A local tech startup is partnering with real estate giant Re/Max to figure out how to use blockchain technology for buying and selling property in Mexico.
The startup, once called XY Findables but now going by XYO Network, specializes in grabbing location data and storing it on the blockchain. The company said Re/Max is brainstorming several applications for the technology, including how to build an unhackable online land registry that would allow buyers, sellers, brokers and other agents to see who owns what in Mexico — and review details about each parcel of land.
XYO said their first project with Re/Max is tying location coordinates to unique digital tokens that represent land parcels in Mexico. As the property changes owners, so will the token — and so begins a secure history of land records over time. The idea is to provide a secure, transparent and permanent source of land ownership data for all real estate parties, cutting down on transaction fraud and boosting the efficiency of the buying and selling process.
Real estate in Mexico is, for the most part, private property, but it can get confusing for buyers and sellers when buying property outside of urban areas because there are large swaths of communal land called ejidos that have a special property regime and cannot just simply be bought and sold.
“There are issues with land registries throughout Mexico and the information they have on record,” said Jose Larroque, partner at Baker & McKenzie Abogados, a law firm in Mexico City. “For the most part, they work well and many of them are already digitalized, but there are still issues that arise because you find duplicated titles to properties, or properties that are recorded, but still subject to ejido or communal titles. A ledger technology like blockchain would help fix this.”
Although still novel in the U.S., building a land registry on the blockchain isn’t a new idea. Sweden has been testing the concept for the past two years, and announced in March that it had completed its first property transaction via blockchain.
“In real estate, it goes without saying that location is everything, and we see location coupled with the latest blockchain technology as major areas of opportunity for our entire industry,” said Sergio Felgueres, chief operating officer of Re/Max Mexico. “The use cases and possibilities in our initial discussions with XYO were intriguing, and we very much look forward to building out the deployment and deepening our relationship with the company.”
For those who follow local tech startups, XY Findables might sound familiar. The company, founded in 2012, was best known for making little Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices customers can attach to keys or other items to keep tabs on them. But as the location tracker space got crowded, XY Findables started shifting gears toward building location-based blockchain technology, rebranding as XYO Network. It should be noted, however, that the location tracker business is still alive and well, earning sales revenue of $1.4 million in the first half of 2018. But the company is now focusing most of its attention on its blockchain business, which can verify location data through multiple connected devices rather than just a single GPS unit, said co-founder Markus Levin.
“In the world of tomorrow, you’ll have more information — automated deliveries, self-driving cars, smart cities, drones — all these things rely on location data being more certain,” Levin said.
Earlier this year, the company raised $13 million through an initial coin offering, the cryptocurrency world’s rough equivalent to an IPO, using the funds to expand its team from 12 to 70 in a matter of months. The company’s Little Italy headquarters is a honeycomb of every-expanding office space, with engineers and other staffers grouped in pods spanning several floors.
The company is exploring many applications for its location-based blockchain technology, including partnering with package delivery companies to better track shipments, and teaming up with large review websites to guarantee legitimacy of ratings.
XYO Network is still hiring for at least 17 positions, including several software engineer roles.