I think that a lot of people are confused about Upstream. Some people think that it is a consumer-facing site like the Broker Public Portal/Homesnap. Others think that it is some kind of brokerowned MLS. It is none of those things. It is a database for brokers to create, store, and distribute data. For the most part, every large firm and franchise organization is doing this today, but as an industry the process is broken. Every broker who is managing their data is doing it in different ways, and their data is not interoperable with applications without custom integration, data conversion, and data migration. Smaller firms have nothing, or they outsource it to a part time vendor.
Upstream fixes all of this by delivering a solution for all brokers that better built, comes with support, provides security, gives brokers complete control over data access, and is less costly. Moreover, it makes their data a lot more valuable because it can be instantly put to work as easily as turning on a light switch. Upstream is the result of compiling the needs of brokers. The broker industry leaders and technologists developed Upstream to streamline and address inefficiencies that plague each and every one of them.
Here are 5 technology benefits that Upstream provides that have nothing to do with listings.
- Upstream removes Vendor Dependencies
- Upstream Mitigates Technology Talent Challenges
- Upstream allows differentiation at scale and speed
- Upstream is fundamental to custom solutions
- Upstream simplifies the technology stack
Vendor dependencies plague real estate brokers today. Each technology vendor organizes the customer record, and firm record with no consideration for inter-operability. For example, if a firm wanted to move from one marketing solution to another, from one CRM to another; or one transaction system to another, etc – the data migration is challenging and expensive. Upstream imagines a new path that separates the data from the application, this allows firms to run in parallel or to switch vendors without data loss.
The scale effect of Upstream is significant. Since brokers representing over half of our industry are behind it, vendors will connect to open the doors to addressing that market. Over time, brokers will be able to migrate across vendors or support vendor of choice for their agents in a much better way.
Brokers have technology talent challenges. Database engineers and managers who understand the complexity of managing real estate data are pretty rare. Often brokers can only afford one of these people, or they have nobody at all (relying on vendors exclusively). The Upstream service to brokerages of any size absolves this issue. Upstream services the database storage needs for the broker with security, and ensures inter-operability with the broker’s vendors under the terms established by the broker. To be clear – Upstream does not craft data license agreements. The broker does. Upstream follows the agreements as configured by the broker.
There is a lot of discussion about “Upstream” having the power to do X or Y. Nothing could be further than the truth. The brokers have the individual ability to do whatever they want, but Upstream is powerless. Moreover, brokers do not know what any other broker is doing, and for that matter, Upstream neither knows nor cares what a broker does with their data.
As Upstream supports brokers with better systems and delivers technology talent that they cannot afford to employ – that is a huge broker benefit.
Upstream allows broker differentiation at speed and scale. Technology solutions emerge every day that improves a broker’s effectiveness. When a broker settles on a solution, the time it takes to onboard the broker’s customer records, and firm records to deploy the solution is horrific. For the most part, agents are loaded by hand, or in part by hand. Often, the customer records are not available for import at all, so the broker looses the ability to transition a customer from one system to another.
If the application is specifically for the broker, all of the application data needs can be supplied by Upstream immediately. A new technology vendor may need a few days to integrate with the Upstream API. But once they have integrated once, they will be ready to onboard any Upstream broker with simple and immediate broker authorization in the Upstream broker dashboard.
Upstream is fundamental to custom broker solutions. Brokers do not have a data sandbox that allows them to develop custom applications for their brokerage today. With Upstream, the difficulty of database management is removed from the complexity. They can point their developers to the API and focus on customer application development.
Upstream simplifies the technology stack. Brokers no longer need to manage database servers, server updates, server security, and server maintenance. Upstream does this for the broker. Database servers have come down in cost, but the management of the servers is getting more and more complicated…. and security is a greater and greater concern. If brokers are managing servers and they take their eye off the ball for even a week or a month – they could be at enormous risk. Upstream will be watching after the data in a high security, constantly monitored environment that meets the standard for consumer banking.
The conversation about Upstream has been dominated by the MLS discussion and listings. And, that is too bad. MLSs focus on listings today, along with offers of compensation and cooperation. They are excellent at that and the value to the broker for providing MLS service is invaluable. MLSs do not provide an Upstream service.
Sure, MLSs could provide the Upstream service if they choose to. And, even if they decided to move in that direction, it would be years and years before enough MLSs would offer the service to meet the needs of the bulk of firms. “The challenge for MLSs to develop Upstream is overwhelming to even consider,” and I say that as one of the biggest supporters and fans of mls vendors and service providers.
MLSs have the technology to offer Upstream as a service. Heck, they pioneered data input, storage, and distribution in real estate and I can name about 5 MLSs that have the Upstream technology deployed behind the MLS system today. But today, MLSs are too fragmented and disparate to pull it together across the nation. Individually, most MLSs are great. But they do not collaborate well enough to pull off Upstream.
Upstream needs to pull off Upstream. And it will take the full support of the brokers and their technology partners to make it happen. It’s better than any system that any franchise or brokerage has in house today. But more over, it’s a foundational technology that will make brokers better at serving the needs of the agents and their customers.