Breaking Monopolies, Modernizing Industries: Digital Abstract & Title

June 19, 2014 – Canadian, TX – When you think of a start-up headed by two young guys who connected at a Texas A&M tailgate, title insurance and abstracts catering to the oil and gas industry don’t leap to mind.

And you certainly don’t imagine millions of dollars being funneled into small towns in the northern Texas Panhandle. But that’s the story of Digital Abstract & Title (DAT).
Digital Abstract took on the daunting process of digitizing every single piece of paper in four courthouses: Hemphill, Roberts, Lipscomb and Ochiltree, and it’s the only licensed title insurance company in the Texas Panhandle in at least three counties. They’re just getting warmed up: by the end of the fall, several more counties will be digitized.

Three months after launch, Digital Abstract has more than half the title business in four counties. They are busy enough that they have hired four more employees for the Canadian office and another in Perryton.

The Backstory
Matt Bartosiewicz connected with Nic Franklin, both attorneys with ties to the Texas Panhandle, at a tailgate in January 2013. The two talked business over beer and brats as Johnny Football set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total yards against Oklahoma University.

Franklin ran a title and abstract company before and was itching to get involved in something tech-forward in that space. Bartosiewicz rallied a group of businessmen back home who had been talking about opening a title company for years. This is the classic tale of a group of ambitious entrepreneurs and investors seeing a ripe market being underserved by a cluster of nearby monopolies…and succeeding.

Solving the Problem
In the five counties near DAT, for almost one hundred years, there were just four title plants. In 2014, Digital Abstract & Title changed all that.

In the Texas mineral rights business, landmen need to get a confirmed chain of ownership, and those records are kept in filing cabinets and old, poorly-preserved books that are getting worn with age and losing information every day.

“When I did land deals in nearby towns, other companies would present land titles and oil and gas-related abstracts within days instead of weeks or even – and I’m being serious – months,” said Bartosiewicz. “The difference was so dramatic, it was clear that there must be technology to improve this process.”

The biggest cost – and the big obstacle to modernizing land title records – is scanning and indexing all the records, going back to sovereignty. D.A.T. brought on a firm with 15 years of experience building digital land databases – especially for oil and gas counties – and had a team of 20 working for 9 months.

Entirely Digital Service at The Same Price
The good news for customers: title insurance premiums are regulated by the state, so after spending millions to provide a modern, streamlined experience, D.A.T. can still only charge the same amount as its competitors. Everyone will compete on speed, customer service, and reliability.

Although abstract pricing isn’t controlled, D.A.T. is going to be very competitive on cost, but with a significant speed advantage. “We’ve invested so much into indexing, software, and hiring enough staff to close multiple deals per day, every day, which wasn’t possible before,” said Franklin. “Every sign points to success. All we hear from landmen, bankers and realtors is that they’re so happy we opened up shop. They just wish we got here 20 years ago.”