Background: About Michael
I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Grabham with my ClearHome teammate, Sarah Abramowitz. Michael is a start-up veteran. He has founded five “real” businesses (his words), as well as many, many others. Currently he is Seattle director of Startup Grind, the U.S. General Manager of Send in Blue, and created the non-profit Survive the Streets: an organization that provides cold weather essentials to homeless and low-income Seattleites. Because Michael’s experience is so vast, he chose to respond to our questions by citing his experiences from both past and current business ventures. Many of his answers came from his very first company, Executive Wireless, founded in 2002. Executive Wireless created a mobile application for real estate agents called Wireless Realty, which changed the way that real estate agents do business.
When first launching his Wireless Realty mobile app, Michael’s marketing strategy was targeted towards Vancouver real estate firms. He quickly realized that his ideal clients were actually individual real estate agents, not agencies. Michael was quick to pivot, and changed his plan to provide maximum value to these individual agents- who he saw as “solo entrepreneurs”. In 2002, as entrepreneurially minded as the real estate agents may have been, they were not particularly tech savvy. Michael determined that the best way to provide maximum value to this client base was to sell them smartphones with the Wireless Realty software already preloaded. Michael relied on his local real estate contacts to serve as advocates on behalf of Executive Wireless. His phone/app sales were met with great success in the Vancouver market.
Next Michael expanded into Calgary, Toronto, Las Vegas, Seattle and Buffalo- each time relying on a local, pre-existing contact to advocate on behalf of the company. The regional advocate helped alleviate anxiety surrounding using MLS data in a mobile setting (uncommon in 2002), and also to increase the likelihood of converting a reputed ‘Luddite’ industry of professional into the 21st century.
Executive Wireless’ app completely changed the way that real estate agents could do their job. Previously they had needed to be at work in order access MLS data. Wireless Realty made this completely unnecessary, enabling agents to access real estate data wherever they were. Thus, Wireless Realty was a new, disruptive product.
Positioning and Channels
There was no product like the Wireless Realtor app on the market at the time it launched. It was an innovator, and its activity in multiple markets helped it to build its reputation as an authority in the real estate mobile app space. Michael leveraged his pre-existing relationships with realtor technologists, who advocated on behalf of the Wireless Realtor app. This was the case in Vancouver, and each of the subsequent market cities, and proved to be a highly successful strategy. Michael views relationships and the ability to communicate effectively as essential to getting any busy off the ground.