yeah, and I've played with the consumer app. I mean it is very intuitive and it seems like in order for the APP to work, it really has to have unfettered access to your phone through the calendar, photos, and location. How do you respond to concerns of privacy?
ADRIENNE: We get this question a lot. We say right on the open screen that myPlanit is 100 percent private. Nobody sees your data for you. So to the extent that your contacts are already on your phone. There's two answers to it. One is that there's two parts of the answers I should say to it. One is that most of that data, actually all of that data, people don't think about it, but they've already given that data out onto other people's, other companies' servers. So your contacts or like whether they're in your CRM or they're in Google, okay, contacts, they're already on Google's servers or your broker servers or your CRM servers, right? Your calendar and things, Google calendar or your CRM or on your info that you've already given out. Your photos are usually in icloud or google drive and Apple and Google already have access to it and your location is being collected by your wireless carrier. What we do is we connect all that data for your eyes only for your benefit so that now you can see it and you can derive that benefit from it. So I think it's kind of a fallacy that that data is nowhere when we are putting it on these service providers' servers any way, and also it's already on your phone, so what we do is we just connect it so that you can use it and we do not give it out to anybody.
JON: So basically you're just picking up the pieces that are already out there and using them to form a cohesive story with them.
ADRIENNE: That's exactly right.
JON: So the CRM features are key aspects of the app. How do you think this is more convenient than something like Salesforce?
ADRIENNE: Well, we don't call ourselves a CRM. The way I think about it is that we're a nice adjunct to a CRM when, you know, one of the clunky things about a CRM is that it's a lot of manual data entry,
ADRIENNE: Right? And so especially when you're in the field and you're having experiences and information and data that you're collecting and then you have to go back and type it in. So we're connected to your Salesforce or to your Boomtown or whatever your CRM is and you're swiping and chatting, you're talking to your notes into myPlanit while you're out in the field or when you're at home at night, you know, because we notify you that data could sync seamlessly back into your CRM so that we're that field extension of yourself and your CRM, and also we do things that no CRM does like, in no MLS, I showed you this obviously before the call, before our interview, but like we have hot sheets in the app, but they're like no hot sheet than anyone has ever seen because we connect a hot sheet to your client's listing in your CRM, but with your client's preferences. We will show you properties with clients that are interested in those properties because it matched their filters. So here the property, that's a new listing, Bam. Three of my clients, this property matches their wishlist, their preference list, this here's a property where the price dropped four point four percent to other clients match that. Nobody does that. Right. So that's the power of acting data and not just being a silo, like just CRM, or just MLS, right. Just your people or just your places.
JON: That's great. So with the app, I mean it's always recording your location and using it in the app. What is the data usage like if you're not connected to wifi? Are you running that data usage up pretty fast?
ADRIENNE: So actually no we aren't, if you're not using the app at all because every time you use an app it uses data, right? If it's good to start to record at least battery, but we have worked very hard on our tracking. We call it passive tracking because it's tracking in the background so it's doing it in the background but when you're not moving we're not pinging. So we got really smart about it and if you don't use the app and you're using a lot of other apps, you might not even see myPlanit, let's say like on your battery screen.
JON: That's great.
ADRIENNE: And also we store a lot of data locally, like onto the phone itself. So we're not making a ton of calls to the server, it's just, you know, when we have to update the MLS data.
JON: And you mentioned when you were coming up with the real estate version of myPlanit that you had a friend who was a real estate agent. Did you work with any other agents developing features of the app?
ADRIENNE: We did. When we created the real estate version with very particular real estate features, you know, hot sheets. I mean actually the hot sheet idea came from a client of ours. We have comparables in the app that came from a client of ours. But when we came up with the initial layout, there are several agents here who I've become friends with in here in New York who I've become friends with when I was doing my initial diligence and I took to them what we in technology call wire frames. But you will laugh. It's a piece of paper that has a screen on it and has the placement of where the buttons would be and what the information would be. And then I asked them to tap a button on the screen and I put another piece of paper like, Oh, this is what it changed to. And so you get their reaction on paper before you actually build it to see is this something that they would be interested in? So yeah, we absolutely did product testing before we built it.
JON: Do you have any plans for integrating the app with wearables or other apps that somebody might have on their phone?
ADRIENNE: Yeah, so I mean we obviously integrate right now with your contact app, your calendar app, your photo slash video app, where you bring in Foursquare venue data. We bring in Google place data. We bring in MLS data going forward. We will be integrating with various CRMs. We can be integrating with public record data. I mean we can integrate with any of them in a very short amount of time. Any kind of information that represents what we call a who, what, where, when, a person, a place, an event, calendar applications, what notes we could integrate with Evernote that's actually on our roadmap so that your Evernotes would come in. So LinkedIn, we can bring in LinkedIn information. We can bring in Twitter or Facebook, see what your clients had been tweeting about and posting before you met them. So you have that conversation starter. So my plan, it becomes sort of like a data center or a hub of your information. And then we will push information back to all these applications because we're not saying only use myPlanit. You'd be wanting to use your calendar depending on your information. You should use your contacts. You can put in your information. What we'll do is we'll link I'm into myPlanit and if you change it in myPlanit, it will get back to your original store so that you get to keep doing your business the way you do it. But then you'll see the value in myPlanit of connecting all this information for you.
JON: Awesome. So pricing for the app?
ADRIENNE: So you know, it depends right now because we're dependent upon MLS data, so we're rolling it out sort of geography by geography. So we look to partner with brokers for them to give it to their agents, and we would do body pricing so it depends on the size of the brokerage, but we have two versions of the app that we will have out there. One is what we call the basic version where you get all the hot sheets, you get the date into your calendar, and you can tag up to five people as clients and you can have 40 drives as part of the night and it's $9.99. That's our initial going out price, and the professional version, which is unlimited everything, is $24.99 a month.
JON: Great. And the consumer version is totally free?
ADRIENNE: Right now it is totally free. So I would hop on it. Oh, because Google and Foursquare just increased their pricing. So I don't know how much longer we'll be able to give it out for free, but we are going to bring in mileage tracking into the consumer app and charge for that as a premium service. But we're not really focused on advertising that at all or doing any marketing around the consumer app. We're really focused on the real estate version and making that awesome for the agent. Getting it really super charged for their business. What we're rolling out next is going to be what we call a client companion app where agents can seamlessly collaborate with their clients. I'm sharing listings with them, scheduling appointments, sharing information brokers. Here's my mortgage records for you here. The attorneys where the agent can read. The client can also keep track of here's all the different homes I've seen. My head is humming, right? So they have all that information. And it will be white labeled for the agent. So the agent can be that rockstar agent for their client.
JON: Yeah, that sounds great. Cool stuff happening at myPlanit.
ADRIENNE: Oh, yes. Thank you.
JON: Okay. Well, if anybody wants to find out more, like you said, myPlanit.com.
ADRIENNE: People should go to myPlanit. And it's m-y-p-l-a-n-i-t, a little play on words, myPlanit.com to see what we're about. There's other features that I didn't talk to you about like mileage tracking, which we've just recently built in and it's a really smart mileage tracker for agents. So if one of the ends of their drive was a showing or an open house, it was a property that had MLS data, we will audit, categorize it for you as a business. Is one of the ends of your drive, overlapped with a calendar or was it, you know, it could be a calendar event that you're about to go to that had a client tied to. It will audit, categorize it as business. So now your eight year report, your expense reports are writing themselves. And again, Jon, all the agent needs to do is have this app in their pocket and it's doing all that work for them. We're super proud. Inman news reviewed us earlier this year and we got their first ever five star technology rating.
JON: Congratulations. That is awesome. My last question is when I ask every guest, if you could go back to the beginning of your career, what is one thing you would have done differently?
ADRIENNE: That is a great question. What is one?
JON: So it sounds like you've been all over and tried a lot of different things.
ADRIENNE: You know, I think I took some time off between AOL and starting myPlanit. I might have shortened that time frame in retrospect. I think, you know, what the one thing that I would have done differently is I didn't develop, I have lots of wonderful connections with people that I've worked with, but I didn't develop a strong mentor. And I think if I were to go back, that's something that I would do. Like I always had people who were in positions that were higher than me, you know, who I would talk to, but I didn't develop mentors. I think consciously developed mentors and I now mentor young people, people right out of college, people right out of law school and people in high school, high school kids, and I love it. And I think that that's something that's really important whether it's a coach or a mentor, but somebody who's been there and done it before so that you can learn from their wisdom and you can exponentially accelerate what you're doing by not repeating, let's say, the lessons that they learned. Right? So you learn from their lessons and then you can jump exponentially into the next levels of your career.
JON: That's a fantastic answer. Thank you Adrienne for joining me.
ADRIENNE: Thank you so much for having me. This has been a pleasure.