ShelterZoom is a secure online platform that manages all aspects of the housing offer and acceptance process, using innovative blockchain technology to record every transaction and delivering a new level of transparency, efficiency and trust to buying and renting. The ShelterZoom customizable widget, mobile application and dashboards give brokers and agents the control to interact with buyers and sellers in a transparent sales environment for a more efficient and paperless transaction. ShelterZoom recently emerged as the winner of the 2018 SIIA CODiE Best Emerging Technology Award, which recognizes companies that are “the most innovative, high-impact products in the market,” with the power to “transform the future of how we do business.” A market leader in blockchain, ShelterZoom’s next-generation deal, contract and transaction management platform and marketplace are bringing unprecedented innovation, transparency, efficiency, security and profitability to its customers across industries. We sat down with CEO Chao Cheng-Shorland and President Allen Alishahi to discuss the company and its mission.
What is the genesis of ShelterZoom? What did you feel the real estate industry was lacking that inspired the birth of this digital contract platform?
When we first started implementing Offer Now and Rent Now, we found that there is a culture of not sharing data in the real estate industry. Service providers are not willing to let brokers and agents have data. Data acquisition is expensive. Sometimes real estate brokers have to pay for the data that belongs to themselves. Because of these obstacles, we decided to introduce a link strategy to overcome those hurdles. The Offer Now/Rent Now link strategy would allow users to share property links everywhere—those links needed to have a web representation for smart contracts so that interested buyers and renters could make instant offers.
The entire team did some soul searching to think about how we could make a breakthrough. During this process, we reconfirmed that the entirety of the market focuses on listed property, which typically represent only 2% of the overall available real estate market; leaving the other 98% of the market untouched. We started thinking about that 98% and what would happen if a buyer made an offer on a property that wasn’t for sale at a higher price in order to tempt the property owner to sell. Would the property owner say no? What if a property owner wanted to secretly sell a property, or was at least willing to entertain an offer confidentially? What if the real estate industry finally reversed itself to become buyer-driven instead of seller-centric?This method of thinking influenced our drive to enable digitized property purchases and rentals for every listed and unlisted property with various buying and selling methods, allowing any party to initiate a deal.
If our platform could do deals and contracts for the entire real estate market, what about all other industries? Every industry more or less requires contracts. Contracts are a fundamental element of human life and business dealings. After two months, our chief architect, Dimitry Goroshevsky, came back with a whitepaper on tokenized contracts. We were all very excited and saw the huge potential to make it work. Because of its significance, Allen named it Mithra Contract, as Mithra was the god of contracts. Our next-generation, industry-agnostic deal, contract and transaction management platform was born.
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing this project into fruition?
The real challenge behind every innovation isn’t about how to make people understand the technology, but how to make people understand the value of what the innovation offers, and what the true differentiators are. In our case, the crux of the matter is letting people discern why our full-digital contract is more efficient and convenient than the regular paper-digital contract, and why it’s so revolutionary. For example, a tokenized digital contract brings benefits such as executability, immutability, transparency, efficiency and transferability which are absent in a paper-digital contract.
Another tremendous value of our innovation is a GitHub-like contract term editing function for legal professionals to put materials in our platform, making it accessible to everyone. With this feature, contractual parties can see and analyze each contract term — its real use, its history, rating etc. As far as we know, this has never been done before.
Innovations that are totally new to the market can be difficult to communicate. But, we can overcome the challenge by educating the market on the true difference between our platform and others, and let people understand the tremendous value that our platform offers.
How does ShelterZoom account for the increased demand for cybersecurity and make sure its clients’ digital information is protected?
We use decentralized smart contracts to ensure user and client data are protected. This level of security gives each party within a transaction the assurance that their contracts and agreements are secure and tamper-proof. Our Ethereum-based smart contract technology creates trust in information that is maintained by a network of interested parties, and includes a permanent, tamper-proof record of each activity and offer along with encrypted signatures.
How accessible/user-friendly is the contract and management platform?
We put a great emphasis on user experience. The more user-friendly an application is, the more likely people will adopt it. Our UX/UI architect, a multiple app Hall of Fame recipient, has done a fantastic job to bring such an innovation to life.
Our platform can be easily accessed by every party involved in a transaction. The flexibility of our platform brings the potential to support deal negotiations, legal contracts and transactions for all industries.
There are some very cool and unique features, e.g., global template and contract search; multiple ways of joining a contract; and a Google docs-like, real-time deal and contract negotiation feature, but with the collaboration done on decentralized copies in secure tokens. So it’s all about user experience and keeping the technology solution in the background.
How do you anticipate blockchain technology changing the real estate industry in coming years?
Blockchain’s primary effect will be on the business model, as it radiates new capabilities to every subset of the industry by streamlining negotiations, transactions, agreements and deals, thereby making them more transparent, secure and efficient. It will also help to better standardize and scale online deals and transactions.