Manhattan brokerage spawns real estate tech startup

May.May 01, 2012 07:00 AM


An Agorafy screen shot
Three years after launching Manhattan-based commercial brokerage Dumann Associates, Richard Du was still frustrated by the same problem: His 40 or so brokers were spending too much time verifying the accuracy of property listings and not enough time in the field with clients.

Du finally decided to take matters into his own hands and create an online database of his own.

Launched last month in a beta testing phase, the website, called Agorafy, aims to bring accurate, up-to-date New York City commercial property listings to the public in an easily digestible format.

“If we’re struggling with [this], everyone else out there is also struggling,” Du said. “We really want to increase the accuracy of listings.” The other resources that provide listings information to commercial firms, CoStar and PropertyShark, “are only 40 percent accurate,” Du said. “We want 80 to 90 percent accuracy.” (CoStar did not return calls for comment; PropertyShark’s Andrew McElhone said his site’s primary focus is property research, not listings.)

To get the information, Agorafy’s staff researches listings, then calls brokers and landlords to verify information like square footage, asking rents, ceiling heights and food allowances. For the most part, they’re happy to participate, said Anthony Chan, who led the site’s development as chief investment officer. “What they really want is exposure, and that’s what we’re giving them and their listings,” Chan said.

Agorafy, which started as a side project by researchers at Dumann, spun off last year into a completely separate technology company with 18 employees.

The site’s name comes from the word “agora,” the ancient Greek term for open marketplace.
For now, the beta edition of Agorafy only includes retail listings, but office and residential components are already in the works. The company started in the retail sector, Du said, because that’s where information is scarcest and the need for this product most dire.

Agorafy is currently free; the company aims to generate revenue from selling advertisement space. Du (who still operates Dumann Associates as a separate business) and Chan also said they intend to explore a “freemium” model that would charge users for certain additional features. But for now, he just wants to get the highest possible number of users.

Right now, the site has only listings pages. But Du and Chan envision pages for brokers and buildings as well, which landlords and agents can customize to their liking — similar to a Facebook page — and update regularly to ensure the information is accurate.


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