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James Bohan-Pitt, Co-Founder & CEO HipPocket

James Bohan-Pitt, Co-Founder & CEO HipPocket

HipPocket is a smart lead generation network for real estate agents.

What’s the story behind your company?

The original concept for HipPocket was an app to help homeowners sell their property privately without the need for a Realtor. Private sales were growing at home in the UK and I had posited that the concept could work well in the US market. However, as I started my research I learned two very interesting statistics. Firstly, 88% of buyers and sellers in the US are represented by a Realtor, and secondly, in most cities around the US, up to 40% of property is marketed outside of the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) as ‘hip pocket or pocket listings’. Armed with this new information I changed tack to focus on the Realtor.

With almost all consumers represented by a Realtor and a third of properties promoted by word-of-mouth, how effective a Realtor is at communicating with their Realtor network I discovered, can have a real impact on how successful they are for their clients. Realtors spend an inordinate amount of time communicating with each other. Promoting a listing of any kind requires hours of a Realtor’s time emailing, texting and calling their network. As the linchpins in the real estate process, I felt they deserved a better way to communicate with each other. There needed to be one place a Realtor can go to have one conversation with the entire Realtor community, in real time. 

To see if I was on to something, I called up my friend and now co-founder, Clay Stapp. Clay is the owner of a boutique real estate brokerage called CLAY STAPP+CO and has close to 40 agents on staff. If anyone was going to tell me if I was mad or not, it was him. Clay went on to explain that the problem was even worse that I had thought. To try to solve the communication problem, Realtors had resorted to hacking Facebook and LinkedIn. Private social groups had been created by title companies, lenders and Realtors and had become a place where Realtors can share information and talk privately with some in the Realtor community. However, only a fraction of the Realtor community were active inside these groups and there were lots of features that were missing that could really improve the communication experience. We both felt that Realtors were not equipping themselves with the most powerful tools and technology to best help their clients with one of the most important transactions of their life and we decided to co-found HipPocket that day. 

What were you doing before you started your company?

Prior to HipPocket I had taken a year off from my last startup to work for Brainspace. Brainspace was a machine learning company that had recently secured $10M in investment and needed some help setting up their marketing division. Before Brainspace I had co-foundedSiphonLabs, a cloud hosting platform for creatives to manage their client websites. It was a spin-out from MODX, the open-source content management project that I started to work at in 2011.

Before entering the startup space in Dallas, I spent 1997-2010 in the Fidelity Investment group of companies, helping them set up new products and companies in the telecoms and software space in Europe and Asia. 

How do you stay organized?

I use different tools for different things. Pivotal Tracker for development. Of course, E-mail and Calendar. My Calendar is pretty much my to-do list. I also use Hootsuite to manage social media and Inman.com to keep track of real estate industry news and analysis.

What were some of the challenges you faced when launching your business and how did you handle them?

We talk of Realtor Status quo as being our real competitor. The “it’s always been done this way” and the “there’s no need to change” mentality. The challenge we had and to a degree continue to have, is to convince the Realtor community of the value of a dedicated Realtor solution.

The way we are handling this is to build an experience that surpasses anything the Realtor is using today. Whether it be the MLS or a myriad groups on Facebook, we know that HipPocket as a stand-alone Realtor application can deliver a far more Realtor-specific set of features than they have today. We are demonstrating that we are committed to helping Realtors generate more leads faster and at a far smaller cost than they do today. We just need to stay focused on the goal of building an experience that offers so much value that a Realtor need not look anywhere else.

How do you stay motivated?

We put ourselves in the shoes of my co-founder Clay Stapp. He still spends up to 6 hours promoting a single property via text, email, phone and various social media groups. There’s simply a better way to have one conversation about a listing or a need with the entire Realtor community in real time and that’s why we co-founded HipPocket. 

We’re enhancing the way Realtors communicate through technology and social networking. Most importantly, we’re helping them refocus on what’s most important (clients and prospecting) by not wasting so much time on inefficient marketing admin.

We also focus on the quick wins. Whether it be signing up 100 Realtors in a week or delivering a new really awesome piece of development, we stay focused and importantly positive. Building a startup is a marathon, not a sprint. 

How did you delegate and build your team?

For me, delegation has happened by chance more than anything. For example, we changed development companies after releasing our first version, but we able to hire a member of the original team. He actually came with a growth hacking background, in addition to development and was the ideal person to help shepherd the new off-shore team and kick start our growth project. He really believes in the product and has helped me release much of the tactical management of the development process by helping me stay focused on strategy and, most importantly, fundraising. Sometimes it takes an unforeseen opportunity to show you the value of delegation!

There’s a lot of interesting insights and science behind the habits of entrepreneurs. How do you start your day?

With our developers in India, I am on an early morning call twice a week. Other than that, I catch up on the previous day’s industry news, and then move on to outstanding emails.

How do you unplug, disconnect, and recharge?

I spend time with my wife, children and dog, Tucker, for the most part. We’re both pretty busy with work (she is a Strategy Consultant with a global Management Consultancy firm), so hanging out on the weekend is really important to us. She still says I’m on my phone way too much though! We just had twins a few short weeks ago so life before and after work is getting a little interesting to say the least!

How do you celebrate successes?

With drinks and a Texas-sized steak!

Success is the goal but failure teaches us a lot. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

If at any time your investors do not believe wholeheartedly in your vision or you, then you are almost certainly doomed to failure. It is absolutely paramount that you ensure that your investors continue to have the faith in the business strategy, as well as in you, at all times. If this starts to waver in any way it can lead to some disastrous consequences.