Spokane-based property technology company Collabra Technology Inc. has developed a new tool for real estate professionals to measure their online presence and to grow their digital marketing capabilities, says Collabra CEO Russ Cofano.
He says the company’s new tools will provide a foundation for significant, long-term growth for Collabra’s future as a prop-tech company.
Collabra launched the tool, named SphereBuilder, on March 20, as a mobile-optimized web app for real estate professionals and others who work in small, sales-oriented companies in related industries.
“Most real estate agents or sales professionals are not technologists,” Cofano says, “They don’t want to be spending a lot of time using technology, but it’s important for their business.”
The new product “helps them be better marketers to free up time to deliver more value in the actual relationships they have,” he says.
Cofano says Collabra was formed in 2018, although the company has been around since the 1990s through Spokane-based TourFactory LLC. TourFactory developed virtual home tours and provided photography, video, and other marketing content for real estate agents and companies.
Collabra is the result of a merger between two companies: TourFactory and Silicon Valley-based Proxio Inc.
The company’s new technology, SphereBuilder, uses a proprietary measurement tool, called SphereIndex, that provides insights and rates an agent’s overall digital marketing presence.
Cofano says, “SphereIndex is a place where a real estate agent can go on demand and determine the current state of their digital marketing presence online.”
To use SphereIndex, agents provide publicly available data from various social channels, online business profiles, or reputation tracking websites, to create a score that Cofano says works similarly to Credit Karma’s app that provides credit scores and other financial services to consumers.
He says, “The analogy we use is: Credit Karma is to consumers for their credit journey, as SphereBuilder is to real estate agents for their digital marketing journey.”
The agent data is run through an in-house algorithm resulting in a SphereIndex score that can be compared to top-performing real estate leaders who use digital marketing to generate business, Cofano explains.
SphereBuilder then provides recommendations regarding how the user can improve their score, he says.
“The beautiful thing about a digital sphere of influence in marketing is that you can measure it,” he says. “We have the tools to actually measure how their digital marketing is performing and once you know, then you can take steps to improve.”
Once the SphereIndex score is available, agents can use SphereBuilder to help grow their marketing efforts through content provided within the app.
Cofano says SphereBuilder provides agents with real estate-related content that includes thousands of photos and videos that they can post online or use in their advertising.
“We also allow them to customize it if they want to,” he adds.
SphereBuilder also uses Multiple Listing Service data to create content for agents, he says.
“Listings are still one of the best forms of content that agents can share to their sphere of influence. As listings are entered into the MLS, we auto-create what we call agent containers that an agent can then advertise or post. Those include videos, websites, and other content. An agent using our platform will never be at a loss for things to post to their social channels,” he says.
Agents may choose to use both the SphereIndex tool and the SphereBuilder app jointly or choose to use the two tools separately. Cofano says SphereIndex is free to agents. The SphereBuilder app has a monthly subscription price of $49.
“We think that every agent deserves to know how their digital presence is evaluated. The content and distribution and advertising features of the site are all through a monthly subscription.”
Cofano claims SphereBuilder’s offerings are one of a kind on the market.
“There are applications that have bits and pieces of what we do,” he contends. “But nobody has put it together in the way that we have done.”
SphereBuilder is a reference to the term “sphere of influence,” which Cofano says includes the people who know, like, and trust agents and who can generate word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business.
He says most sales professionals have a sphere of influence cultivated in real life, and Collabra’s SphereBuilder app will highlight the digital version.
“Whether that’s through Facebook, or Instagram, or Tik Tok, or YouTube, or LinkedIn, or your Google profile, or reputation sites, it’s a much broader sphere, and it requires different tactics and strategies to manage and grow it. Our platform is aimed at helping these sales-oriented professionals do just that.”
Collabra’s SphereBuilder app is launching in both Denver and in Huntsville, Alabama, two markets in which the company already has established relationships with MLS and Realtor association leaders.
Cofano says he expects to announce partnerships with some Spokane-area brokerage companies in the next two months as well.
After a successful integration into the nationwide real estate market, Collabra will expand into related, vertical markets, Cofano says.
Those other markets could include real estate-related businesses such as mortgage and insurance companies.
“Our initial market is the real estate brokerage industry, but really, we think the technology can go well beyond real estate,” he says. “We’ve all got people using digital marketing and online interactions as a core part of their business activities, but they don’t have the tools to be very effective at them. The application might look a little different in a vertical but the core of what we provide will be very much the same.”
Collabra’s only office is headquartered in the Fernwell Building, at 505 W. Riverside, in downtown Spokane.
Cofano declines to disclose Collabra’s total number of staff, but he says the company works with 32 employees and contractors.
Cofano says, “We absolutely will be expanding as we continue to grow our business.”
Real estate professionals will generate more business and revenue by investing in and expanding their digital presence, he says.
“Consumers trust real estate agents to buy and sell, what for most people is the single, largest asset in their world. That’s not a casual relationship,” he says. “By becoming that ‘know, like, trust’ agent, you’re much better positioned to generate more relationships, and those relationships turn into business.”
Cofano says Collabra is earning revenue, although he declines to disclose those figures.
Prior to launching SphereBuilder, Collabra’s offerings for real estate professionals included its PowerHouse Package, comprised of a website, digital flyers, postcards, virtual tours, and seller’s reports. Collabra also offers a service dubbed FlashCards, which are social media videos created from property photos that agents can share online.
“SphereBuilder will be our focus going forward,” Cofano says. “We’ll continue to offer some of the legacy technology, but eventually that’ll be phased out.”
After Proxio and TourFactory merged to create Collabra Technology in 2018, Cofano says the company sold some of its assets to focus on property technology.
“In late 2021, we sold the TourFactory brand to a company called VHT,” he says. The Rosemont, Illinois-based company acquired TourFactory’s photography services in the sale.
He says that the divestiture of TourFactory’s services allowed Collabra to focus on technology development, including SphereBuilder.
“We went from being both a services and technology company to a pure technology company,” Cofano says.
In December 2022, Sunnyvale, California-based real estate software development company, Matterport Inc., acquired VHT Inc.
Cofano says, “We have a good relationship with VHT-Matterport. They handle the photography services part of the business, and we handle the technology part of the business for real estate digital marketing.”
Cofano joined Collabra Technology in August 2021.
“I was given the opportunity to help reimagine a new way of delivering value to the real estate industry through digital marketing,” he says.
It took over a year of design and engineering work to create and launch SphereBuilder, he says. “It’s very different than TourFactory.”
Cofano says it’s too soon to provide data quantifying the amount of exposure agents can expect to gain when using SphereBuilder, but he says user feedback has been positive so far.
“We’re giving them insights through SphereIndex that they don’t currently have. Then we’re giving them the tools to improve it,” he says. “The better they become at digital marketing, we believe that will translate into more business for them, which is our goal.”
Reporter Erica Bullock has worked at the Journal since 2019 and covers real estate and construction. She is a craft beer enthusiast, who loves to garden and go camping with friends.