Solid Earth has been around a long time, almost 14 years. That’s a quite a while in the real estate business and it’s a full EPOCH on the Internet. Solid Earth prospered through the growth of the Tech Boom, later called the tech bubble, and prospered again on the rise of the real estate market. Then there was the crash of the real estate market and we survived that too, profitably. We also experienced the last big technical paradigm shifts in the industry: the move from books to modems to the Internet. Through it all, we’ve earned an almost perfect record of retaining our clients. That means that we’re not just competent software developers, we’re committed to customer service in a way that satisfies them. The thing is, to do that we have had to reinvent ourselves again and again. Now, it’s time to do it once again but this time we’re much bigger and the pieces that need moving around are WAY more complicated. This stuff is hard!
No Alternative to Innovation
Still, there is no alternative to innovation in the Internet space, or in real estate either. So we’re embarked on a great experiment to build the next great independent MLS platform. We have learned so much from our dozen years in the business, years in which we experienced many very hard lessons. We have baked those lessons into the new Spring platform and we’re ready to roll the first early sites out to our clients. The system is designed from scratch for mobility; tested first on tablets and then on smartphones, only then on desktops. Spring has been designed very purposefully to perform three different roles for real estate professionals and their professional trade organizations. Spring can be a free-standing consumer portal, a premium broker platform or a full featured MLS platform. Or it can be all three. It’s that flexible. It’s that powerful. Which one you get depends on what problem you need to solve.
The project is really three projects, all being done at the same time. It’s a large scale data normalization project, collecting dozens of markets into a standardized central database. It’s also a new product development project, building a new MLS platform using the very latest design and programming techniques. And it’s an ongoing product support and maintenance project, maintaining and extending 25 MLS projects in 14 states. So, with all of that going on, the management team at Solid Earth decided we need to take the obvious next step. Stop everything and think about it for a while.
Stop Everything and Think!
A few months ago, while we were working on the extended release schedules for Spring, we decided we could benefit from expanding the scope of experience on our management team. I am the CEO and have run Solid Earth, along with my business partner, successfully and profitably for more than a dozen years so I know something about operating a business. But, I am a commercial real estate appraiser and an economist by education and training. So while we have some highly experienced people at Solid Earth, we recognize that there are many things about being a larger business that we have not done before. So, to do an even better job for our clients, we hired a management firm called Vantage Associates to recruit and form a non-binding Board of Advisers to help us re-validate our business plans, our pricing models, our revenue projections and more.
The Board of Advisers is not designed to manage Solid Earth, only to give advice to and provide oversight for the Executive Team at Solid Earth. There are five Advisers and five members of the Solid Earth Exec Team so that worked out to be a nice size. The group has met once and has three more meetings planned for the year. So far, the group has discussed, in concept: evolving pricing models for online services, equity strategy for growing companies and staff compensation models for SaaS Enterprise Software vendors like Solid Earth. After only one meeting, the group has started to mesh and has made some very good suggestions that our management team is already benefiting from learning.
Since there were five on each group, we decided to pair each Adviser with a member of the Exec team. Here they are, with their Exec partner:
- Emerson Fann - paired with Chief Executive Officer Matt Fowler. Emerson is a native Huntsvillian and Managing Partner of a successful Private Equity Firm called Eastside Partners. Emerson’s Linked-In Profile.
- Curry Knight – paired with Chief Marketing Officer Bill Fowler. Curry is a native Huntsvillian, a telecom entrepreneur with a successful exit to Nokia in 2000 and the longtime chair of Westminster School’s Board of Trustees. Curry’s Linked-In Profile.
- Mike Davidson – paired with Chief Financial Officer Mike Dalen. Mike Davidson is a former IT Director at BE&K, the construction unit of KBR, and an experienced senior technical manager. Mike’s Linked-In Profile.
- Jay Graves – paired with Chief Technical Officer Robb Dempsey. Jay is the former CTO of Hobby Lobby and is currently working in the web and email marketing data business. Jay’s Linked-In Profile.
- Tanveer Patel – paired with Chief Operating Officer Leslie Cobb. Tanveer is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of EXCERCEO in the health care space. Tanveer’s Linked-In Profile.
Everyone at Solid Earth is very excited about the opportunity to work with this amazing group of people and we’re particularly thankful to Brent Peinhardt from Vantage Associates for putting the group together. Stay tuned for more news from the Advisory Board project after our July meeting.
We are not 100% sure what we’re going to learn, if anything, from the experiment but that’s OK. We are committed to learning and this has been a great process already. One adviser said they wished they had done this for their company long ago, and that just posing the questions helps move the process down field. Can’t wait to see what we learn! Bet it’s something exciting!