10 Minutes with Grier Allen, President, CEO and Co-Founder of BoomTown
Grier Allen is a mentor for the REach accelerator program and the President, CEO, and Co-Founder of BoomTown, one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing private companies in the nation for three consecutive years. Headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, BoomTown provides an online marketing system used by thousands of top producing real estate brokerages and teams.
We sat down with Grier to discuss how the REach program is shaping the future of the real estate industry, his advice for tech startups, and BoomTown’s unique company culture.
- What is BoomTown’s role in the real estate industry?
GA: BoomTown is a company that works with small residential real estate brokers and agent teams. We provide tools and services to generate leads for agents and provide them with the tools to manage those relationships over time.
- What forces do you see driving change in the industry?
GA: Just technology in general. The transparency the internet creates is starting to affect how real estate professionals, home buyers and home sellers do things. The information that was traditionally only available to real estate professionals in printed books is now all available online.
The consumer is a lot more aware of what's going on in their market and of what's available in terms of inventory where they're looking to move. This changes the value proposition of the real estate agent. The real estate agent is there to provide white glove service and walk people through the very complicated process of home buying.
- What’s your advice for technology startups looking to get into real estate?
GA: There are two types of start-ups in this industry. One is trying to disintermediate the real estate agent, change the way they earn money and eliminate the need for them to exist. I don't think that that's going to happen in the near future. My belief is real estate agents provide incredible value to home buyers and home sellers.
The other type focuses on providing a more transparent process for consumers throughout the transaction lifecycle. A recipe for success is to give agents and brokers the tools they need to provide a higher level of service to consumers. That goes back to that white glove service I mentioned earlier.
- What do you get out of being involved with REach?
GA: We get to see exciting new startups and meet the great entrepreneurs running those companies. A couple of examples, BombBomb and Updater from the class of 2013 REach program, are two I’ve kept up. They are examples of great companies that are growing fast and doing things that really make things better for consumers and real estate professionals.
I get to meet some great, new, energetic CEOs and founders and provide them with what I've learned from starting a new business in this industry. There are a lot of challenges that still slow things down in terms of how technology is changing the industry. I can help them see what those things are and get out in front before they run into the same issues we’ve run into in the
- How would you describe BoomTown’s culture?
GA: We made a very conscious effort to create an enduring culture early in the company’s life. When we were about 30 employees, we established our core values, which you can find on our website.
One of those is “Create amazing experiences.” We're always focused on going above and beyond for our customers and the consumers who interact with our customers. It's kind of a “B2B2C” type of play. We think about that value in terms of how we deal with our customers, our partners, with our vendors, and how we treat each other.
We apply our core values to every personnel decision, especially in the hiring process. We have a culture interview where we dive into whether or not they're the right culture fit based on our values.
- Who were your advisors or mentors when you were first starting out and what was the most valuable lesson they taught you?
GA: In the beginning of my career, it was my dad. He’s one of the big reasons I got into real estate. My dad's involvement in the real estate industry definitely led me in the direction I went.
Probably the most valuable lesson he taught me is you can do anything you put your mind to. It seems simple, but when you're an entrepreneur going out on your own, there are a lot of times where you have doubts about whether you can execute your idea.
That was instilled in me from a very early age and it’s what got me through a lot of difficult times before launching BoomTown. We were a company for two years before we launched a product that generated revenue. We actually took second mortgages out on our homes to fund this.
There is a lot of risk involved when you starting a new company. That advice was absolutely critical for helping me push through the tough times to get our product to market and ultimately lead to a revenue-generating business.
Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Charleston, SC, BoomTown is a fast growing, web-based software company that offers a robust online sales and marketing system for real estate professionals. The system includes a customized real estate website integrated with local MLS data, personalized online advertising and inbound marketing services, a dedicated Client Success Manager, and a cutting-edge CRM (Customer Relationship Management System) with marketing automation. BoomTown’s software solution is being used by the top-producing real estate brokerages and teams across the country, and the company was recognized for three consecutive years (2011, 2012, 2013) on the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies List.