Consumer behavior and the economy changed almost overnight at the hands of the pandemic and social distancing orders.
In real estate, walk-in tours and conference table negotiations became obsolete. In the middle of playoffs for several major sports leagues, organizers prohibited fans from attending in person. And for many businesses, it no longer seemed appropriate to prospect new clients due to economic uncertainty.
Despite these abrupt industry changes, five NYC companies that work in real estate, sports betting and B2B software actually anticipated some of these behaviors. That foresight contributed to their success in 2020.
For instance, MaestroQA, which offers coaching and visibility tools for customer service and success teams, has sensed since 2013 that businesses would eventually begin to focus more — or at least equally on — retaining clients, rather than adding new ones.
“This transformation was already in motion; the past six months have just put it into hyperdrive,” said Director of Engineering Paul Santolla.
This transformation was already in motion; the past six months have just put it into hyperdrive.”
“As the pandemic forced us all to go online, the shift and need for digital transactions became much more apparent to those who had been skeptical about going digital,” said Patrick Burns, Spruce CEO and co-founder. “It became not just a preference but also a necessity. This will become the norm, instead of the exception.”
Built In NYC connected with Santolla, Burns and leaders from Orchard, DigitalOcean and Tipico to learn how they were positioned for a lucrative year amid one of the hardest economic times in our nation’s history.
For Orchard, a home-buying and selling platform, this past year proved that buyers and sellers want and need an easier, digital-first approach for transacting properties. Greg Aponte, the head of investments and data science, highlighted several of Orchard’s product enhancements that helped deliver solutions during a time when in-person tours and interactions were nonexistent.
Why was Orchard well-poised to not just weather but thrive throughout the last six months and beyond?
We were well-positioned coming into COVID-19 and operated through the pandemic and continued to make offers to customers. Our approach of allowing clients to buy a home before they sell played a huge advantage. Additionally, our home discovery tools, like Home Match Quiz, made it easier for interested buyers to avoid in-person tours and rule out properties faster. Our Orchard National Title and Home Loans programs also provided a seamless digital closing experience, without the need for in-person meetings.
Define “success” at Orchard. What has a recent major win for your business been?
We are fortunate to have had a major funding event and won several awards over the past six months. We’re proud of these achievements and view them as side effects from building a strong, growing business that puts customer success first and treats employees with respect. We have focused on increasing the value we deliver to our customers, including the rollout of our customer dashboard and the introduction of a new service that provides guaranteed offers for customers who are only looking to sell.
What big trends do you predict for your industry in 2021? How is Orchard positioned to capitalize on these trends?
We expect the strength that housing and real estate saw in the back half of 2020 to continue, which will be a big tailwind for our industry. On the demand side of the equation, lowest-ever mortgage rates should continue, which will be a significant boon to sales and prices. We don’t anticipate there to be significant increases in supply as most forbearance plans are ending in loan modifications, which allows people to stay in their homes and results in only a small number of sales and foreclosures.
Our consumer thesis pre-pandemic has been reinforced by the past year: Consumers value and are now coming to expect a convenient, technology-forward experience when they are buying and selling homes. As an integrated brokerage with a software platform that unifies the activities of our agents, escrow officers and loan officers, we believe we are well-positioned to deliver on those expectations.
“As more businesses go remote and more individuals pursue entrepreneurial interests, tech infrastructure like cloud has been a major enabler to help these companies evolve and grow their businesses,” said Matt Norman, chief people officer at DigitalOcean, a cloud-based development platform. This trend contributed to the company’s growth in 2020, which included the release of a new platform.
Why was DigitalOcean well-poised to not just weather but thrive throughout the last six months and beyond?
Unlike many of the players in the market that target enterprises, DigitalOcean focuses on the needs of developers and small and medium businesses (SMBs). This uniquely positions us to help the smaller organizations most impacted by the pandemic be successful in these unpredictable and unprecedented times.
Define “success” at DigitalOcean. What has a recent major win for your business been?
Success at DigitalOcean is defined by the success of our customers. We seek to simplify cloud computing so developers and businesses can spend more time building software that changes the world.
This year we made major strides toward achieving this goal. We released App Platform, a new fully managed solution that helps developers easily build, deploy, manage and scale apps. We also continued to scale our DigitalOcean community by adding more than 400 new tutorials, and we gave back where we could through our Hub For Good Program. As part of this initiative we donated credits, funds and educational resources to help bring together developers, innovators and educators to share ideas, tools and resources for COVID-19 relief efforts, social justice and equality.
What big trends do you predict for your industry in 2021? How is DigitalOcean positioned to capitalize on these trends?
Remote work isn’t going anywhere and developers and entrepreneurs will continue to look to the cloud to power their ideas and grow their businesses.
In 2021, we believe that there will be even more demand for cloud solutions tailored to the needs of SMBs, rather than the complex and expensive enterprise offerings that are pervasive in our industry. DigitalOcean will continue to focus on serving our customers and helping lower the barriers of entry by delivering on the key benefits of making the cloud simple, accessible, reliable, and affordable.
Spruce co-founder and CEO Patrick Burns said the real estate tech company reported upwards growth of 450 percent in 2020. The platform hosted tens of thousands of transactions this year for lenders, investors and companies who had to move to an entirely virtual approach in order to close deals.
Why was Spruce well-poised to not just weather but thrive throughout the last six months and beyond?
As the pandemic forced us all to go online, the shift and need for digital transactions became much more apparent to those who had been skeptical about going digital. It became not just a preference but also a necessity. This will become the norm, instead of the exception. At Spruce, we have been working toward a one-click checkout for real estate transactions for years. Overnight, transactions could no longer be made sitting around a conference table with six other people. They had to be made online, and we were able to provide that. We’re also proud to have helped many people who were either looking to buy a home or refinance during the last eight months, as we saw a huge demand for both.
Define “success” at Spruce. What has a recent major win for your business been?
Success at Spruce happens when we delight our clients. In terms of numbers, Spruce has closed files for hundreds of lenders, real estate investors and property tech companies, powering tens of thousands of transactions to date and growing 450 percent annually. Clients appreciate the ease in which we integrate with their existing platforms, improve experiences for their clients and cut down on overhead costs. Being a tech-focused company, we move quickly and have been fortunate to work with such forward-thinking clients.
What big trends do you predict for your industry in 2021? How is Spruce positioned to capitalize on these trends?
In 2021, there will be continued momentum for the digital transaction world, especially within property technology. 2020 showed the confidence of partners and customers in adopting new technologies, and the desire for these types of transactions, from home cleaning to home buying, to be seamless. In the months and years to come, the rate at which companies start and grow in this space will increase rapidly.
When sporting events closed for in-person spectators, the sport-betting platform Tipico noticed an increase in traffic as fans turned online to continue to engage. As the user count increased, so did the company’s team. Managing Director Adrian Vella said Tipico started 2020 with five employees and today has a team of 25 with continued hiring plans.
Why was Tipico well-poised to not just weather but thrive throughout the last six months and beyond?
Like many businesses, 2020 has been a double-edged sword for Tipico. As a sports-betting company, we need NCAA and professional sports leagues to be active. But since we are a mobile app, we’ve benefited from the change in consumer behavior toward online experiences and away from brick-and-mortar retail, which many of our competitors rely on. From a workplace and operations perspective, our Tipico team was built as an agile organization, and the transition to virtual was fairly seamless. Hiring and onboarding during a pandemic took some getting used to but we’re in a groove now.
Define “success” at Tipico What has a recent major win for your business been?
This was a year of many “firsts” for Tipico in the U.S. As a well-known global leader in the iGaming space, Tipico knew it had to introduce our sports betting brand to the U.S. consumer with its technology set up exactly as required by government regulators. We take pride in only operating in legal markets with the proper licensing, and we are thrilled to have that seal of approval in the fast-growing U.S. sports betting space. With our mobile app now live for Android and in the Apple store, we’ve scaled quickly and have taken our first bets from consumers. Now, we’re exploring our expansion to new areas of the country.
What big trends do you predict for your industry in 2021? How is Tipico positioned to capitalize on these trends?
Sports betting is now mainstream. We expect 2021 to be a year of broad and new legislative adoption for iGaming and sports betting that’s accelerated by the need for new tax revenue due to COVID-19 and also based on consumer preference. We predict huge growth for our industry as a result, and we believe remote-first and hybrid work will continue.
COVID-19 caused many organizations to turn their attention away from landing new accounts and toward maintaining existing clientele. For MaestroQA, a platform that helps customer service teams excel, this change helped the company land its largest client to date. Director of Engineering Paul Santolla explained why this trend will continue once the pandemic ends.
Why was MaestroQA well-poised to not just weather but thrive throughout the last six months and beyond?
For the first few months of the pandemic, we didn’t look into sales, marketing, engineering or product. We turned to customer success and support. Other businesses, too, looked to their support team and asked themselves, “How do we improve our customer experience to prevent churn?” But this transformation was already in motion; the past six months have just put it into hyperdrive.
The market shift forces companies to care more about the life-time value of their customers. They in turn care more about their customers’ experiences and the effectiveness of their customer support team. We deliver value by helping customers improve their customer experiences through support. Coupled with the rapid shift to remote, a software-based approach to this problem has never been better positioned.
Define “success” at MaestroQA. What has a recent major win for your business been?
We signed our largest customers this last quarter. We’ve seen our smallest customers grow into large accounts. We’ve hired new teammates, and we built and released a second product, our screen capture tool. It allows support teams to provide better coaching and improve processes by being able to see and highlight support ticket video recordings.
Screen capture provides value for any company looking to improve their customer support processes. It is also insightful for any customer support team looking to level up their coaching. We didn’t get here overnight, and there’s no one thing I’d attribute this to, but being a customer-value and product-driven company helps.
What big trends do you predict for your industry in 2021? How is MaestroQA positioned to capitalize on these trends?
I think we’re going to see customer service become increasingly important to companies. I predict the space is going to grow a lot as companies invest strikingly more in their support teams to retain and grow their customers.
And MaestroQA isn’t just well-positioned; it was pioneered for this movement. We believe customer support is the backbone of companies’ growth in the age of SaaS, subscriptions, and customer-centric marketing. We have built our product by listening to what our customers need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their support teams. More companies believing in the value of their customer support teams is great for us.