eXp Realty, one of the world’s fastest growing and most successful real estate companies, has become famous for not investing in any actual real-estate, opting instead for virtual reality offices that allow its agents and brokers to interact and socialize from anywhere around the globe.
Glenn Sanford, eXp Realty’s founder and CEO, founded the company a decade ago, soon after the real estate market collapse of 2007. He couldn’t afford to buy or rent office space, and figured that focusing on a system that allowed his team to work remotely would help the company avert disaster, should another real-estate crisis occur in the future. So eXp Realty relied on services like Google Docs and spreadsheets, project management solutions like Trello, and communications app Slack to help its workforce work together without actually sharing the same space. But three years ago, the company took this remote collaboration system to a whole new level, by building a campus complete with offices, meeting rooms, auditoriums, lounges and more, in virtual reality.
Now, I do take issue with calling the VirBELA platform “virtual reality”. You can’t actually visit the eXp virtual offices in a VR headset, which is my definition of social VR. I would call VirBELA, like Second Life, a “virtual world” rather than “virtual reality”.
Apart from a small leased space in Bellingham, Washington, that acts as a headquarters but is actually just a storage space full of file cabinets, and a few empty locations in places where physical addresses are mandated by law, eXp Realty only exists in the virtual world. The real irony is that the whole purpose of the company is to help people buy and sell real world properties, like houses and office buildings.
“The virtual campus is a big part of our growth engine. If we were to have the constraints of physical offices, the growth we’ve had simply wouldn’t be possible,” Scott Petronis, chief technology officer of eXp Realty, told Singularity Hub.
This is quite the marketing coup for VirBELA, which is a much smaller platform than Second Life. Historically, Linden Lab has found it difficult to attract and retain real-life business clients in Second Life. I’m sure that they’re not too happy that they missed out on providing virtual world services to a big, profitable company like eXp Realty.