CINCINNATI - Austin Allison has big dreams for his rapidly growing software business: To create the Facebook for the way people work.
And the 27-year-old University of Cincinnati graduate may well be on his way. His company, Dotloop Inc., recently expanded its Cincinnati office in advance of its biggest new product launch since the company’s 2008 inception. Dotloop has also tripled its workforce in the last year.
Allison's approach may ultimately be a model for local startups to emulate as Cincinnati’s business community uses a $50 million investment pool at Cintrifuse to attract out of town venture capital firms to engage with local entrepreneurs. Dotloop raised $7 million from Menlo Park, Calif. –based Trinity Ventures last May, gaining access to Silicon Valley software developers while keeping the bulk of the enterprise in Cincinnati.
Dotloop allows real estate professionals to revise and sign contracts in a virtual environment, saving time and mone. It will debut a new mobile platform this month making it easier for realtors to use. In the last year, Dotloop has grown to 120 employees, including 105 at Dotloop’s recently expanded offices at Longworth Hall. “The company is growing quite nicely,” Allison said. “We think that we can reinvent the way that people work for the better. It could create thousands of jobs in this region over the course of the next couple of years, certainly hundreds.”
Silicon Valley Meet Cincinnati
Noel Fenton, general partner in Trinity Ventures, whose portfolio has included home run investments in Starbucks, P.F. Chang’s and LoopNet, a commercial real estate listing service that sold in 2012 for $860 million, said marrying the best of Silicon Valley and talent elsewhere is good business.
“We think a mixture of Silicon Valley fairy dust and the talent that exists in cities outside of Silicon Valley is a very good mixture,” he said.
“There are some things Silicon Valley has that are not replicated anywhere else (including) state of the art software developers, user interface designers,” Fenton said. “On the other hand, the down side to Silicon Valley is that it’s incredibly expensive and the talent is hard to find. We think it’s great that the company can have the bulk of its people in Cincinnati, where the cost of living is more attractive and the availability of talent is better.”
'Facebook for the Way People Work'
Dotloop was the brainchild of Allison, a University of Cincinnati graduate who became a realtor at the age of 18, and Matt Vorst, a local web developer.
They developed a document work-flow system that allowed Realtors to track and modify documents through the negotiating process. The idea is catching on.
Allison said 400,000 realtors now have paid subscriptions to Dotloop and 200,000 are using the system on a daily or weekly basis. Adding in buyers, sellers and real estate professionals connected to those agents, Allison estimates more than 10 million people have access to Dotloop for transactions.
Allison’s business plan is to convert a percentage of those users to premium access, with a host of features that include unlimited storage of documents and a dashboard for monitoring and managing transactions.
Currently, a single premium account costs a realtor $30 a month. An enterprise account, that allows access to multiple agents, runs $300 a month.
“Our goal is for Dotloop to be the way that people work together,” he said. “It’s Facebook for the way that people work.”
New Launch Will Accelerate Growth
Allison won’t say how much revenue the company generated in 2012, but he does say that it’s on pace to reach between $15 million and $20 million on a 12-month trailing basis by the end of this year. He thinks the company can hit $100 million in revenue in the next several years.
Fenton, his biggest investor, confirmed that the company is meeting its financial and engagement metrics.
“He’s a compelling young entrepreneur,” said Fenton. He’s wise and mature well beyond his years. There aren’t a lot of those guys out there.”
Allison, who spends more than half of his time at his downtown Cincinnati home and the other part in San Francisco near his offices there, is convinced that the new software launch will accelerate Dotloop’s growth by making the product easier to use on multiple platforms.
“Now, people can log on and use it without training,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case in the past.”
Expansion Beyond Real Estate?
New software enables the Dotloop system to be used on iPad and mobile phones. It expands the kinds of documents that can be processed by the system.
Ultimately, that could lead to an expansion beyond real estate, although Allison said such a move is 12 to 24 months away.
“It fundamentally reinvents and improves the loop, making it more flexible,” he said. “You’re no longer just limited to listing agreements or purchase contracts. I mean, you could add employment agreements to the loop.”
Both Allison and Fenton said their long-term goal is to take the company public at some
point in the future, at which point employees would be able to exercise options in the company. Allison wouldn’t be specific about the percentage of ownership that will be available to employees, but he said the amount is “significant” and “above market for companies at our stage.”
Fenton agreed that an IPO is the goal for Dotloop, but he wouldn’t say when that might happen.
“Our objective is not to exit,” he said. “Our objective is to build a great company.”