The Idea Village is a New Orleans-based entrepreneurial support organization that runs two accelerator programs: VILLAGEx and ENERGYx. Over a dozen ventures are currently going through the virtual programs, and all of them will be spotlighted on Silicon Bayou News.
Meet Unlock’d, a reimagined real estate platform that lets buyers and sellers execute transactions on their own. We heard from the startup’s founder and CEO, Barret Blondeau:
[Silicon Bayou] Describe your company in two sentences or less.
[Blondeau] Unlock’d is a Real Estate App that connects buyers directly to sellers and guides them through the entire sales process saving them thousands in Real Estate commissions. Think of us as For Sale by Owner on Steroids.
How did you come up with the idea behind your company?
Technology has disrupted the Real Estate market by providing consumers direct information on housing prices and availability. With this information being available, buyers and sellers are more versed in the current status of the market and are doing more and more of the heavy lifting. Thus, consumers are looking for inventive ways to control their costs.
I started to look at the main reason costs were so high, and it was due to the inefficiency of the market. Agents run around hoping to get paid on this sale, but then it falls through all of the sudden. The Agent invested 80 hours into the deal, but never got paid. This happened to me on numerous occasions and it really stings. This inefficiency causes commission prices to remain high to cover that lost time.
I had an idea what if we streamline the listing and purchase agreement processes, so that anyone can execute them. We would be a Turbo Tax for Real Estate. This will allow consumers to take on more of the process and lower their costs. However, if the consumers need support, they can request Agent support at any point for a low flat fee per service. Agents are now paid for what they do on the spot, and consumers can control their costs. This will drive efficiency into the process for both parties and be a true win-win.
Why is your solution the best one for your customers?
It allows consumers to pay for only what they need and nothing more. There are others attacking the Real Estate space by just offering discounted fees, but most are still a high percentage of the sales price. Unlock’d is different because you can have full service but you just pay for it as you go. Say you need pricing or contract negotiation support; a consumer gets the support for a low flat fee not a high percentage of the sales price. This allows consumers on both the selling and buying side to see their true costs and gives them the ability to control these costs as they see fit. Also, this allows the Real Estate Agent to get paid immediately for what they do for the consumers. Market prices at market efficiency is what Unlock’d is all about.
And why are you the team to make this happen?
We currently have ten extremely talented people working on the project. Our core team includes a Real Estate Broker, Real Estate Agent, Marketing Manager, Social Media Manager and a Business Development Officer from the tech space. Our product development team has over 50+ years’ experience, and Randall Nachman built and successfully exited a mortgage lending software company. We were able to leverage his 15 years’ experience in this space to automate the complex workflows in the Real Estate transaction and make them easy for anyone to execute. We definitely have a large team with the right abilities to take this thing to the next level.
Why do you think New Orleans was the best place for you to found this company in?
We have people in Baton Rouge, Mandeville and New Orleans at this point. However, I have a deep connection to New Orleans and grew up going to Tipitina’s, Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras and soaking up all the culture New Orleans has to offer. This one of a kind culture attracts talented people, and we will definitely need to bring on some top talent to make our vision for Unlock’d to come true. Plus, the food is great.
Tell me about a current goal you are working towards with your company.
We have a goal of hitting 200 houses listed by mid-summer, which is a lofty goal. However, we currently have five houses signed on and just landed a Real Estate investor that has 52 properties coming online this year. We have seen great traction in the Real Estate Investor and Contractor communities for our product and are hoping this will be our line to the goal. It’s going to be a ride!
What’s a challenge you are currently facing as a company?
Customer acquisition. We need to let people know we exist as an option. Homeowners only enter the market every six to seven years, so how do we stay top of mind and get in front of them on scale with all of the noise out there. We are planning to give consumers knowledge to draw them into the platform, and hopefully deliver so much value that they run to tell everyone about us! Also, we are hoping your great publication can help us out some.
What has been your proudest moment so far as one of the founders of this company.
No doubt being selected for the Idea Village’s Village X Accelerator program. It was an intense experience with 20+ seasoned entrepreneurs on the top floor of 201 St. Charles at Jones Walker. I guess the air is thin up there, because I had my first bombed pitch as an entrepreneur. I stumbled and struggled to get it all out. Somehow, the Idea Village team saw through that lack luster performance and selected our team to participate.
What’s a fact about yourself that people would be surprised to hear.
In 2007, I hit rock bottom in my life and had to work hard to reclaim my life. I became a counselor helping thousands get their lives back on track. I ended up going back to school and graduating from LSU in only three years Summa Cum Laude in Marketing. I went on to work for a Fortune 500 company and completed my MBA on the road for the company at night. After completing my MBA, I jumped all into Real Estate and the rest is history. My point to this long answer is that anyone can fight back and reclaim their life. It’s never too late to go after your dreams! Make it happen.