Founded by real estate veteran and tech entrepreneur Stephen King, Imbrexis the first decentralized real estate marketplace syndicating worldwide via the Ethereum blockchain, an open source environment that stores data in a cryptographically validated and secured immutable ledger. At the forefront of data democratization, imbrex is guided by the principle that brokerage firms should maintain ownership of their valuable proprietary data and resulting leads without the friction of a third party intermediary. All information is shared via Inter Planetary File System (IPFS), a peer-to-peer distribution protocol. Listing and transactional data is never stored on a third party server; ensuring that ownership, control and access is never relinquished.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?
I did not set out to start a company or become a CEO. It has always been more of taking a problem I have and finding a sensible solution. I graduated from college in 2009 with a degree in real estate & international business. The real estate economy was not doing well at the time so I worked at Starbucks until I found a job in construction management. I began to see inefficiencies in the construction industry when it came to communication that led to unnecessary mistakes. I moved into entitlements, and then into finance to get a better grasp on the entire transaction process. To earn additional income, I got my real estate sales license and eventually my brokers license. Armed with the knowledge from construction, entitlements and finance, I was able to make a few decent sized commercial deals; and before I knew it, I was running King Realty Group.
During this time, I began building custom technology tools to optimize our business. One tool I spent a lot of time on was the distribution and transfer of listing data, something that was a systemic problem throughout the industry. I remember driving home from a meeting one afternoon thinking about the blockchain and how it could offer a realistic solution. I built a prototype, and it worked. A few people heard about it in 2016 and offered to fund the next stage of development; here we are today, and I am now the CEO of imbrex.
What is your definition of success?
Success is the balance and prioritization of Health, Family, Education/Work, Sports, Music and Art. When properly balanced, and in that order, life seems to flow in a synced rhythm.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My wife and I have been watching a show on Bravo called Million Dollar Listing since 2013. My wife likes one of the agents, Ryan Serhant. Last year, I was on a real estate panel and Ryan happened to be on it. We have become friendly and discuss how blockchain can possibly affect the real estate industry. The world has an odd way of going full circle.
What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
In 2016–2017 I pitched over a hundred firms and multiple listing services in the United States without success. These organizations had difficulty understanding our technology, and those that did understand it thought we would never make it to release. Throughout the last six months, we spent an exorbitant amount of time refining our message while educating the real estate industry and executing on development. It has led to a successful launch and the onboarding of two national firms with several more lining up to participate this fall.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Execution in the blockchain sector. No one has released a blockchain based, consumer-facing application in the real estate industry — or any other industry I can think of other than exchanges. We are doing something unique with data, and it is hard. We were at the Inman conference in San Francisco last July. Most of the attendees had just come from the keynote speech where a poll was taken: “what is the one topic people bring up at a cocktail party you want to run away from”. The #1 answer was “blockchain”. And there was our booth and the word “blockchain”. People stopped in expecting to hear about another blockchain company hyping the technology without a product. However, we had just launched and they were amazed by the demos. It gave us a huge boost in users and confidence.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We are in the final phases of Escrow Commons, transaction software that will give a buyer and seller the ability to exchange transaction documents, escrow funds and eventually process the entire transaction. This advancement will reduce transactions from the average 60 days closing to under 30.
Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is doing to become be more sustainable? Can you give an example of each?
Our modus operandi is collaboration. We are working with trade groups like the Real Estate Standards Organization as well as firms, agents, and MLSs in an effort to unite the industry so that the transaction can become more efficient. In working with these groups, we are able to share ideas and technology. We are also building our system to be malleable, meaning it can be adjusted, customized and enhanced over time.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Put team members in the public eye; encourage them to give conference presentations, host Meetups, and write company blog posts while giving them the credit for the post. Building a company is a team effort; it should not just be the CEO or executive team presenting the product to the world.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My wife. It was 2013 and I had been reading about Bitcoin’s technology for quite some time. I became obsessed. I wanted to own a piece of this technology as I knew it would change the world. I remember taking our next month’s rent money to wire a guy that I met online $1,250; there was zero infrastructure at the time and the exchange that we know today did not yet exist. About an hour after I sent funds the price of Bitcoin began to tumble — all the way to $250. I am pretty sure I owned the most expensive Bitcoin ever purchased from 2013–2016. I managed to pay rent the next month and serendipitously discovered Ethereum (the technology that inspired imbrex). Even with the decrease in Bitcoin and uncertainty in the technology, my wife supported the creation of imbrex.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I spend time meeting with new real estate entrepreneurs entering the blockchain space and educating them on the technology. I am also open sourcing the protocol so the real estate industry can use it as they wish.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
- Just because you say it and lay it out, it does not mean it will get built that way. Building a product is an iterative process. CEOs tend to have vision. In the beginning, when I started to expand the team, I thought I could relay the vision and the product would be built. That was not the case. I learned you need to be involved in every detail (at least in the beginning), and communication must be consistent through the entire process.
- You don’t need to have the answer to everything. Early on, I bought out my partner, who was our core developer at the time. I have a firm grasp on our technology but did not have the technical depth he did. Most of the team were new to blockchain and I thought I needed to know the answer to every question. It turns out I didn’t. That is the best part of having a larger team. One person’s weakness is another’s strengths.
- Team members are motivated by different things, and it is important to know what that factor is for each.
- Marketing is a science, hire an expert.
- Product: Start by doing one thing and do it well.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Unity and conversation. Most people are good people, but there here is a lot of anger in the world these days and not enough respectful conversation. We are building imbrex to establish communication between the world’s real estate networks. Systems need to talk. So do people, otherwise everything else falls apart.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
You make your own luck if you stick with it long enough. I have learned luck is not completely arbitrary; if one dedicates themself to a mission or goal, luck is almost always a side effect. The longer you stay focused and stick with it, the more luck one can create.