This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Real Estate series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and real estate.
In this interview we speak with Ali Parandeh Zandpour, Founder of Urbytus, to understand how his company is using blockchain to transform the real estate business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind Urbytus? Why and how did you begin?
AP: Urbytus is a product developed from a direct need. Several years ago I found myself elected as the president of my Home Owners Association (HOA) or Community as they call it in Spain. I needed to discuss many things with the owners, keep them informed, get their opinion and also share documents with them. Facebook was in its early years and none of the other platforms were really adequate for the purpose of running an HOA. So I set about creating our own. First a static website, then a password protected website and soon it became a fully-fledged two way communication system, with all the functionalities that an HOA required. As I developed the service more and more of my friends who were presidents or involved in communities asked to use the same system and as such a new product was born. We built a team around it, gave it a name and before you know we had some 800 HOAs using the service.
2. Please describe your use case and how Urbytus uses blockchain:
AP: It is important to mention that we are still in the process of some planning and testing. We have identified numerous uses as we shall describe below however we are working on finding the best way to implement and some other aspects that need authorization before we start.
A) Verified notifications: We have identified that verifying user activity, receipt of certain legal documentations and notifications is one that many HOAs still struggle with and is one that has not been fully resolved. We know that we can use blockchain to prove sending, delivery and some other aspects of evening user login and message view. Cost however is of importance and data security is the next issue that we need to tackle in this part of the development.
B) Voting: We are aware that some companies have already developed many voting applications using blockchain and we also know of one that has done something for HOA as well. Voting is of course one major part of having your say on how things are run and voting all levels of society are always the part that are questioned by most. In HOA voting rights have certain conditions and additional parts to them. Mainly the variation in voting rights, depending on the owners’ credit/debit status and additionally, the amount of voting rights based on coefficient ownership or just a number of properties owned, relevant to total. Other factors may also be involved. We are currently working on making the system flexible enough for smart contracts to handle these criterias.
C) Accounting: HOAs are generally known for their problems with budgets and the funds that many times disappear. We are aware of that blockchain and cryptocurrency can help but there are many issues that need to be taken into consideration and this part of the program is one that probably will need much more time for developing and rolling out. We have been in general very excited about being able to use smart contracts to control the process of payment and we have worked on an incentivization idea that is close to the heart of blockchain development as well. The video below explains best how you can incentivise people to work together in an HOA and control the funds for the smart contract to work and also for all HOA members to benefit from the community.
4. What other blockchain use cases in real estate are you excited about?
AP: We have seen over the number of years thousands of issues with paperwork of the sell / purchase process. We can see many companies working on these issues from being able to make payments in cryptocurrency, to legalization of the purchase process and the storing of the documents. This is an absolutely amazing era for this part of the property industry which has lagged behind the technology. We personally believe that it will create better transparency and reduce fraudulent sales and even money laundering.
5. Where will Urbytus be in 5 years?
AP: We have been evolving in the past years. We started off as a communication and transparency platform and we still remain a dedicated communication platform for HOAs. We do however see us moving more towards completing the full HOA requirement and providing a complete accounting package as well as the communication part. Most HOA management companies spend more than 50% of their time with routine accounting tasks and this part of the system is badly designed resulting in huge time loss / use by these companies and therefore reducing their efficiency in providing a proper service to HOAs. Streamlining the accounting process and platform, direct debits and payment processing should reduce the time spent on these activities and allow these companies to dedicate more time to their clients.