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Jon Druse: ‘The tools Realtors have now are antiquated and clunky at best’

By January 19, 2015 One Comment

Job title: Senior developer, W&R Studios (maker of Cloud CMA and Cloud Streams)

Time at W&R Studios: Two years

What he does: I write software that makes Realtors look awesome for their clients.

Age: 30

Location: Huntington Beach, California

Social media: Twitter, LinkedIn

What do you do?

At W&R Studios, we make Web apps for Realtors. I mostly work with listing data, which can be, to put it lightly, a bit messy. Actually, it’s mostly a disaster when you look at the large scale. Writing software to make sense of more than 200 RETS-based feeds is a daunting task. (RETS stands for real estate transaction standards, a protocol designed to help unify the organization of real estate data.) So real estate is fun field to work in because I enjoy solving hard problems. Finding elegant solutions to difficult problems is what drives me. Oh … and lots of coffee. Tons of coffee.

I work mostly on our newest product, Cloud Streams. It’s a tool for getting alerts about changes in listings you or your clients are interested in. There are a lot of fun challenges when dealing with getting so much data throughout the day and processing it as fast as possible. I’m building a robust system to capture listing updates and deliver updates to “Streams” that match the criteria.

How’d you end up in real estate tech?

I never really set out to be in real estate. I’ve been coding for about a decade. The best part of being a developer is that the skills I have are useful in just about every industry. At the end of the day, I’m just manipulating data. When I came to interview at W&R Studios, I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of what they had going on. Cloud CMA was a hit, and in talking with Dan Woolley, I knew that there would be great things on the horizon. I’m so happy to have been here during the inception and launch of Cloud Streams. It’s been a really awesome project to work on with lots of fun and interesting challenges.

What aspects of real estate are you trying to make better?

The tools that Realtors have now are antiquated and clunky at best. At W&R Studios, our entire goal is to offer better, more efficient tools to Realtors to make them look awesome for their clients. One of the tools that Realtors use frequently is typically called a “client portal.” It’s a way for an agent to enter criteria and have those listings available for a client to view.

These tools are typically very difficult to use and quite ugly compared to Zillow and friends. With Cloud Streams, clients can also view listings with a better experience than what most MLSs offer. The other, more subtle aspect of the types of client portal tools that most MLSs offer is that clients are likely to continue using Zillow anyway … and possibly meet other agents willing to pay for the leads. We are passionate at W&R Studios about helping agents not only win business, but keep it.

What’s the favorite part of what you do?

My favorite part of being a developer at W&R Studios is how collaborative we are as a team. It’s common for everyone to participate in making decisions about product features and enhancements. Also, I really love writing code. I joke with my nontech friends about what a pain it is sometimes to always have computer code in my head, but I think of it as a blessing more often than a curse. Even around the office of developers, I’ve been called a total nerd. I guess I’m just always fascinated by what we’re able to do with code. It’s a rare mixture of creativity and rigid logical structure.

What products have you had a part in developing in the past?

I’ve been developing Web applications for about a decade now, and I’ve worked in lots of different industries, from social media to the information sector. My approach to writing software is usually the same no matter what I’m building. First you have to break problems down into the smallest chunks possible. This allows you to realize what’s not so important and lets you get to the next point. Don’t write anything you don’t have to. This means that I evaluate everything so it meets two simple criteria: Don’t code features that weren’t requested, and be sure that everything that is written increases revenue. Of course, these are rules and are broken at times, but I try to follow them and encourage everyone here to do the same.

What are you working on right now? What are the challenges?

As I mentioned before, I’m primarily working on Cloud Streams right now. The main challenge is figuring out a way to search listing data as fast as possible. We’ve built an entire system for pulling data and feeding it to a search engine for our products to use. The challenge is that we’re basically building a unified set of listing data. Anyone who’s worked with a RETS feed before knows how unruly the data can be. By creating our own standardized data format for listings, our products can be easily implemented in new markets much faster. It takes far longer to get the legal stuff figured out than to actually start pulling new data. I’m proud to have worked on something so big and cool; it’s been worth all the headaches and late nights.


Druse’s workspace.

Favorite Twitter account.

@numberphile. It’s also a YouTube channel about interesting math problems.

Favorite food?

I love Chinese food.

Favorite video game?


Favorite city?


Favorite band or singer?

Dream Theater.

What do you hate about technology?

I really want my car to drive itself already.

What is one thing you would like to fix about the real estate industry?

In a perfect world there would be only one MLS and everyone would agree on everything.

Do you think technology can change the industry?

I think technology absolutely will change the industry, if we’d let it.

In or out of real estate, is there one problem, large or small, that you would like to solve?

The health care industry is a mess. I would love to start a hospital that made things easier by using technology from the start.

What motivates you?

I really love writing software. Hard problems motivate me to find elegant solutions, and there’s really nothing better than being able to be inspired by what you do for a living.

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