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In 2017, BackAgent provided more than 180,000 agents and brokers a cloud-based technology platform complete with a comprehensive intranet and one of the most robust transaction-management systems in the industry.

But when the Houston, Texas-based company first had the idea for the solution back in 2005, the initial goal was to solve the inefficiencies at one specific brokerage.

According to Eric Reed, the company’s CEO, while the early stages of the system used today were developed nearly a decade ago, additional clients began signing up for the service in 2009.

By 2010, 30 brands were on board. That number rose to 140 in 2012 and 320 in 2014. Today, BackAgent is deployed at more than 480 brands, increasing as much as 80 percent year-to-year.

In the Beginning
In 2005, while in between jobs, Reed found himself working at his parents’ brokerage. Willing to lend a helping hand, he didn’t want to get involved in the real estate industry because he’d been around it his entire life.

“I realized they were doing really well when it came to hiring agents, but they had no real process in terms of explaining what paperwork was needed for certain deals,” says Reed. “In fact, they had a sheet of paper upon which people would come by and check off whatever contract they were handing in.”

Reed began grilling his father about the process, and realized there had to be a better way.

“I’ve always loved technology, and my family has always been in real estate, an industry that’s conventionally slow to adopt new technologies—so the two never really fit together,” says Reed. “Once I came in and found out why (negative perceptions about operational complexities, ease of use and price), I realized I could do what I love and develop a program from scratch, while making it priced appropriately for a mom-and-pop shop.”

His first step involved reaching out to Ryan Missman, an old friend.

Having come up in the field with a software company tasked with doing the impossible—aka creating things others couldn’t­—Missman had previously worked with Reed when the two were employed at a telecommunications company. The two reconnected in 2005 when Reed approached him about his idea.

“He came to me and asked me to build this product to make things great for his parents’ brokerage,” says Missman, who not only had a good job, but also believed there was probably something already out there that could accomplish what Reed wanted.

While Reed began working on his idea with another friend, Missman’s interest was eventually piqued.

“We couldn’t find anything that could do what was needed—something cost-effective, efficient and surefire—and about a year later, Eric convinced me to come aboard,” says Missman, who now serves as BackAgent’s chief technology officer.

Focusing on building a tool that could make all the little annoyances of a brokerage go away, Missman’s goal wasn’t just to create a product that could help Reed’s parents, but rather, one that could be scaled for growth and resold to others.

“It was the combination of Eric’s strong understanding of real estate and my complete lack of real estate knowledge that really helped us find the right path,” says Missman. “I was coming in from the novice point of view, and while we tried a couple of variations of our core interfaces, we finally locked in about a year into it in our main system. It’s a series of very simple tabs that light up colors that match up what one is doing in a transaction.”

As one answers some basic questions, the transactional requirements are dynamically changing; for most brokerages at the time, this eliminated a lot of the time-sucking from the equation.

“We’re showing people what documents they need to get, then helping them create those documents,” explains Missman.

In 2009, BackAgent made a big pivot when Keller Williams Realty came to them and inquired about what was happening on the brokerage intranet front, wondering if it was possible to expand the service for agents to collaborate at a local level.

“We got to work, and 6-9 months later, we knocked out what they wanted,” says Missman.

“While we’ve been deployed for a long time, if you were to ask anyone at Keller Williams if they’ve heard of BackAgent, they would probably say no. But if you asked every single one of them about the daily digest they receive that tells them what’s going on in the office, they will all say they love it,” adds Missman. “All of that is being sent by BackAgent. In fact, we send over 8 million emails a month, mostly to Keller Williams.”

In 2014, another major shift occurred when the company spent the better part of a year examining all the features it was providing, laying out a plan for where they were going.

“We started a whole round of new interfacing and new designing, and we’re about to release [at press time] what we’re considering BackAgent 4.0. It’s a visual improvement, but it also feels like one composite product now, and people can see all these different integrations and why it’s useful,” says Missman.

“If brokers are looking to optimize and make their brokerages more efficient, I would say it behooves them to check out our demo,” concludes Missman.

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