Charleston startup wins recognition for real estate product

Guthrie

When most folks start thinking about buying a house, they go online — clicking through listings and scrolling through photos until they find their ideal home. Rebecca Guthrie wondered why much of the grunt work associated with getting insurance, inspections and a mortgage is handled off-line.

Guthrie’s company, Preclose, aims to bring the closing process online, she said, giving real-estate agents and their clients a way to communicate and share documents in the chaotic stretch before the deal is done.

Preclose, founded earlier this year, hasn’t yet launched its service in earnest — its app hasn’t been submitted to Apple yet — but the startup got a nice boost last month: The company was named one of real estate’s most innovative startups by one of the industry’s biggest players.

The company was named a finalist at the annual Realogy FWD Innovation Summit, which was held in June by Realogy Holdings Corp., a real-estate giant that franchises national brands like Century 21 and Coldwell Banker. The contest picked one winner and two finalists out of a field of 15 startups. More than 100 companies applied to participate, Realogy says.

“Really it’s driven by homebuyers — homebuyers saying, ‘We want to be empowered. We want to know what’s going on in the transaction,’” said Guthrie, formerly of BoomTown and Good Done Great. “They’ve been empowered in the home search experience, and so now they’re expecting that same experience during the closing process.”

Preclose, which plans to sell its service to real-estate agents on a monthly subscription model, is based in the Harbor Entrepreneur Center’s King Street offices, and it’s operating on seed funding it received earlier this year. The company garnered $300,000 in investments in April, Guthrie said.

Filming fireworks from drones is still a pretty novel idea. Streaming that footage live is even newer.

So when Daniel Island-based Infinite Takes sent two drones airborne and streamed Patriots Point’s July 4 fireworks show on its Stre.am service, thousands of people tuned in.

More than 15,000 people watched the video live last Monday night, said Will Jamieson, the company’s chief marketing officer — and, last week, a drone pilot. Most of them came from South Carolina, but viewers came from all 50 states, watching on smartphones, computers and Apple TV, Jamieson said.

The video may have been seen by more people when other sites picked up the feed, he added, but the company doesn’t have statistics on those viewers.

“What we were able to do with such little equipment was incredible and will hopefully see other organizations using our software in similar ways going forward,” Jamieson said in a direct message on Twitter. “It was one of the most watched streams we had ever had on the platform.”

Some viewers ran into snags, though, said Patriots Point spokesman Chris Hauff — mostly confusion about how to change camera angles after the website defaulted to a video showing the side of the aircraft carrier Yorktown. That caused frustration among some viewers, Hauff said, so if the museum tries drone video again next year, it may only offer users one option.

Jamieson said the site also had a stream that spliced together the best feeds, and in the future, the company plans to give its clients the ability to choose which feed shows up first.

“We’re always tweaking things, trying to make it better,” Hauff said of the fireworks show. “This was definitely a step in the right direction.”

North Charleston-based Vertical Holdings is starting an accelerator program to pair startups with its portfolio companies.

The thought is to give new entrepreneurs access to the holding company’s resources and contacts — and a chance to see if their products work in practice, said Josh Silverman, Vertical Holdings’ new chief revenue officer, who will head up the accelerator effort.

Silverman, who is also managing director of the Lowcountry Angels investment group and formerly of Jericho Inc., said many programs for young companies don’t give them enough real-world testing. So Vertical Ventures, as the accelerator was named, will connect entrepreneurs with Venture Holdings’ eight portfolio companies.

Silverman said he doesn’t expect Vertical to take a cut of member companies’ equity, but it’ll likely take royalties on sales instead. The program is expected to launch by the end of August.

Reach Thad Moore at 843-937-5703 or on Twitter @thadmoore.