Homesnap cuts deal for pro version of its app

Steve Case was walking around the SXSW conference in March of 2012 when he came upon a start-up run by some Washington area entrepreneurs.

Case’s Revolution Ventures is now the largest investor in District-based HomeSnap, the maker of a mobile app that allows users to find real estate data by taking photos of homes.

Homesnap, founded by locals Guy Wolcott and Steve Barnes, signed a deal last week that could be worth up to $15 million a year to provide 44,000 Washington area agents with customized residential sales information.

The new application, called Homesnap Pro, connects brokers with information on commissions, tours and real-time social-network-like access to customers, colleagues and employers.

The company made the deal with Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, which provides listing services to thousands of agents.


Capital Wheel Cabs. (Courtesy of Capital Wheel /Courtesy of Capital Wheel )

When Homesnap’s executives discovered the app was popular with real estate agents, “we started talking to those agents to understand what they wanted,” Barnes said. “And they wanted something way more powerful than was available to them. So we built Homesnap Pro.”

The consumer version uses GPS technology to provide characteristics on homes photographed on mobile devices, as well as whether or not the home is for sale.

A.H. Belo Ventures and a managing partner at JBG Cos. in Bethesda are also investors in Homesnap.

Wolcott, 42, grew up in Washington, attended the College of William & Mary, and lives in Bethesda. He founded several companies, including consumer software firm AbleSoft in 1991 at age 19.

Barnes, 47, grew up in Rockville, and earned undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University. He founded Flex Funding and co-founded ClosingQuotes.com, a pioneering online marketplace for real estate closings in the United States.

Name game

How about that perfect something for a wedding gift?

Washington entrepreneur Danielle Tate — founder of MissNowMrs.com — thinks she has it.

The local resident has a Web site that offers brides a way to change their name without going through government red tape and long hours in lines.

The Potomac resident has landed a deal with Rite Aid to sell MissNowMrs.com gift cards in all 4,600 Rite Aid stores. The $29.95 gift card effectively pays for the name change.

“Instead of giving a bride a cookbook, you are saving her 13 hours on her name change,” said Tate, 32. “And what’s more valuable than time for newlyweds?”

Tate started the company seven years ago after she spent three vacation days from work changing her own name from Rowlett to Tate.

“I was so frustrated by my own name change misadventure that I decided to found a service to help save other newlyweds from the same headaches.”

The company is successful. It grossed $300,000 the first year in 2007 and has grown 30 to 40 percent every year since.

Hundreds of thousands of women use MissNowMrs.com, which has made this site the most popular destination for brides-to-be for name changing.

Now if she could just do this with the Russian visa process.

A town with spice

Nando’s Peri-Peri is opening its 16th restaurant in the D.C. area May 21, in the old Armand’s pizza shop in Tenleytown. South Africa-based Nando’s, which has 1,100 stores in 24 countries, has its U.S. headquarters on 7th Street N.W. in the District, where it employs 12.

The company is known for its flame-grilled chicken, which is marinated for 24 hours. The old Armand’s shop is in a building dating back to 1927.

Burton Heiss, 44, the chief executive of Nando’s Peri-Peri in the United States, said one reason for the private company starting in Washington was the East Coast’s relative access to the company’s big markets in the United Kingdom and its native South Africa.

But it was also the curiosity factor that comes with serving an international city, Heiss said.

“We did feel that spicy food would do well,” he said of Washington. “It’s about diversity and travel. It makes it a more adventurous market. That tends to be good for a new concept, especially one serving spicy, Afro-Portuguese chicken.”

Heiss, who lives on Capitol Hill, said the company is evaluating several major metropolitan markets outside of Washington/Baltimore for their next move.

But he wouldn’t say which ones.

Ready to run

It’s time! Capital Wheel , developer Milt Peterson ’s Ferris wheel along the Potomac River at National Harbor, will open to the public May 23. The first-ride honors are to go to a group of more than 30 military families the night before. The 180-foot high ride has 42 closed, climate-controlled gondolas, each of which seat eight.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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