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Is There Room for a “Relocation” App? The Thinking Behind a Potential Pivot of Oh Hey World to Relocation

Jim Duncan welcome kitIf you follow this blog regularly, you undoubtedly have noticed I’ve written about relocation several times over the past few months. The reason behind that is because we’ve been exploring a “pivot” (a startup term for when you shift a company/product in a different direction) for Oh Hey World that would mean it would be positioned as a relocation product rather than a travel product. Since I believe execution, and not ideas, are what make companies…I’ll share the entire thinking behind the potential pivot. If someone else builds this offering first & it works, so be it.

Side note 1: To get the most out of this article, I’d recommend you sign into Oh Hey World prior to reading the rest of the article so that you know what the current product offering is. You can use this link: (make sure to add “Geek Estate” as an interest on your profile so you appear in this list of fellow community members).

Side note 2: For the uber techies reading, this article should give you some insight into how web products are designed and built from the early stages. This idea is in the customer validation stage right now.

Here is my thinking behind the potential pivot to relocation (note we have NOT decided to go this route yet – and hence the reason we are asking for feedback).

What you want to figure out about a given location in a travel scenario is exactly the same as what you want to figure out when you are actually moving to a new location. People you know to get advice from. Communities to connect with, and meetups to attend. Things to do. Places to stay. Like-minded people to hang out with once you are there (for some traveler segments). You also want to notify your network that you’re now in a new location (which is the very first thing we built late last year).

In a moving scenario, you have extended time period to figure all that out since you are going to spend a considerable amount of time in that next city, rather than just a few days or weeks if in a travel scenario — but they are all still needs that need to be met.

This would be a paid app, or a free app with a requirement for a real estate agent to pay a fee in order to get branding in front of their clients within the app.

Over the past few months, I’ve talked to a number of people who do significant relocation business, or have in the past, to better understand the market.


  • Much of the business is dictated by ancient corporate contracts (10+ years old) between firms that relocate employees and real estate brokerages.
  • Many of those contracts pass extremely high percentages of the commission (35-40%) back to the company.
  • Employees that move don’t know that they are going to get matched with a specific agent through their employer as a requirement to having the costs of relocation reimbursed.

The pain points:

  • Zero visibility into what your relocation clients/leads are looking at. You email a “lead” back, and have no idea what, if anything, they looked at unless they email you back and tell you.
  • No way to cultivate relocation leads in a smart way for the 1-2 years of research they are doing prior to actually moving.
  • Matching a relocation client with an agent that is uniquely positioned to help that particular client — doesn’t happen.

The potential consumer wins:

  • CHOICE of an agent in the process
  • Having one place to find everything related to their relocation rather than having to dig through their inbox every time they want to find that email from their agent they received 2-3 weeks ago.
  • A better way to digest points of interest (some brokers and agents produce Google Maps that highlight everything they recommend to do in the area)

Below, I’ve linked to an idea for an app that I’ve prototyped using (a really cool rapid prototyping product for mobile devices), targeted at the relocation scenario. The goal of the app is to give people moving the ability to find people they know living near the city they’re moving to – and ask them questions in a trusted environment. I think of it as “Your trusted relocation companion”, that contains a feed of activity and information related to your move from the people you trust. For the link below, use a desktop or iPhone5. Think conceptual, not specifics of the UI/UX/Design.

Note: The agent/broker version of the app would provide insight into what your clients had looked at, last login date & how often they logged in.

Update 2/14/2014: I took the prototype down, but I’ve exported the assets for anyone who wishes to look at them at a future date:

Here are the pros and cons of taking a pivot to relocation, as I see it…


  • I have extensive contacts in the real estate vertical, so getting early usage would be less of a challenge than in the travel vertical where I have a more limited network.
  • Immediate revenue since this would be a paid app, or subscription product for agents/brokers.
  • Those relocating would bring their friends in a given city into the experience by prompting them to answer questions inside the app.
  • Would utilize all the underlying technology we’ve already built.


  • Relocating is not a regular occurrence that people will use everyday (I believe this is largely the reason why BlockAvenue pivoted to CO Everywhere).
  • To gain consumer adoption, would require agents and brokers invite them into the experience.
  • Not a significant viral user growth strategy that would grow quickly.

GREAT feedback, is the lifeblood of every early stage company. We cherish it. And, the good ones, act on it. If you’re still reading, we’d love whatever feedback you can offer – either in the comments or via email (drew at ohheyworld). If you think it’s the stupidest idea you’ve ever heard, we want to hear that too. Some questions:

  • What percent of your business is relocations?
  • What is your biggest pain point when dealing with existing relocation clients, or potential clients?
  • What takes considerable time, that shouldn’t?
  • What tasks do you find yourself doing over and over?
  • What types of questions do you repeatedly answer?
  • Is there an opportunity for an app that you distribute to your clients to help make their move better?

[Update 10/24/2013: We’ve decided against going down this relocation path]

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • JimWhatley

    I have signed up for Oh Hey World, It is good idea and i like the way it works but i don’t travel. Not sure it would work as a relocation tool for agents. How does it get me more business? Relocaters might use it for a short period of time but not on a regular bases that would make me want to pay for branding.

    The Idea is to keep top of mind when thinking of real estate. When you figure that one out, cost is not as much as a concern then ROI.

    • Thanks for the feedback Jim.

      A drip campaign, specific to your interest/moving profile for the 1-2 years prior to a move was brought up in one of my discussions as an opportunity.

  • deidrew

    I like this idea, pivoting from a crowded market to a place where there is a clearer need. You could sell leads but I think they’d be long-tail leads and not every agent wants those or sees that value in cultivating a client that isn’t looking immediately.

    I think there’s a need for some way to make relocation feel less disjointed. Corporate relocation is just one of the ways/reasons people move. Not everyone has that support. I think people do a lot of research online and if you could partner with one of the hyperlocal sites like Neighborland (and something like Updater) as well as with local and national retailers maybe there would be a revenue stream there as far as creating a whole relocation system. People are always searching for the one-click solution. Breaking it down into simple steps and options with timelines (maybe similar to what Doorsteps is doing) would be one way to go.

    The question is making money. After watching Patch sputter and fail I’m not sure anyone has solved the question of profiting off of community news/services online. Most of the local/exploration startups I’m seeing don’t have a revenue model in place so I think it’s important to nail that down before you start picking up speed.

    • “The question is making money.”

      Whether the product is an app or a subscription to some sort of website that does a, b, and c…IF there is not a product offering that agents/brokers will pay for — then this isn’t worth (us) building it. If someone wants to throw some funding our way to go execute on a grand relocation vision, I’d love to listen because I do think there is an opportunity to own that space. But we don’t have the money or resources to go down this path unless we have paying customers lined up for the product we plan to build.

  • Drew and I had a conversation about this, so I won’t rehash or taint others’ comments with that, but I know that corporate relocation is a racket. There are a lot of pain points.

    Maybe the reason it’s still as bad as it is, is that the infrequency of the occurrence requires a massive company with a wide spread to keep enough transactions coming through. Small innovative companies have a hard time making the corporate connections, and building the necessary business base to survive in such an irregular market.

    There is definitely a lot of money and room for improvement. It’s just surviving the consumer adoption phase that concerns me.

    • I echo your sentiments, as I mentioned in person last week. I really do think someone could pull this off — but funding to go after something big with a decent sized team for X amount of time is part of that.

  • Joe Dahleen

    I really like the idea. Having relocated early in my career before having a family I relocated at least 6 or 8 different cities. Always the guinea pig opening new markets where others were scared to go. But as I remember it was really a pain in the butt.
    So this idea is a good one because you really only get like one paid trip to go hunt out a place to live while you were trying to pull off two jobs at once. The one you have and the new adventure that you will be taking on. So there really is not a lot of time on the ground – similar to take a trip. Only so much time to explore.
    You have a big experience on locations and with all of your early days hunting out each MSA with Zillow. Now seeing what CO Everywhere is trying to do socially in certain locations, you could carve out a unique niche that produces a lot of revenue from referrals on the Real Estate side. I also see big partnership with large providers for rentals but also with other software providers like RealPage, Yardley or even WorkDay and get upstream before they begin the relo process.

    I will think about it for you and post again.

  • Ryan Gervais

    I have some pretty strong opinions on this so I will try to get as much across as possible. The reason I signed up for your OHW site was actually in the hopes of using it for my relocation clients. I needed a page to send my out of town buyers to that has restaurant recommendations, insider tips, maps to specific areas off the beaten path. I found your site a bit too linear to travel and it didn’t present the information in an easy enough way so I moved on.

    I think your new idea has a market but you are going about it in the wrong way. You are thinking too linear again. You are trying to fit your product into an unbreakable mold by doing it as an app that the user cannot really customize to fit their needs.

    I believe the relocation idea could be sold as a software as a service or on an elusive basis to agents all across the world who want to protect their city and claim this service as there own. You need to provide an SEO friendly template to get agents to input their own cities content. Allowing your customers pay you and do their own content is a way better long term business model. I could envision myself personally recommending, 3 restaurants, different tourist attractions, beaches, things to do, night life, trades to fix their houses, etc hand picked by myself and branded that way. You would be creating basically a city guide with a laser focus to relocation clients which could be stumbled upon by the general public year round with huge SEO value. Add in your necessary lead generation grabs and you have a very saleable product to realtors everywhere.

    I have been too busy to develop a wordpress site around this idea. I did try a quick run at it using WP but got frustrated as it wasn’t the easiest of tasks (i can send you the url).

    Relocation SEO terms are not very competitive and I think you could carve out a lot of traffic across many cities that will gain traction over time.

    Side note: you wont be able to break the 10+ year relationships and 35% referral fees with any app or product. Build something that gives a smart agent using your system a chance at getting the 65% of the commission by proving our worth to the potential incoming client that is usually already tied to one particular company the relocation company tries to push the client to.

    I have thought about this idea in even more detail than this but thought I would cut it short just as its a comment and you might hate the overall idea!

    Good luck with your pivot and I think you are onto something in a roundabout way!

    • I think you are right – the brand would need a dedicated focus of relocation for it to work. That’s kinda what I was getting at with this post…the question of “should we reposition Oh Hey World as a relocation offering” (and ditch all the travel angles/messaging/etc)?

      To make that work, we’d need to build a compelling offering to movers – and find them. No agent is going to pay us to put up content without an audience to look at it. If that was the case, sign me up for that business model & I’ll create those sites all day… 🙂

      Zillow could do this, because they have the community and reach to push it to…without a decent chunk of capital to invest in this, I don’t think it’s a viable offering that can be bootstrapped.

      I’d love to hear any additional thoughts you have. You can email me if you want, or leave more here.

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