The fast-growing startup is out to improve the security and consumer experience in real estate transactions
Wire fraud is unfortunately a very common occurrence in real estate. Hackers prey on home buyers, typically by finding an opening into a title company or realty agent’s email account, and assuming their identity. When a settlement is scheduled to close, they pose as the title or escrow agent and instruct the home buyer to wire the funds needed to close, and then withdraw the money and vanish. SafeChain in Columbus is working to reduce instances of fraud in real estate transactions, currently a $1 billion problem in the United States.
“We’re bringing more safety and efficiency to the real estate industry to better meet the needs of today’s realtors, title companies and the consumers they serve,” said Chris Sauerzopf, co-founder and CRO of SafeChain. “I come from the real estate title industry, and as a title owner I was always battling with whether I needed to increase revenues or decrease expenses. I was constantly looking for ways to increase title closing efficiency while maintaining safety, which I discovered, though meeting Tony Franco, could be possible using Blockchain technology.”
Blockchain refers to the continuously growing list of digitized records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. By encoding them with only a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data, they’re more resistant to modification. This makes them much more secure than paper records or traditional digital transfers. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which rely on the technology for transfers, have made Blockchain technology popular.
SafeChain’s first product, SafeWire, targets real estate title insurers. The software is designed to prevent hackers from intercepting bank account numbers or other sensitive personal information shared during wire transfers in a property purchase or refinancing. Using a combination of identity verification and bank authentication technology, the Blockchain technology helps Title Agents eliminate the threat of wire fraud and keep their customers’ funds safe.
The young company has already received widespread support, completing two accelerator programs, Columbus Smart City Accelerator and Fintech71, an Ohio Third Frontier partner in Columbus. Investors across the nation are interested in their innovative technology as well, receiving support from NCT Ventures, Rev1 Ventures, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, among several others in Illinois, Washington, D.C., New York and California.
SafeChain’s long term goal is to become the Blockchain processing standard for all real estate transactions worldwide. For now, they’re happy to be grinding away, tackling big problems with a small staff in downtown Columbus.
“Columbus is a fantastic place to grow a business, especially in the financial space, with major banks and insurers in the area. But mostly, it’s a great place for diverse talent and support systems,” said Sauerzopf. “Our team, from the very beginning, has enjoyed the support of an entire community of startup enthusiasts who helped us validate our technology and realize this thing was the real deal. We love being here and are excited to grow the company into something great.”