Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Think Big Accelerator Spotlight: Parker Hills of Keyzio

Almost every entrepreneur will tell you it’s usually not the first venture that works out to be a success. And for Kansas City native and engineer Parker Hills, founder of Keyzio, this statement reigns true. His first venture into the startup world began a few years ago with a small company that developed and deployed algorithmic trading strategies in the US equities markets.  As Parker puts it, “We built a lot of really cool things and learned a ton.  But it got to a point where it wasn't profitable, so it was best to just shut it down.”

Parker Hills,  founder of Keyzio

But when one door closes, another door almost always opens.  And the idea of Parker’s current venture, Keyzio, sparked when he and his wife sold their house but couldn't find a new house that met their desires.

“We were looking in an in-demand area, but weren't finding anything available that met our specs and our budget, and the clock was ticking” says Parker of the problem he faced.  “We had heard stories of house hunters having success dropping letters or knocking on doors simply asking homeowners if they’d be interested in selling their home.  There is a world of hidden sellers out there, but they are tough to find.”

And that was the simple idea that Parker took to Startup Weekend in Kansas City

The initial design of Keyzio was to be able to push a button on your phone and let an owner, who isn't necessarily looking to sell at the time but is open to the idea, know you’re interested in purchasing their home.  Since the original idea, Keyzio has grown into a full-fledged business model that connects buyers, sellers, lenders, real estate agents, and other entities that encompass the real estate industry.

Due to his success at Kansas City Startup Weekend (Keyzio earned 2nd place) and the evolution of Keyzio, Parker decided to apply for the KC-based accelerator program run by Think Big Partners.  He was accepted into the first class. 

“I had met Herb (founding partner of Think Big Partners) in the past and had been following Think Big’s growth,” explains Parker. “When I saw the announcement and launch of the accelerator, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to stop toying around with the idea and see if it actually had legs.”

Currently, Keyzio’s website is live in public beta and its buyer-focused iPhone application just hit the app store (just search Keyzio in the app store).  Although the service is running in a minimal capacity, the startup is constantly iterating on the structure it already has in place.  One of the most interesting aspects of Keyzio is the feature that allows prospective buyers to send a personalized letter to a homeowner to express their interest in a particular home. The feature is currently being tested, but thus far, has yielded very positive results.

As for the future of Keyzio, Parker’s hopes to fulfill the vision of Keyzio’s tagline “Where every house is for sale”, where buyers can easily connect with the entire universe of potential sellers, and sellers can privately test the market before they are ready to publicly list their home.

Parker feels the Think Big Accelerator program has benefited him so far in his journey of building Keyzio.

“The first few weeks were definitely more intense than the last few weeks, but it has really kept us focused on short term priorities and customer validation,” he explains. “Time is extremely valuable right now.  There’s no reason to spend time on something that isn't absolutely critical to validating our business model or staying on schedule to launch early next year.”

Follow Keyzio! @KeyzioInc

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