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Why FBS’ new Spark platform matters

by Greg Robertson on May 1st, 2012

I just had to say something about the new Spark platform that FBS announced earlier this week. Often the word “game changer” is used but in this case I think it’s truly warranted.

As a 3rd party software developer in the real estate space I can attest its not easy. I see 3 points of friction to get products in to the hands of real estate professionals.

1. Data standards
2. Permissioning
3. Awareness

Credit card processing and billing is also a huge factor, and new entrants are going to appreciate an e-commerce solution. For the purposes of this post I’m going to focus on the challenges listed above.

Data standards and Permissioning.

At a recent Inman Conference I sat in on a session moderated by Mike Wurzer and Rebecca Jensen. The topic swirled around data standards. I raised the issue that even if we had a single data standard for all MLS systems in the country 3rd party data developers would still have the issue of Permissioning to deal with. As an example we can get Cloud CMA up and running with a proper RETS feed from an MLS in less than 48 hours, but it sometimes takes months to go thru the approval/permissioning process.

I’m not saying that MLS providers should just open its data to all 3rd party developers. They have the responsibility to the safeguard that data. But that problem needs to be solved. After reading FBS’ post on Spark their new Spark API looks to have the ability to manage and streamline the permissioning/approval process. This is HUUUGE.

I’m super excited knowing that our next app could realistically launch and be available to hundreds of thousands of real estate professionals, DAY ONE!


I’m flattered that at most events I go to Cloud CMA seems to be the poster child for 3rd party MLS apps. We’ve been working hard with many MLS providers to integrate Cloud CMA in to their online stores. You can see some examples of these stores below:

Metrolist Marketplace
MRIS Products
Coastal Carolinas Storefront

I think all these MLS providers/vendors have done an excellent job with these sites. And I love the fact we can tailor the message to each market. But there is a fundamental issue with all of them. For the most part, they stand alone and don’t get much traffic. Little traffic means little sales. Not good for me or my revenue sharing partner (the MLS provider). The Spark Platform looks to be a way to bridge this gap.

My belief is the best solution would be to have a direct link to an MLS App Store from the MLS system itself. Not a link buried somewhere, but visible at all times. The Spark Bar solves seems to solve this issue in a very innovative and elegant way.

This is why I’m so excited about this news. With the Spark platform, Spark API and Spark Bar the whiz kids at FBS have really studied these issues and come up with what appears to be a winning solution.

Now I’m not naive enough to believe that this will be an overnight success. They will have a lot of work to do. But, the framework and thought process is solid. And it looks like the big MLS providers are jumping in.

The only problem is…. I want it now! Hell, I wanted it 20 years ago. Imagine being in Stellar and downloading Lightning. Boom.

One Comment
  1. Thanks for the post on the Spark Platform, Greg. One of the big unknowns is whether real estate software is amenable to sale in a one-click store. Today, if you have to go agent by agent, webinars and other high-touch events seem to be needed to generate sales. Even when there are site licenses, a lot of training and promotion is needed to get traction at the agent level.

    We are hopeful that integration into the MLS system through the Spark Bar will change the dynamic, but the real key may be creation of a new breed of applications that are more tightly focused, more integrated, and perhaps a lower price point.

    What I think is most exciting is that, if the Platform is successful, we’ll have a competitive market that will allow for the trial and error needed to find what works.

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