Linda Yacoub of Fresno partnered with real estate coach Jared James to launchy FyrstUp. Photo contributed

published on September 21, 2023 - 2:50 PM
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When Bitwise Industries furloughed its entire workforce at the end of May, Bitwise portfolio companies were also instantly severed, in some cases leaving years of work to wither away in the shell of one of Fresno’s most disappointing business endeavors.

Bitwise employees and apprentices were uplifted by the community through job fairs, public outreach and donations.

Lumped in, however, are a number of Bitwise portfolio companies, many of which saw top-level executives and company founders left holding the reins of a dead horse. Where they had previously sought leadership, there was a void.

One such company, Listing Alert, has seen its rebirth under a new name — FyrstUp — and may create opportunities for expansion and accessibility that it never could have achieved under the Bitwise portfolio model.


Bitwise, a timeline

Linda Yacoub, former CEO of Bitwise portfolio company Listing Alert, joined the company in 2020 after spending time with the Home Services of America-affiliated Fresno office and working for nearly 10 years as a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) executive.

During her time with Listing Alert, Yacoub grew close with Bitwise co-founder Irma Olguin Jr., to whom she reported directly, sharing numbers and company roadmaps.

When it came to development and business operations, Bitwise was mostly hands-off.

“Although I was close to Irma…I was so far away because she really allowed Listing Alert to run completely as a portfolio company,” Yacoub said.

On May 30, a company-wide Bitwise email notified all employees of the immediate furlough. Around that time, Yacoub took part in an employee video conference to hear the bad news.

“When it happened, it was maybe, at most, a six-minute meeting,” she said. “My heart just broke immediately for my team.”

Yacoub said that her team of around 18, many of whom looked up to Yacoub as a leader, questioned whether or not she knew what had happened.

Following the furlough, Yacoub asked Bitwise Interim President Ollen Douglass if there was any way Listing Alert could remain afloat due to its service across the country.

Yacoub was denied this request.

“He made it very clear and evident that there was no longer any opportunity to sustain the company,” she said. “[He] pretty much just asked me to not do any work — don’t talk to the clients, don’t communicate with them. Leave it alone, and that’s it.”

Yacoub was torn at this directive, having worked with multiple clients during Listing Alert’s time.

“It’s a long-term relationship,” she said.

“I knew right then and there that the only other way for this to succeed and my clients not to feel the impact was for me to create something that I could control that is even better,” Yacoub added.

After realizing that Listing Alert’s clientele was about to go without any direction or communication, Yacoub decided to launch FyrstUp.


For agents

The FyrstUp app facilitates in-brokerage communication on pre-market housing inventory. Image contributed


Yacoub said that the concept of FyrstUp is very simple.

“It’s a virtual whiteboard,” she said. “That’s all it is. So, it’s taking that and putting it into an app to display to agents.”

The former Bitwise model kept development of portfolio companies in-house, but with the freedom to expand independently, Yacoub opted to expand on the idea of Sandra Wilkinson, founder of Listing Alert, and go outside the area to develop the app with a new team of developers.

Yacoub offered development roles first to former Bitwise employees, but many potential developers opted to seek full-time work as opposed to contract employment.

To launch FyrstUp, Yacoub partnered with Jared James, an East Coast real estate coach with multiple portfolio companies and years of experience in the industry.

Yacoub said that between her experience with Listing Alert, and James’ experience in the real estate industry, Fyrstup is the first of its kind in the real estate sector, offering brokers the opportunity to view real-time listings in one app.

“Having First Step has really been a blessing to a lot of brokers,” Yacoub said, in particular in getting a feeling of what’s happening at the office, as well as cultivating more communication and collaboration between brokers and their office.

“It has been huge.”


Rule anxiety

Prior to the advent of Listing Alert and now FyrstUp, real estate brokers had shied away from developing an app that could showcase pre-market inventory within a brokerage largely due to uncertainty of the rules and regulations that dictate industry practices.

“Everyone’s terrified,” she said. “We have a rule and if you cross this line, your stocks will decline.”

Yacoub said that due to rules, industry terms such as “coming soon,” “pre-market listings,” and “double-ended deals” are terms that have become less frequently used due to the concerns.

Double-ended deals are when an agent represents both buyer and seller in the same transaction.

With the combined knowledge of Yacoub and James, FyrstUp is able to bring the product to the industry for the very first time, according to Yacoub.

“Because of my background, I have been able to not only show the product and demo the product, but also educate people,” she said. “I take it a little further than a demo and a sale. It’s truly a relationship and it’s truly an opportunity for me to teach them and coach them on policies as well as help them grow their market share.”

Yacoub said that thanks to her experience watching the launch of Listing Alert and the bicoastal development team, FyrstUp was able to be up and running in just a nine-week period.

“I had the advantage of watching Listing Alert start from literally nothing,” she said. “I knew the pitfalls. I knew what didn’t work.”

That information, paired with Yacoub’s background in MLS and James’ knowledge and background helped her develop the new FyrstUp app into what she believes is an improved framework from the foundation Listing Alert was built on.

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