Meet Nickson, the furniture-as-a-service startup that Barack Obama’s ex-financial adviser just backed

Ever toured an apartment and fall in love with the model unit?

You’re not alone. Harvard Business School grad Cameron Johnson is a former institutional real estate investor and Greystar exec turned startup founder that realized that very often, “renters would try to rent the model apartment.”

This got him thinking. People would love to rent a model apartment in a building, and no one likes to move. This spelled opportunity in Johnson’s mind.

So in 2017, he came up with the idea of Nickson, a Dallas-based startup that fully furnishes apartments on demand.

Image Credits: CEO and founder Cameron Johnson / Nickson

“I thought ‘What if you gave people the ability to simply rent the model, or the ability to add everything in their space needs with a few clicks, similar to how a cable modem comes to your house ’ ” CEO Johnson said. “I wondered, ‘Why can’t we do that for everything else?’ ”

But Nickson doesn’t just provide furniture such as beds and sofas, it delivers all the essentials too — from extension cords to pots and pans to silverware to curtain rods. By partnering with a variety of retailers, the startup claims that it allows users “to make their new spaces move-in ready in as little as 3 hours.” 

Users take a style quiz and share apartment layout details. Nickson’s designers create an initial layout based on the dimensions of an apartment, desired functions (such as work from home) and the volume of furnishings based on a person’s lifestyle. Once the layout is complete, Nickson creates a custom design, including all furnishings and home goods. 

Upon signing up, users pay a one-time installation fee for the furniture-as-a-service offering, and then a monthly subscription charge for the duration of a lease — starting at $199 a month for a studio to $500 a month for a 3 bedroom apartment. The startup also offers concierge services such as a household supply starter kit and maid service, as an add-on to its flat monthly subscription.

Nickson is currently only live in the Dallas market, but plans to expand into other cities over the next 12 months, including expanding its beta tests in Austin and Houston. And it’s just raised a $12 million Series A to help it advance on that goal. 

A fund managed by Pendulum Opportunities LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pendulum Holdings LLC, led the Series A round, which also included participation from Motley Fool Ventures, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest and Backstage Capital. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global supply chain, leading to delivery delays for consumers. Nickson has purchased items over time that it stores as local inventory, making it even more attractive to renters who don’t want to deal with delays and hunting down furniture and essentials, Johnson said. The convenience Nickson offers led to its user base growing 700% in 2020 compared to the year prior, he added.

Robbie Robinson, co-founder and CEO of Pendulum, said his firm was drawn to invest in Nickson due to a combination of Johnson’s “vision, secular shifts toward renting and subscription consumption and the company’s disruptive business model.” (Robinson is President Barack Obama’s former financial adviser, and recently founded Pendulum to invest $250 million in founding startups of color).

Kabir Ahmed, vice president at Pendulum, added that he believes Nickson’s model is superior to the concept of renting one-off furniture pieces in that it offers an “end-to-end, turnkey solution.”

This seamless experience is highly differentiated and offers a compelling value proposition for the consumer,” he said.

Of course, Nickson is not the only company attempting to turn the stodgy furniture rental industry on its head. Other startups offering similar services as Nickson include Oliver Space, Fernish and The Landing.

But Nickson claims that it stands out from the competition in that it “takes care of everything” beyond furniture (including artwork and toilet wand brushes) and that it can curate space and bring it all in before a renter even shows up.

“No other competitor in this space offers this level of service, detail or turnaround,” Johnson says. “You can literally arrive at your new home with a suitcase and toothbrush, and it’s ready to ‘live in.’”

#apartment, #austin, #backstage-capital, #barack-obama, #cable-modem, #ceo, #dallas, #funding, #fundings-exits, #harvard-business-school, #houston, #motley-fool-ventures, #president, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #venture-capital, #vice-president

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Homebuying startup Flyhomes closes $150 million Series C

Amid a recent tear in residential real estate investment, venture capitalists are looking to get a piece of homebuying startup Flyhomes.

The five-year-old startup announced today that they’ve closed a $150 million Series C co-led by Norwest Venture Partners and Battery Ventures. Fifth Wall, Camber Creek, Balyasny Asset Management, Zillow’s Spencer Rascoff, and existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Canvas Partners also participated in the round. Norwest’s Lisa Wu and Battery’s Roger Lee are joining Flyhomes’ board as part of the deal.

The end-to-end residential real estate startup says they handle “every step of the homebuying process, from brokerage to mortgage,” building financial tools that customers need throughout the process. The company has now raised some $310 million in total.

The startup is well-positioned during a historic run-up of home prices in the US that has made deals more competitive than ever for prospective buyers. A recent report by Redfin notes that more than half of US homes are selling above their asking price right now, up from 1 in 4 a year ago. A Zillow report notes that nearly half of US homes are selling within one week of going on the market.

Flyhomes’s Cash Offer lending product allows consumers purchasing homes to make more attractive all-cash offers to sellers, with the company noting that even if a buyer ends up backing out of the deal, Flyhomes will still buy the home themselves. Central to the startup’s business is sellers being more amenable to all-cash offers, allowing consumers making them to win deals even when they aren’t the highest bidders.

The company says it has bought and sold more than $2.5 billion worth of homes since launching in 2016.

#andreessen-horowitz, #battery-ventures, #camber-creek, #companies, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #fifth-wall, #financial-tools, #norwest-venture-partners, #real-estate, #real-estate-investment, #redfin, #spencer-rascoff, #startup-company, #tc, #united-states, #zillow

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Architect Capital brings alternative capital to the early stage with new $100M fund

Early-stage startups are increasingly looking for alternative ways to access capital, meaning not every company wants to raise money from VCs or take on debt.

In recent years, a flurry of startups have emerged to give companies other options. (Think Pipe, for example.)

And today, San Francisco-based Architect Capital is a new firm that is launching with over $100 million in funds to serve as an “asset-based lender” to “high-growth,” early-stage tech companies. Specifically, the new firm aims to provide non-dilutive or less-dilutive financing options to asset-rich fintech, e-commerce and SaaS companies in the U.S. and Latin America, but with an emphasis on the latter. The region, Architect maintains, does not have a plethora of institutional financing available against assets.

The firm is not out to replace traditional venture capital or venture debt, emphasizes founder and CEO James Sagan, but rather to offer asset-based products that will complement them.

For some context, Sagan is no stranger to the startup world, having co-founded and served as managing partner of Arc Labs, an early-stage credit fund focused on lending to technology-enabled businesses. He’s been investing in Latin America for years, and recognized the need for new forms of financing to fund “novel and underappreciated assets.”

Also, he believes the region is home to “the most prominent fintech ecosystem in the world.”

To Sagan, traditional forms of equity and debt financing in the venture world are vital for things like growing headcount, but he believes they are “not engineered to support the growth of a company’s underlying financial products.”

“VC is highly dilutive and should be used for ROI activities such as hiring engineers and building great teams,” Sagan told TechCrunch. “It’s expensive to use equity to fund assets. Equity should not be put in a loan book. We’ll fund the loan book.”

Image Credits: Architect Capital founder James Sagan / Architect Capital

Architect’s goal is to provide “tailored and less dilutive funding,” especially to companies that produce repeatable revenues, such as SaaS and subscription businesses. 

Sagan said he first discovered the strategy in 2015 when he was working for a multifamily office that was lending against a bunch of traditional assets.

“A colleague and good friend of mine started a business and raised some equity and venture debt, but he couldn’t find the asset-specific financing for the receivables he was generating,” Sagan recalls. “He was lending to small businesses and needed asset-specific financing against those receivables.”

Venture debt doesn’t really work for receivables-based lending because venture debt shops typically are underwriting assets, or rather, underwriting the quality of the investors in the company, Sagan believes.

“So we really tailor our underwriting towards those assets themselves right and those assets range from unsecured consumer receivables to secure small business receivables to real estate,” he told TechCrunch. “Essentially, we’re providing an additional instrument for asset-heavy businesses that will allow them to scale in a way that venture debt will not.”

Architect’s LPs are mostly large institutions, as opposed to traditional high net worth individuals. The firm’s average check size will land at around $10 million to $15 million.

“Our portfolio allocation is more concentrated in general,” Sagan said. “We expect to grow our AUM (assets under management) pretty precipitously.”

Architect Capital has invested in six companies since inception, including PayJoy, a company that delivers consumer financing and smartphone technology to customers in emerging markets; Forum Brands, a U.S.-based e-commerce marketplace aggregator; and ADDI, a fintech that aims to give Colombian consumers access to fair and affordable credit through point-of-sale-financing that recently raised $65 million.

#architect-capital, #corporate-finance, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #funding, #latin-america, #money, #private-equity, #real-estate, #saas, #san-francisco, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital, #venture-debt

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In-person work is back, and New Stand just raised $40M to help ease the transition

As more people return to the office over the next few months, companies will have to work harder than ever to make sure the environment is comfortable and inviting.

One company that is out to ease the pain of millions of employees leaving the comfy confines of their homes and losing the convenience of conducting meetings in nice tops and sweatpants has just raised new funding to help it advance on its goals.

New York-based New Stand announced it has raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by Brookfield Property Group, one of the largest commercial real estate owners in the United States. Existing backers Maywic, Fantail Ventures and Raga Partners also participated in the financing, which brings the company’s total raised to just over $56 million since its 2015 inception.  

New Stand is a clever take on the “newsstand” concept. The startup has built a modern-looking smart vending physical product that can be set up in all sorts of different spots –– from office lobbies to floors of companies within an office building to hotels to college campuses to airports. The company’s first location was at the Union Square subway station in New York City. Over time, New Stand has combined that physical presence with an app that is designed to give people convenience in getting basics (think snacks, books and personal care items such as umbrellas or pain relievers, for example) as well as access to “location-based media.”

On top of that, it wants to partner with companies to offer its platform as a way to communicate internal news in a more fun and engaging manner. The company is making a big push in the office vertical with the launch of its New Stand at Work, a workplace amenity.

So it’s not entirely surprising that Brookfield, one of the biggest commercial landlords in the country, would want to back a company that aims to make tenants and their employees happier.

TechCrunch talked with co-founder and CEO Andrew Deitchman about the new raise and plans for the capital. He earnestly describes New Stand as a “day improvement company” that aims to make people’s days easier and more interesting.

“And we do it by making sure we have basic stuff that people need, but also curating things that we think they would like,” he said. “We have little shops or touch points that are like convenience stores, and we combine that with an app that introduces people to content, and also allows them to interact in other ways to accumulate points and rewards.”

“So what New Stand really is building is a media and technology company, using convenience points as a means of accessing people’s lives and making their days a little bit better,” Deitchman added.

New Stand is working to evolve from being primarily a consumer business to an enterprise one.

“We can take care of basic needs but also engage people in a deeper relationship,” Deitchman said. “If you’re an employer who wants to relate to an employee or if you are a landlord who wants to relate better to your tenants, we can help make that happen.”

The company is planning to use its new capital primarily toward expanding into new spaces, office and otherwise. Currently, it’s in about 20 locations. 

It’s also planning to create “new engaging services and formats” and “grow and densify its distribution.”

In line with its investment, Brookfield Properties said it plans to “further activate” its properties in New York and, ultimately beyond, with New Stand’s offering.

Ben Brown, managing partner and head of the U.S. office in Brookfield’s Real Estate group, notes that prior to this investment, Brookfield had already partnered with New Stand at its flagship property, Brookfield Place New York — both as an amenity for its tenants and as an offering in its own office space for employees.

“On both fronts, New Stand has provided an elevated experience with tangible benefits,” he told TechCrunch. “As one of the largest — if not the largest — commercial real estate owners in the country and world, we have a particular interest in investing in enterprises we ourselves use, see the value in, and can help scale over time.”

Brown said the combination of New Stand’s physical assets and media platform has given Brookfield the opportunity to boost engagement with its tenants’ employees as well as its own, something “all landlords are trying to do.”

“Helping the world’s leading companies attract, retain and motivate their workforces has long been job one for us, and that has only intensified today as firms increasingly look for ways to have the office compete with the home,” he added.

#apps, #ben-brown, #brookfield, #brookfield-asset-management, #brookfield-property-group, #funding, #fundings-exits, #media-platform, #new-stand, #new-york, #new-york-city, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #tc, #technology, #united-states, #venture-capital

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Yieldstreet raises $100M as it mulls going public via SPAC, eyes acquisitions

These days, investing goes way beyond the stock market. And in recent years there’s been a growing number of startups which aim to give more people access to a wider array of investment opportunities. Today, one of those startups has raised a significant round of funding to help it achieve its goals.

Yieldstreet — which provides a platform for making alternative investments in areas like real estate, marine/shipping, legal finance, commercial loans and other opportunities that were previously only open to institutional investors — announced Tuesday that it has raised $100 million in a Series C funding round.

Former E*TRADE CEO Mitch Caplan, of Tarsadia Investments, led the round. Other participants include Alex Brown (a division of Raymond James), Kingfisher Capital, Top Tier Capital Partners and Gaingels. Existing backers Edison Partners, Soros Fund Management, Greenspring Associates, Raine Ventures, Greycroft and Expansion Capital also put money in the round, which brings Yieldstreet’s total raised to $278.5 million since its 2015 inception.

Milind Mehere and Michael Weisz co-founded Yieldstreet with the mission of making investing more inclusive for non-institutional investors. In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Mehere declined to say at what valuation the Series C was raised other than to say “near unicorn.”

What he did share is that Yieldstreet has funded nearly $1.9 billion on its platform and has about 300,000 consumers signed up on its platform. That’s up from $600 million invested on its platform from more than 100,000 members in February 2019, at the time of its last raise. Also since that time, Yieldstreet has seen its investor base climb by 350%, he said. And this year, the company is expecting “over 50% revenue growth,” compared to 2020.

Image Credits: Yieldstreet

Since its inception, Yieldstreet says it has provided nearly more than $950 million in principal and interest payments to its investors.

And, both the number of investment requests and new investors surged by more than 250% from January to April 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, with new investors already exceeding all of last year, according to the company.

Mehere also shared that Yieldstreet is considering going public via a SPAC (special purpose acquisition vehicle) sometime in the next year or two.

“We are growing extremely fast and a few SPACs have approached us,” he told TechCrunch. “We are on a great path to potentially explore some of those options in the next 12 to 24 months. I think the public markets would be great for a company like Yieldstreet, purely because that gives you the visibility to expand your consumer growth but also gives you access to equity to pursue growth strategies such as potential acquisitions and other things.”

So far, Yieldstreet has acquired two companies (both in 2019): WealthFlex and Athena Art Finance. 

Some context

At a very high level, Yieldstreet aims to give consumers access to invest in asset classes outside of the stock market.

“These are investments that generate passive income. For example, we do a bunch of things in real estate such as financing warehouses, multifamily and distribution centers,” Mehere told TechCrunch. “We also do art, auto loans or equipment finance. These are typically investments done by institutions and what we’re trying to do is really fractionalize them and get them to real estate investors. A lot of this stuff is asset-backed and it’s generating cash flow.”

In an effort to help people understand just exactly what they’re putting their money into, Yieldstreet aims to provide “a ton of investor education,” Mehere added, in the form of content such as articles, blog posts and infographics.

The company also aims to have its portfolios working “around the clock” to automatically apply earned income toward everyday expenses — a concept conceived by Mahere as “self-driving money.”

Yieldstreet will use its new capital to expand its user base, develop new investment products, explore international expansion and pursue strategic acquisitions, according to Mehere. Outside of its New York City headquarters, Yieldstreet also has offices in Brazil, Greece and Malta.

“Alternative investing has generally been restricted to very high net worth individuals. This is not just a U.S. problem, but a worldwide one. In Europe, especially, it is exacerbated by a negative interest rate,” he said. “So it’s even more compelling to them to tap into U.S. assets.” As such, Yieldstreet plans to expand into Europe and Asia as part of its growth strategy.

Tarsadia Investments (and former E*TRADE CEO) President Caplan believes the company is “uniquely positioned” to “achieve significant growth in revenue while ultimately achieving tremendous scale.”

“Everything begins and ends with the management team,” he told TechCrunch. “Yieldstreet’s management team’s vision for the future of digital investing aligned perfectly with that of our organization at Tarsadia. Yieldstreet is building the future of investing.”

#apps, #asia, #brazil, #business-incubators, #economy, #edison-partners, #entrepreneurship, #etrade, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greece, #greenspring-associates, #greycroft, #growth-capital, #impact-investing, #investment, #investors, #malta, #money, #private-equity, #raine-ventures, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #soros-fund-management, #startup-company, #startups, #tarsadia-investments, #venture-capital, #yieldstreet

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3 views on the future of meetings

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, early-stage startups across the world are re-inventing how we work. But founders aren’t flocking to build just another SaaS tool or Airtable copycat — they’re trying to disrupt the only thing possibly more annoying than e-mail: the work meeting.

On an episode of this week’s podcast, Equity hosts Alex Wilhelm, Danny Crichton and Natasha Mascarenhas discussed a flurry of funding rounds related to the future of work.

Rewatch, which makes meetings asynchronous, raised $20 million from Andreessen Horowitz, AnyClip got $47 million in a round led by JVP for video search and analytics technology, Interactio, a remote interpretation platform, landed $30 million from Eight Roads Ventures and Silicon Valley-based Storm Ventures, and Spot Meetings got Kleiner Perkins on board in a $5 million seed.

We connected the dots between these funding rounds to sketch out three perspectives on the future of workplace meetings. Part of our reasoning was the uptick of investment as mentioned above, and the other is that our calendars are full of them. We all agree that the traditional meeting is broken, so below you’ll find each of our arguments on where they go next and what we’d like to see.

  • Alex Wilhelm: Faster information throughput, please
  • Natasha Mascarenhas: Meetings should be ongoing, not in calendar invites
  • Danny Crichton: Redesign meetings for flow

Alex Wilhelm: Faster information throughput, please

I’ve worked for companies that were in love with meetings, and for companies where meetings were more infrequent. I prefer the latter by a wide margin. I’ve also worked in offices full-time, half-time and fully remote. I immensely prefer the final option.

Why? Work meetings are often a waste of time. Mostly you don’t need to align, most folks taking part are superfluous and as accidental team-building exercises they are incredibly expensive in terms of human-hours.

I am not into wasting time. The more remote I’ve been and the less time I’ve spent in less-formal meetings — the usual chit-chat that pollutes productive work time, making the days longer and less useful — the more I’ve managed to get done.

But I’ve been the lucky one, frankly. Most folks were still trapped in offices up until the pandemic shook up the world of work, finally giving more companies a shot at a whole-cloth rebuild of how they toil.

The good news is that CEOs are taking note. Chatting with Sprout Social CEO Justyn Howard this week, he explained how we have a unique, new chance to not live near where we work in 2021, but to instead bring work to where we live. He’s also an introvert, which meant that as a pair we’ve found a number of positives in some of the changes to how tech and media companies operate. Perhaps we’re a little biased.

A number of startups are rushing to fill the gap between the new expectations that Howard noted and our old digital and IRL realities.

Tandem.chat might be one such company. The former Y Combinator launch-day darling has spent its post-halo period building. Its CEO sent me a manifesto of sorts the other day, discussing how his company approaches the future of work meetings. Tandem is building for a world where communication needs to be both real-time and internal; it leaves asynchronous internal communication to Slack, real-time external communications to Zoom and asynchronous external chats to email. I agree, I think.

#covid-19, #ec-future-of-work, #ec-proptech, #equity-podcast, #podcasts, #real-estate, #remote-work, #startups, #tc, #telecommuting

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Brazilian proptech startup QuintoAndar lands $300M at a $4B valuation

Fintech and proptech are two sectors that are seeing exploding growth in Latin America, as financial services and real estate are two categories in particular dire need of innovation in a region.

Brazil’s QuintoAndar, which has developed a real estate marketplace focused on rentals and sales, has seen impressive growth in recent years. And today, the São Paulo-based proptech has announced it has closed on $300 million in a Series E round of funding that values it at an impressive $4 billion.

The round is notable for a few reasons. For one, the valuation – high by any standards but especially for a LatAm company – represents an increase of four times from when QuintoAndar raised a $250 million Series D in September 2019.

It’s also noteworthy who is backing the company. Silicon Valley-based Ribbit Capital led its Series E financing, which also included participation from SoftBank’s LatAm-focused Innovation Fund, LTS, Maverik, Alta Park, an undisclosed US-based asset manager fund with over $2 trillion in AUM, Kaszek Ventures, Dragoneer and Accel partner Kevin Efrusy.

Having backed the likes of Coinbase, Robinhood and CreditKarma, Ribbit Capital has historically focused on early-stage investments in the fintech space. Its bet on QuintoAndar represents clear faith in what the company is building, as well as its confidence in the startup’s plans to branch out from its current model into a one-stop real estate shop that also offers mortgage, title, insurance and escrow services.

The latest round brings QuintoAndar’s total raised since its 2013 inception to $635 million.

Ribbit Capital Partner Nick Huber said Quintoandar has over the years built “a unique and trusted brand in Brazil” for those looking for a place to call home.

“Whether you are looking to buy or to rent, QuintoAndar can support customers through the entire transaction process: from browsing verified inventory to signing the final contracts,” Huber told TechCrunch. “The ability to serve customers’ needs through each phase of life and to do so from start to finish is a unique capability, both in Brazil and around the world.”

QuintoAndar describes itself as an “end-to-end solution for long-term rentals” that, among other things, connects potential tenants to landlords and vice versa. Last year, it expanded also into connecting a home buyers to sellers.

Image Credits: QuintoAndar

TechCrunch spoke with co-founder and CEO Gabriel Braga and he shared details around the growth that has attracted such a bevy of high-profile investors.

Like most other businesses around the world, QuintoAndar braced itself for the worst when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year – especially considering one core piece of its business is to guarantee rents to the landlords on its platform.

“In the beginning, we were afraid of the implications of the crisis but we were able to honor our commitments,” Braga said. “In retrospect, the pandemic was a big test for our business model and it has validated the strength and defensibility of our binsess on the credit side and reinforced our value proposition to tenants and landlords. So after the initial scary moments, we actually felt even more confident in the business that we are building.”

QuintoAndar describes itself as “a distant market leader” with more than 100,000 rentals under management and about 10,000 new rentals per month. Its rental platform is live in 40 cities across Brazil, while its homebuying marketplace is live in 4. Part of its plans with the new capital is to expand into new markets within Brazil, as well as in Latin America as a whole.

The startup claims that, in less than a year, QuintoAndar managed to aggregate the largest inventory among digital transactional platforms. It now offers more than 60,000 properties for sale across Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belho Horizonte and Porto Alegre. To give greater context around the company’s growth of that side of its platform: in its first year of operation, QuintoAndar closed more than 1,000 transactions. It has now surpassed the mark of 8,000 transactions in annualized terms, growing between 50% and 100% quarter over quarter.

As for the rentals side of its business, Braga said QuintoAndar has more than 100,000 rentals under management and is closing about 10,000 new rentals per month. The company is not profitable as it’s focused on growth, although it is unit economics are particularly favorable in certain markets such as Sao Paulo, which is financing some of its growth in other cities, according to Braga.

Now, the 2,000-person company is looking to begin its global expansion with plans to enter the Mexican market later this year. With that, Braga said QuintoAndar is looking to hire “top-tier” talent from all over.

“We want to invest a lot in our product and tech core,” he said. “So we’re trying to bring in more senior people from abroad, on a global basis.”

Some history

CEO Braga and CTO André Penha came up with the idea for QuintoAndar after receiving their MBAs at Stanford University. As many startups do, the company was founded out of Braga’s personal “nightmare” of an experience – in this case, of trying to rent an apartment in Sao Paulo.

The search process, he recalls, was difficult as there was not enough information available online and renters were forced to provide a guarantor, or co-signer, from the same city or pay rent insurance, which Braga described as “very expensive.”

“Overall, I felt it was a very inefficient and fragmented process with no transparency or tech,” Braga told me at the time of the company’s last raise. “There was all this friction and high cost involved, just real tangible problems to solve.”

The concept for QuintoAndar (which can be translated literally to “Fifth Floor” in Portuguese) was born.

“Little by little, we created a platform that consolidated supply and inventory in a uniform way,” Braga said.

The company took the search phase online for the first time, according to Braga. It also eliminated the need for tenants to provide a guarantor, thereby saving them money. On the other side, QuintoAndar also works to help protect the landlord with the guarantee that they will get their rent “on time every month,” Braga said.

It’s been interesting watching the company evolve and grow over time, just as it’s been fascinating seeing the region’s startup scene mature and shine in recent years.

#articles, #brazil, #coinbase, #cto, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #kaszek-ventures, #kevin-efrusy, #latin-america, #player, #property-technology, #proptech, #quintoandar, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #renting, #ribbit-capital, #sao-paulo, #series-e, #silicon-valley, #softbank, #stanford-university, #startup, #startups, #techcrunch, #technology, #venture-capital

0

Homeward secures $371M to help people make all-cash offers on houses

Trying to buy a house in a competitive market is perhaps one of the most stressful things an adult can go through.

Competing with a bunch of people all putting offers on a house that fly off the market in a matter of days is not fun. One startup that is trying to give home buyers a competitive edge by giving them a way to offer all cash on a home has just raised a boatload of money to help it keep growing.

Austin-based Homeward, which aims to help people buy homes faster, announced today it has raised $136 million in a Series B funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners at a valuation “just north of $800 million.” The company has also secured $235 million in debt.

Blackstone, Breyer Capital and existing backers Adams Street, Javelin and LiveOak Venture Partners also participated in the equity financing, which brings Homeward’s total equity raised since inception to $160 million. 

Homeward’s model seems to be appealing to both home buyers (including first time ones) and agents alike, with lots of growth occurring since May 2020 when it raised $105 million in debt and equity. The company declined to reveal hard revenue figures but noted that its GMV (gross merchandise value) run rate is up over 600%+ year over year.

Also, as of March, Homeward says it had experienced a 5x increase in the volume of homes transacted and 9x year over growth in the number of new customers. Plus, It’s hired 161 employees since January alone, and currently has a headcount of 203, up from about 33 at this time last year. 

CEO Tim Heyl founded the real estate startup in late 2018 on the premise that in most cases, sellers prefer to receive all cash offers because they are more likely to close. Loans can fall through, but cash is cash.

Heyl started the company after having worked in the industry for the previous decade, first as a broker then as the owner of a title company. During that time, he saw firsthand many of the problems in the industry. And one conundrum he frequently ran into was people not wanting to make an offer on a home without knowing for sure their current house would sell in a certain amount of time. This is a dilemma many are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic as demand outweighs supply in many major U.S. cities.

“The pandemic has greatly increased demand for our product,” Heyl told TechCrunch. “It’s a historic seller’s market with unprecedented demand from buyers and the lowest inventory levels in decades.”

The company plans to use its new capital to “double down” on its offering, scale up to meet “outsized demand” and open additional markets. Currently, Homeward operates in Texas, Colorado and Georgia.

“Right now, we have a waiting list in every market across the country, so this growth capital will enable us to meet that demand,” Heyl said. Its ultimate goal is to open its offering to agents nationwide.

Homeward also plans to double the size of its title and mortgage teams in the latter half of the year so it can offer its clients and partner agents “a single streamlined experience.” It’s also planning to integrate its consumer and internal software systems for approvals, offers and closing “so everyone can be on a single platform and we can eliminate confusion and waste,” Heyl added.

So, how does it work exactly? Homeward will make an all-cash offer on behalf of a customer wanting to buy a house. Meanwhile, that customer can hire an agent (from brokerages such as Redfin or Keller Williams) to list their home with less pressure to sell it in a certain amount of time or at a discounted price. Once Homeward buys a home, it will lease the property back to its customer until they sell their house, get a mortgage, and can buy the property back from Homeward, plus a 2 percent to 3 percent convenience fee. During the process, Homeward offers a predetermined guaranteed price for its customer’s home with the promise that if it’s unable to sell the house for at least that amount, it’ll buy the house from them.

Heyl believes Homeward’s “alternative iBuyer” model is a better deal for customers since it doesn’t purchase a customer’s old home for below market value. The company also works with agents, and not against them, he said. For example, its offerings are available to any agent, but the company “strategically” partners with top brokerages and teams, providing them with what it describes as “dedicated support, white-label branding, and digital marketing tools to help them stand out from the crowd and attract more clients.”

“Most alternatives to traditional real estate minimize or replace the agent,” Heyl said. “But we are agents ourselves, and we’ve built this for agents.”

Homeward is profitable on a per unit basis if you count transaction revenue minus costs to acquire and complete each transaction, according to Heyl. However, it is not yet profitable on a net income basis.

Jeff Crowe, managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners, will join Homeward’s board as part of the funding.

“Homeward is innovating at the intersection of real estate and fintech — that’s the next frontier,” he said. “Homeward’s cash offer addresses real problems for homebuyers in all market conditions, and the team has identified a winning strategy by partnering with agents and their clients.”

Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital describes Homeward as one of Austin’s most innovative companies.

“We are inspired by the company’s mission to build home finance solutions to overcome the limitations of the traditional mortgage and we are proud to support them as they continue to scale rapidly and efficiently,” he said.

#austin, #blackstone, #breyer-capital, #broker, #ceo, #colorado, #economy, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #georgia, #jeff-crowe, #jim-breyer, #liveoak-venture-partners, #managing-partner, #norwest-venture-partners, #proptech, #real-estate, #real-estate-tech, #recent-funding, #redfin, #startup, #startups, #tc, #texas, #united-states, #venture-capital

0

Brian Chesky describes a faster, nimbler post-pandemic Airbnb

As we transition from the pandemic to whatever comes next, Airbnb is evolving. The company announced a major redesign of its website and introduced a bevy of features focused on both hosts and guests today. All told, the release includes more than 100 new features or upgrades, with the goal of increasing and diversifying the supply side of the business to not only fuel overall growth but also meet the changing demands of guests.

The changes come in response to the way travel has evolved during the pandemic; Airbnb as a company has changed, too.

TechCrunch sat down with Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO, to discuss the future of travel, how his company worked to support a changing market and what it was like leading the world’s biggest travel startup during a global pandemic.

If you want to read more about today’s update, you can check out our article on it here.

The TL;DR version is as follows:

  • New search flexibility around dates, destinations and matching criteria
  • Easier onboarding and efficiency for hosts
  • Increased and enhanced customer support

From a very high level, the first change is designed to help drive demand, the second to boost supply and the third to keep both sides of the marketplace healthy.

TechCrunch’s interview with Chesky follows. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: A lot of the announcement today comes from the fact that we’ve been through more than a year of a pandemic and travel has evolved, and you are responding to that. As a CEO, you’ve been through so many big moments, from the IPO to the early launch days to a long regulatory journey. Where does leading a company during a pandemic fit into the CEO journey for you?

Brian Chesky: Yeah, Jordan, I would probably say that I never thought we would do anything as crazy as starting Airbnb. I kind of assumed, until last year, that that would probably be the craziest story I’ll ever have. Little did I know that a travel company in a pandemic might even be crazier than starting a company based on strangers living together. I kind of feel like I’m now 39 going on 49. It was definitely the craziest year ever.

Our business initially dropped 80% in eight weeks. I say it’s like driving a car. You can’t go 80 miles an hour, slam on the brakes, and expect nothing really bad to happen. Now imagine you’re going 80 miles an hour, slam on the brakes, then rebuild the car kind of while still moving, and then try to accelerate into an IPO, all on Zoom.

#airbnb, #brian-chesky, #ec-proptech, #real-estate, #tc

0

Blockchain startup Propy plans first-ever auction of a real apartment as a collectible NFT

We previously wrote about Propy using blockchain technology to smooth real-world real estate sales by introducing the concept of smart contracts. Propy was the first blockchain startup to make that work. Now the company is pushing the boundaries again, by auctioning a real apartment as an NFT. Although one might want to brush this aside as a stunt, the event is designed to make the point that it could well be done legally. And, by golly, they are going to try.

The auction will be of the NFT attached to a modern, brand new, one-bedroom apartment in Kiev, Ukraine, that Propy previously made history with by making it the first-ever level blockchain-based real estate sale.

The NFT created by Propy will, it says, transfers real ownership of the property. Just in case you haven;t been paying attention, NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, are cryptographic ‘tokens’ that represent a unique asset — such as a piece of art, music, or other collectibles — and certify ownership digitally. NFTs have set the crypto-world alight with their potential to be applied to just about anything, including a work of art by Banksy which was then burnt.

Once someone has won the NFT of the apartment at auction, the NFT will include access to the ownership transfer paperwork; a digital artwork NFT by a popular Kiev graffiti artist, Chizz (a physical painting of the digital artwork is painted on a wall of the apartment)’ and the apartment pictures. But obviously, the apartment is the main asset here. 


The auction itself will happen over a 24hr period with the initial listing starting at $20,000. Details for the NFT sale are available here and will be updated with any new information as the auction proceeds.

The apartment in question is currently owned by Michael Arrington, founder of this very news site, and now a Crypto investor with Arrington XRP Capital.

Investors in Propy – which says it has so far processed $1bn worth of transactions via its platform – include Arrington himself and Tim Draper, former founder of DFJ.

Natalia Karayaneva, CEO of Propy said: “This NFT will go down in history. For Propy it is a major milestone in leveraging the promise of blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens (NFT) to achieve ‘self-driving’ real estate transactions and real estate participation in the decentralized finance economy.”

Here’s how this is all going to work: Arrington has signed legal papers designed by Propy’s lawyers for the NFT to transfer ownership to a future buyer. Propy then conducts the NFT auction and receives payment in cryptocurrency. The winner in the auction becomes the owner within a minute, after filling out KYC details.

The Kiev property is owned by a USA-based entity, and when the auction completes, the new owner of the NFT becomes the owner of the entity and thus the property itself. This process is repeated every time the NFT attached to the property is resold. 

In an interview with me, Karayaneva said: “We were brainstorming and this appeared to be a natural development of our white paper of 2017. And in fact, many things we transact, real estate, via property, we are actually already kind of doing NF T’s, but with our unique smart contracts. But now the NFT concept provides a different approach, where a property can be transferred between two wallets, peer to peer.”

“Thus we do not need to change the name of the owner in the land registry. And this applies to many countries, as well as the United States. This model will work for the United States, and overall, there is this notion of buying real estate via LLC in the United States to preserve the privacy of the owner.”

Over the same call, Arrington added: “Coming at this from a crypto angle, we’ve seen what happens how DeFi gets plugged into credit markets. If I have an NFT or any DeFI asset I can then borrow against it, without a middleman. Right now, if I have a real piece of real estate, there is no way for me to borrow against it, without a middleman, because I have to go through a bank and get a mortgage or whatever. And it’s also the friction all of the costs in terms of speed and how long it takes.”

“If we can find a way to plug real estate and other real-world assets into DeFi, I think that the amount of credit that can be created around that is in the trillions, eventually. And so I think that has to happen. The questions around this are legal and regulatory… The legal stuff around this is tough, and so Propy has done a lot of work with that. But if they do, I think that the idea of an NFT representation of a real-world asset purely from the point of view of ease of trade and ease of access to credit markets is a big idea.”

#arrington-xrp-capital, #articles, #auction, #bank, #blockchains, #ceo, #crypto-art, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptography, #decentralization, #decentralized-finance, #dfj, #ethereum, #europe, #founder, #michael-arrington, #peer-to-peer, #propy, #real-estate, #smart-contract, #tc, #tim-draper, #ukraine, #united-states

0

Eano’s Stella Wu is not your typical construction tech startup founder

Renovating a home is an exciting, yet often fraught-filled, endeavor.

One startup that aims to help make the process simpler, cheaper and less stressful by helping people manage the home renovation process has raised $6 million to help it grow even faster. Builders VC led the round, which included participation from Celtic, Newfund and Wish co-founder Danny Zhang, who also sits on Eano’s board.

Stella Wu, who formerly worked as a growth product manager at Wish, got firsthand experience of the pain points related to the process when she bought her own house in 2017.

“I realized there were a lot of fragmented issues in the renovation space, especially when it came to the individual workers,” she recalls. “They were not reliable and bad at communication.”

So in 2019 she founded Eano, a San Francisco-based startup that aims to walk a homeowner through a renovation and help connect individual contractors with new clients. Eano also works on projects like building ADUs (accessory dwelling units).

As more people spent time at home last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the startup saw its contract revenue spike by 5x, Wu says. And in the first quarter of this year, business was up 70% year over year.

Image Credits: Eano CEO and founder Stella Wu / Eano

Eano, she said, offers competitive and transparent pricing so that homeowners aren’t surprised as a remodeling project goes on. Its automated process tracks all communications and progress in one place and the company has grown what it describes as a “network of experienced, local professionals” that are fully licensed, vetted and insured that it pairs homeowners with on projects.

“There’s all these individual contractors out there and even though they are very affordable, it’s very hard for them to get to the homeowners, as they don’t have much resources,” Wu, a Chinese immigrant, told TechCrunch. “So they come to us and we basically take care of it all.” For now, Eano is operating in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, with plans to expand to Seattle and Houston this year.

The company plans to take its new capital and “go deep into the product side.”

Once they become a client, homeowners can use Eano to select a certain remodeling package, and then they can check the project progress, communicate with the team and even see the progress through videos.

“We’re also helping contractors make communicating and receiving payment much easier,” Wu said. “We’re also helping these individual contractors increase the brand, and helping them with the administration and customer support side with our software.”

Jim Kim of Builders VC, said he first encountered Wu and Jung while they were at Wish.

“We invest in people, and when you can find extremely talented entrepreneurs who have built successful companies and still have the hunger to win, you jump in with a blank check,” he said. “We love Eano’s mission — combining a similar product sourcing strategy as Wish with technology to bring a better experience to all constituents in the antiquated construction industry.”

Kim is also impressed by the fact that Wu is driven to prove “that you don’t need to be a 55-year-old man wearing steel-toed boots to have a meaningful impact on construction.”

“We love that ethos — it matches with our thinking about backing entrepreneurs who don’t fit into the stereotypical box,” Kim said.

#builders-vc, #construction-tech, #danny-zhang, #eano, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #funding, #fundings-exits, #home-improvement, #houston, #jim-kim, #los-angeles, #newfund, #private-equity, #proptech, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #renovation, #san-francisco, #seattle, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #wish

0

Korean proptech startup Dongnae gets $4.1M seed extension led by NFX

The real estate market in South Korea is very fragmented, which means people often have to work with dozens of brokers before they find a new home. Founded in 2020 by a former WeWork executive, Dongnae wants to create a centralized base for brokers, serving as a multiple listing system (MLS). Since its first seed round last year, Dongnae has increased its brokerage partners to more than 70. Today the startup announced it has raised a seed extension of $4.1 million, doubling its total raised to $8.2 million.

The new funding was led by investment fund NFX, with participation from returning investors Flybridge and MetaProp, who led Dongnae’s first seed round. NFX general partner Pete Flint, who co-founded Trulia and is a former Zillow board member, will join Dongnae’s board. The startup’s other investors include Goodwater Capital, Maple VC and strategic angel investors in South Korea and the United States.

“It’s an exciting time of growth at our company, and we want to make sure that we are executing our go-to-market plan,” founder Matthew Shampine, who formerly ran WeWork Asia, told TechCrunch about the seed extension. “Pete Flint and [principal] Brittany Yoon at NFX bring an amazing combination of real estate expertise and Korean startup experience that will be invaluable to Dongnae.”

Dongnae also announced the release of its Android app today. The company’s Android and iOS apps let potential renters and buyers look at listings and book tours of properties in the Seoul metropolitan area.

Shampine said that Dongnae now has more than 8,000 listings. Since its last funding announcement five months ago, Dongnae has increased its closed deal volume by more than 65% and revenue by 150%.

Shampine added that the new funding will be used to grow Dongnae’s brokerage network across the Seoul metropolitan area, which accounts for almost half of South Korea’s population, and the development of its technology and brokerage teams.

“At the time of our seed funding, we had just launched our brokerage partner program so we actually had one partner. The name of our first partner is Global Real Estate, based in Yongsan, and they were actually the brokerage that helped me find my personal apartment around the time we started Dongnae,” said Shampine. “They’ve been a wonderful and patient partner as our organization has grown this year, and we’ve already worked together to help a number of our customers find great homes.”

In a statement, Flint said, “The executive team at Dongnae is uniquely qualified considering their global backgrounds and deep local real estate expertise, and I believe the timing is perfect for Dongnae and the market need they are addressing in Korea.”

 

#asia, #dongnae, #fundings-exits, #proptech, #real-estate, #south-korea, #startups, #tc

0

Super raises $50M to cover home repairs and maintenance via a subscription model

The real estate sales market has been in an upswing this year, and today a startup that’s addressing one of homeowners’ biggest needs — repair and maintenance services, and specifically the stress of sorting these out when things break down — is announcing some funding on the heels of strong growth.

Super — which has built a business providing repair and maintenance for electrical and mechanical systems, appliances, and plumbing by way of a monthly subscription — has closed a growth round of $50 million.

The startup plans to use the funding to expand into new markets, to hire more people, and to continue adding more maintenance/repair services and partnerships into its wider home-warranty-by-subscription proposition.

CEO Jorey Ramer, who co-founded the company with Ryan Donnelly (VP of engineering), also said that another part of the investment will be used to enhance the AI tech that underpins Super’s service and pricing plans. More on that below.

The San Francisco-based company is currently active in some of the fastest-growing housing markets in the U.S.,  Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C. (ironically not in SF itself), and it has grown revenue 7x since April 2019, when it previously raised money, a $20 million Series B. It’s not disclosing actual revenue numbers, nor user numbers.

This is latest Series C has a number of strategic backers that speaks to the bigger ecosystem of financial and insurance services that interlink with each other, and which are used by the average person in the course of home ownership. (Indeed, Super these days seems to refer to itself as an “insuretech”.)

Led by Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, the venture arm of the banking giant, others in the round included home construction giant Asahi Kasei, AAA – Auto Club Group (which also sells insurance), Gaingels, and REACH. The last of these is a scale-up service from Second Century Ventures, which is the investment fund of the National Association of Realtors. Aquiline Technology Growth, Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures, Moderne Ventures and the HSB Fund of Munich Re Ventures — which all invested in Super’s previous $20 million round back in April 2019 — also participated.

The company has now raised $80 million in total, and it’s not disclosing its valuation.

As we have noted before, Ramer came up with the idea for Super when he himself moved to San Francisco after he sold his previous startup, Jumptap — an advertising network acquired by Millennial Media (which is now part of Verizon by way of its acquisition of AOL, just like TechCrunch). He’d been an apartment renter for all of his adult life, but when he moved to the Bay Area, he found himself buying property, and it came with more than a little reluctance because of the headache of taking care of his new home.

“I liked being a renter,” he said in an interview. “You pay a fee, and you know what to expect.” (“Super” is a reference to the superintendents that handle maintenance and repair in an apartment building, and to what Super hopes customers will think about its service.)

The route that Ramer decided to take for how to approach filling that gap, interestingly, is not unlike the challenges that Jumptap faced in the world of ad tech: instead of trying to build a services business from the ground up, he opted to build an integrated network that tapped into a number of small services enterprises already working in the business of maintaining homes. (The correlation here is that, rather than building a first-party behemoth, the approach is to knit together a number of online properties so that people looking to advertise can do so across a wide range of places in a network).

Super has created a kind of marketplace: the services businesses and individuals that Super engages with to carry out maintenance and repairs are all licensed and use its platform for free, essentially, and Super handles remuneration based on call-outs. For users, the call-outs come as part of their monthly plans, and they include different options based on which level of service they pay for.

The funding it’s announcing today will be used in part to enhance how those monthly plans work.

Not only are there algorithms that Super has built to determine how to price its services based on location, size of home and other factors; but there are features in the app that subscribers can use to interact with Super to report issues, call out maintenance people, and provide more detail about problems to improve faster, and in some cases, automated adjudication on issues.

Better tech for more responsive home services has been an interesting area of the market, but one that’s largely been ignored up to now, but as they have matured, AR and other computer vision breakthroughs have definitely helped to advance that game. (And a number of others are also tapping into that, including Hover, Nana, Jobber and more.)

The way that the service has been built to scale — working with contractors means adding in more kinds of coverage is easier than building from the ground up — also means that Super over time may well add more services into the mix.

“The things we would do are things your super would do,” Ramer said. “So that might include fixing plumbing, but might also potentially include cleaning carpets, which you could think of as maintenance. Painting is another interesting area. It seems like it might be a cosmetic thing, but if you do not paint, you risk dry rot. It’s also preventative care. So if we, say, cover 100% maintenance you could imagine that included, too.”

One area where it’s unlikely to move is general contract work, say rebuilding a bathroom or kitchen, or adding in a new room in your loft: the focus it seems will remain on the essentials of keeping your home working.

But aside of expanding the services directly on its own platform, there are also potentially opportunities for how Super might work with partners. AAA for example has a notable business not just in roadside assistance but also insurance coverage. Ramer describes Super as “roadside assistance for your home,” and he points out that it’s a natural partnership to sell those alongside each other.

Similarly, Wells Fargo, as a mortgage lender, is a natural complement, providing a route to its customers to help maintain the properties that they’re in the process of paying off to the bank. This in turn also becomes a kind of insurance policy to the bank itself, as it keeps the homes it is financing in better shape.

“Wells Fargo embraces innovation, and we’re excited to support a tech-forward platform like Super which brings further advancement to the home services market,” said Matthew Raubacher, managing director for WFSC’s Principal Technology Investments Group, in a statement. “The challenges of ongoing repairs and maintenance resonates with every homeowner, and Super provides an experience that is convenient for the customer, while boosting job visibility for local contractors and businesses. We look forward to seeing them continue to widen their geographic footprint and expand their product offering.”

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #augmented-reality, #ecommerce, #funding, #home-services, #real-estate, #super

0

Equity Monday: Elon Musk Elon Musk’s the crypto markets, while Indian startups raise huge rounds

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

There was lots to get through today, so, in order, here’s the rundown:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#apollo, #att, #crypto, #cryptocurrency, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-monday, #houm, #india, #moglix, #pine-labs, #real-estate, #san-francisco, #sequoia, #tc, #twitter, #verizon, #vise, #y-combinator

0

Fresh out of YC, Houm raises $8M to improve the home rental and sales market in LatAm

As a longtime real estate developer based in Chile, Benjamin Labra was able to spot gaps in the buying and renting markets in Latin America. To meet demands, he started Houm, an all-in-one platform that helps homeowners rent and sell their properties in the region.

Fresh out of Y Combinator’s W21 cohort, today Houm announced an $8 million seed round. 

If you think the concept sounds like Brazil’s unicorn, QuintoAndar, it’s because Houm is very similar. While QuintoAndar dominates the Brazilian market, Houm operates in Chile, Mexico and Colombia, and aims to capture the rest of Spanish-speaking LatAm.

Think of Houm as a homeowner-run Zillow meets TaskRabbit. The company offers a marketplace run by the property owners themselves and cuts out the realtor by employing 200 freelancers who prepare the property for sale or to manage it.

Houmers, as they are called, go to the owner’s home, take photos and then help possible buyers or renters view the property. For their work, Houmers are compensated each time a home they worked on sells or gets rented.

However, Houm’s selling proposition isn’t just the ease of use it provides; instead, it also serves as a guarantor in my ways, making the buying process more accessible.

“In Colombia and Mexico, for someone to be your guarantor, they have to have a property that’s free of mortgage so it can be used as collateral,” Labra told TechCrunch.

On the flip side, the company also guarantees that renters will get paid every month, and if a tenant falters, Houm covers the cost. “You really have nothing to lose if you use Houm,” Labra said.

You can imagine that a company like Houm now has all sorts of data on the real estate market, especially around sales and rental prices. As a result, Houm uses this data in an algorithm that helps the homeowner determine a fair price for their property, but the listed price remains up to the owner.

The company, which was founded in 2018 and is based in Chile, now has about 200 full-time employees, in addition to their freelance team. While Labra declined to say how many active users it has, he said Houm is now showing a property every eight minutes.

The current funding round had no lead investor but includes Y Combinator, Goodwater Ventures, OneVC, Vast VC, Liquid2 and Myelin. The company plans to use the money to expand within the region, perfect its algorithm and generally speed up growth.

 

#brazil, #chile, #funding, #goodwater-ventures, #houm, #latin-america, #liquid2-ventures, #prop-tech, #property, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #startups, #taskrabbit, #websites, #y-combinator, #zillow

0

Hundreds of SPAC’s waiting in the woods

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

The fully-vaxxed and officially fully-immune took over the podcast this week, with Natasha and Danny co-hosting the show while the inimitable Alex is out from Shot #2. Grace and Chris, as always, were behind the scenes making sure we sound pretty and don’t fall down too many punny board game rabbit holes after vacation.

Here’s the rundown of what we got into:

And that’s where we break! Follow the podcast on Twitter, be kind to your humans, and be the kindest to yourself. Back sooner than you can raise a $25 million pre-seed round for an audio app for Dogecoin lovers.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#better-com, #bitcoin, #blind, #caplight, #crypto, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-podcast, #ethereum, #fintech, #midwest, #morressier, #real-estate, #sixty8-capital, #softbank, #spac, #tc, #the-last-gameboard

0

As tech offices begin to reopen, the workplace could look very different

The pandemic forced many employees to begin working from home, and, in doing so, may have changed the way we think about work. While some businesses have slowly returned to the office, depending on where you live and what you do, many information workers remain at home.

That could change in the coming months as more people get vaccinated and the infection rate begins to drop in the U.S.

As that happens, it is likely that more offices will reopen. We’ve already heard from major employers like Salesforce, which indicated it will be allowing a percentage of its workforce back to the office this month, starting with the company’s San Francisco headquarters. The CRM giant plans to move slow and follow the government’s lead, allowing 20% capacity at first and hoping to build to 70% over time.

Most companies aren’t the size of Salesforce, which boasts a worldwide workforce of more than 50,000 employees. These smaller companies often don’t control entire skyscrapers, as Salesforce does in San Francisco. That creates complicating factors, including managing people who aren’t willing to be vaccinated, dealing with social distancing and masking, and sharing buildings or floors with other companies.

Even more, many companies have discovered that their employees work just fine at home. And some workers don’t want to waste time stuck on congested highways or public transportation now that they’ve learned to work remotely. But other employees suffered in small spaces or with constant interruptions from family. Those folks may long to go back to the office.

On balance, it seems clear that whatever happens, for many companies, we probably aren’t going back whole-cloth to the prior model of commuting into the office five days a week.

Last August, we spoke to a number of tech company executives about what returning to the office could look like. We recently went back to most of those same executives, as well as a Rhode Island state official and a medical expert we spoke to then to revisit the idea and talk about what’s changed and what work could look like as move slowly toward the post-pandemic era.

The office will never be the same

While their approaches vary, all of the executives I spoke to said that they foresee adopting a hybrid model when they can return in earnest, although there were definitely different interpretations of what that means, and what the office structure will look like.

#covid-19, #ec-future-of-work, #ec-real-estate-and-proptech, #health, #real-estate, #startups, #work-from-home

0

Hustle Fund wants to help spawn a new generation of angel investors

Kara Penn is the mother of four daughters and owner of Mission Spark, a management and strategy consulting company.

And now, thanks to Hustle Fund, she is also an angel investor.

Hustle Fund is coming out of stealth today with Angel Squad, a new initiative aimed at making angel investing more accessible to more people. To more people like Colorado-based Penn.

We believe that in order to increase diversity in the startup ecosystem, one thing that we must do is increase diversity — whether it be in regard to gender, race or geography — amongst angel investors,” said Hustle Fund co-founder and general partner Elizabeth Yin.

Via Angel Squad, Hustle Fund specifically aims to build an inclusive investor community, make minimum check sizes low and accessible (think as little as $1,000), provide “angel education” and give investors a way to invest alongside Hustle Fund.

“There’s been this misnomer, or at least I had this incorrect assumption that in order to become an angel investor, you have to be super rich and write $25,000 checks,” Yin told TechCrunch. “But the reality is actually in Silicon Valley, there are all these people running around investing $1,000 checks…and that’s something that’s a lot more accessible than then most people might think. And, part of the value of having this group is then we can accumulate a bunch of smaller checks to then write one larger check for a company.”

So far, Penn has invested in five startups across a range of sectors including real estate, food, apparel and finance. 

She describes herself as “a complete novice” in angel investing, and so far, she’s loving the experience.

I love Hustle Fund’s perspective that great hustlers can look like anyone and come from anywhere,” Penn told TechCrunch. “I’ve enjoyed being in a supportive community with differing levels of expertise, but where every question is welcomed.”

The experience is also broadening her exposure to technology and AI, the collection and use of data and the creation of new marketplaces in ways she never would have been exposed to before.

“As someone whose own company focuses exclusively on strategy in social impact organizations, I am also looking for how founders identify and bring to market creative solutions to complex problems, as well as exposure to a network of innovative people looking to solve hard issues in smart ways,” Penn said. “This exposure is helping me begin to think about applications of these approaches to difficult social problems.”

For some context, Hustle Fund is a venture firm founded by Elizabeth Yin and Eric Bahn, two former 500 Startups partners, with the goal of investing in pre-seed software startups. The firm has traditionally operated by investing $25,000 in a company, usually with a minimum-viable product, and then works with the team to help them grow. It does around 50 investments per year, according to its website. 

It recently closed on $33.6 million for a new fund.

“One of the things most important to us is this bigger mission of wanting to change the way the startup ecosystem is,” Yin said. “I noticed both as an entrepreneur and while running an accelerator, if you have a certain resume, went to certain schools, or were a certain race or gender, you have advantages in starting a company and getting funding. For many people, if you don’t tick those boxes, it can be very challenging. That’s why we’re investing in a lot of founders from all walks of life.”

Hustle Fund Venture Partner Brian Nichols had started a syndicate of Lyft alumni on AngelList. After doing a few deals, he opened up the syndicate to people outside of AngelList.

“I found there was a wide range of people looking to diversify into private markets, from all over the world with all types of backgrounds,” he said. “Hustle Fund and I had similar taste in companies I was investing in and I built a relationship with them in co-investments.”

Today, he’s helping run the fund’s Angel Squad initiative. So far, it has had two cohorts with over 150 investors total and true to the fund’s mission, those investors have been more diverse than typical angel syndicates: 46% of the members are female, 9% are underrepresented minorities and 32% are people who work outside of tech with professional roles such as lawyers, doctors and artists. Just one-third are based in Silicon Valley.

Every week, Angel Squad hosts an event which ranges from networking to a peek behind the curtain at opportunities at Hustle Fund is considering investing in to talking through why or why not to take a meeting with a founder.

“Imagine starting from zero, and if you could skip a bunch of steps and have Elizabeth (Yin) tell you how to do this before you lose a bunch of money in the process of evaluating a startup,” Nichols told TechCrunch. “Angel Squad is exactly what I wish had existed three or four years ago when I became interested in investing.”

Silicon Valley, Yin acknowledges, can be intimidating but the reality is that no one is an expert in everything.

“We’re trying to cultivate an environment where people are very kind — we have a no asshole rule, and that is a safe space where people can learn and feel like they can ask questions, and not have to know everything about angel investing. The reality is most people don’t. And we want to bring new people into this system.”

Besides not being an a-hole, other criteria in becoming a Squad Member include being able to add value and being an accredited investor.

“With rounds as competitive as they are today, we are looking for people who want to be actively supportive of the portfolio companies we’re investing in,” Nichols said. “Every person who wants to join the program is interviewed by someone from our team, who asks questions such as ‘What can you help a founder with?’ We are not looking for passive capital. That’s not super helpful at this point in the ecosystem.

#angel-investing, #angel-investors, #angellist, #co-founder, #colorado, #diversity, #elizabeth-yin, #entrepreneur, #entrepreneurship, #eric-bahn, #finance, #food, #funding, #hustle-fund, #investment, #lyft, #minimum-viable-product, #money, #pennsylvania, #private-equity, #real-estate, #silicon-valley, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #venture-capitalists

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How Robert Reffkin went from being a C-average student to the founder of Compass

In April, real estate tech company Compass forged ahead with its initial public offering and is now valued at nearly $6.4 billion.

At that time, TechCrunch Senior Editor Alex Wilhelm caught up with founder and CEO Robert Reffkin to chat about his company’s debut in the market’s suddenly choppy waters for tech and tech-enabled debuts.

This week, I caught up with Reffkin on a whole other topic: his path to entrepreneurship as a child raised by a disowned single mother whose father had died homeless. Reffkin is so passionate about inspiring others from nontraditional backgrounds to pursue their dreams that he wrote a book about it.

In our discussion, Reffkin shared what he believes are the secrets to his success (hint: one of them involves lots of listening) and his advice for his young entrepreneurs, especially those from non-privileged backgrounds.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

TC: As the mother of a teen who is already trying to start his own business, I’m intrigued by your DJing as a teenager. What finally got you motivated to care about school and how did you manage to graduate in such a short amount of time?

Reffkin: Well, I think your son might just be on the right track! Please give him a word of encouragement from me, from one entrepreneur to another.

My mom says that a lot of other parents thought she was crazy for letting me launch my DJ business. But starting a successful DJ business in high school helped me learn about myself and my passion for entrepreneurship — and it ultimately helped me get into Columbia, forming the core of both my personal statement and the relationships I built with several members of the admissions team.

I believe the first step is always to dream big. For me, my big dreams for my college future started on a trip to New York City. I toured Columbia and fell in love with it, but I knew it was going to be hard for me to get in. In fact, my high school guidance counselor said, “Don’t even apply. It wouldn’t be worth your time and money on the application fee.” In that moment, my desire to go to Columbia went from strong to absolute, because suddenly it felt like it was about something larger than myself — not just where I went to school, but about a broader struggle for opportunity for people like me. So I poured myself into my SAT prep to show that even though I had a C average, I had what it took to keep up at a top school. And thankfully, it paid off. 

In high school and college, I was a C-student in part because I didn’t see how studying calculus or Western Civilization related to my life or my dreams. I knew that excelling in school wasn’t going to be the way I was going to distinguish myself in the world. At the same time, I was energized by my entrepreneurial efforts and my summer internships. I moved as quickly as I could to get through school and have my real life begin, because the real world made so much more sense to me.

TC: How do you think being raised by a single mother without privilege helped shape you as a man, and entrepreneur? How would you say being a person of color impact your path?

Reffkin: Growing up, it was just me and my mom. She’s an Israeli immigrant, disowned by her parents because I was Black. My father abandoned us and died, homeless, when I was young. What shaped me most as an entrepreneur was learning from my mother. She embodied the entrepreneurial spirit and taught me one of the most important principles: every time you get knocked down, you’ve got to bounce back with passion. I saw her face bad relationships, bankruptcy, and the stream of daily rejections that comes from being an agent. And she always bounced back. So when the world told me I couldn’t do something or that I was destined to fail, I was ready for them. Thanks to my mom, I already knew how to bounce back.

Image Credits: CEO Robert Reffkin & mother, Ruth / Compass

Being Black and Jewish, I’ve felt out of place my entire life. In most classes in Hosch school and college, I was the only Black person. In almost every meeting early in my career, I was the only Black person. When I was raising capital for Compass, I almost never saw someone Black on the other side of the table. But I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been lucky to get terrific advice along the way from so many Black mentors, from the late Vernon Jordan, to Ken Chenault, the former CEO of American Express, to Bayo Ogunlesi, who is lead director for Goldman Sachs. There’s a really strong community of people who’ve all supported each other.

TC: You’ve had some impressive mentors over the years. How did those relationships develop? How have they been valuable besides the obvious? 

Growing up, I was hungry for advice. Coming from a single-parent home, I looked for guidance and wisdom on how to create a better life wherever I could find it. My mom connected me to several non-profits when I was in high school that helped open my eyes to how much opportunity and support there was out there in the world. 

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my life is that feedback is a gift. Even when it’s hard to hear, feedback is a gift. My relationships with many of my mentors deepened because I started asking them for really tough, candid feedback — the sort of things they thought other people wouldn’t tell me. And then, I’d actually take their advice, apply it in my life, and let them know how it had helped me. That did two two things: First, it led to more honest and practical advice that helped me get better faster. Second, it made the people who had given me advice feel far more invested in my success and the success of whatI was working on.

The other thing my mentors gave me was the sense that even though the world was telling me I couldn’t be successful, I could be. Meeting someone like Vernon Jordan who advised presidents and CEOs alike, had a profound impact on me. He was a father figure to me. I met him when I was 23 years old, and at that time, it wasn’t clear to me that you could be successful in the business world as a Black man. I just hadn’t seen it before. When I started at Lazard, Vernon Jordan was the only other Black investment banker there. He was not just a senior partner, he was a legend, widely known for serving on more Fortune 500 boards than anyone in history. He took a strong interest in me, and with his support and advice, he made me feel like I belonged and helped me see a path where I could be as successful as I wanted to be. 

I founded a nonprofit in my twenties called America Needs You that has provided mentorship, career development, and college support to thousands of students. I wrote my new book, No One Succeeds Alone, as a way to pay it forward by making the lessons I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from so many remarkable people available to everyone — and it’s why I’m donating all of my proceeds to nonprofits that help young people realize their dreams.

TC: What advice you would give to young, aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those from non-privileged backgrounds?

Reffkin: Here’s the advice I’d give to someone from an underrepresented group who just graduated college and is in their first job:

1) Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dream. Not society, not your colleagues, not even yourself. Whenever anyone tells you to slow down, speed up.

2) Spend the next 10 years learning as much as you can from the smartest people you can. Find mentors in your job and outside that will give you the honest feedback that others won’t. Feedback is a gift. It’ll be hard for you to hear, but it’s actually even harder for them to give it to you. So you may have to ask for it directly and let people know that you can take it.

3) Learn how to turn negativity into positive energy that fuels you. There will always be skeptics, doubters, and haters telling you that you can’t do something or that you don’t belong. 

TC: What next after Compass?

Reffkin: I believe that to be truly successful, you can’t have a Plan B. As a CEO, you have to be all-in, and that’s what I am for Compass: 100% dedicated to our 23,000 agents and employees. One of my mentors told me about the “shower test” once — that if you’re not excited enough about your job to think about it in the shower, you’re probably not in the right job. And I’ll tell you: I’m so passionate about the company we’re building that I’m still thinking about Compass in the shower. At Compass, we’ve accomplished much in the past eight years, but we’re truly just getting started. 

#america, #c, #ceo, #columbia, #compass, #diversity, #editor, #entrepreneur, #goldman-sachs, #ken-chenault, #lazard, #new-york-city, #real-estate, #real-estate-tech, #tc

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Investment in construction automation is essential to rebuilding US infrastructure

With the United States moving all-in on massive infrastructure investment, much of the discussion has focused on jobs and building new green industries for the 21st century. While the Biden administration’s plan will certainly expand the workforce, it also provides a massive opportunity for the adoption of automation technologies within the construction industry.

Despite the common narrative of automating away human jobs, the two are not nearly as much in conflict, especially with new investments creating space for new roles and work. In fact, one of the greatest problems facing the construction industry remains a lack of labor, making automation a necessity for moving forward with these ambitious projects.

In fact, one of the greatest problems facing the construction industry remains a lack of labor, making automation a necessity for moving forward with these ambitious projects.

The residential construction industry alone had some 223,000 and 332,000 unfilled construction job vacancies at the peak unemployment rate of 15% in 2020, but that’s actually about the same when unemployment was only at 4.1%. Between 1985 and 2015, the average age of construction workers increased from 36 to 42.5, while those aged 55 and older increased from 12% to over 20%. The 2018 Population Survey conducted by the Census Bureau found that workers under 25 comprised just 9% of the construction industry, compared to 12.3% of the overall U.S. labor force.

Productivity in the construction industry has likewise remained static since 1995, primarily driven by the aging demographic of the existing labor force, the apprenticeship nature of the job, and difficulty in attracting and retaining new workers. In short, there is insufficient labor to do the job, while existing staff are becoming increasingly less productive as skilled workers that have accumulated decades of experience in their crafts are lost due to retirement.

Automation will need to be a key element of any major infrastructure push, especially if we hope to meet the ambitious goals of current proposals. That being said, not all areas of the construction industry are primed, or even viable, for this shift to automation.

The challenges of construction automation

Construction is one of the world’s largest industries but has two major challenges: market fragmentation and complex stakeholders.

The construction industry as a whole is nationally fragmented but occasionally locally concentrated. This differs depending on the segment and type of construction company, with each generally comprising less than 10 workers. The top 100 general contractors account for less than 20% of the total construction market. Subcontractors are even more fragmented, with top players accounting for less than 1% of the total market share. This makes sales processes and scaling very slow and highly inefficient.

#artificial-intelligence, #biden-administration, #business-process-management, #column, #construction, #ec-column, #ec-real-estate-and-proptech, #hardware, #manufacturing, #real-estate, #startups, #united-states

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Fifth Wall’s Brendan Wallace and Hippo’s Assaf Wand discuss proptech’s biggest opportunities

What is the biggest opportunity for proptech founders? How should they think about competition, strategic investment versus top-tier VC firms, and how to build their board? What about navigating regulation?

We sat down last week with Brendan Wallace, co-founder and general manager of Fifth Wall, and Hippo CEO Assaf Wand for an episode of Extra Crunch Live to discuss all of the above.

Extra Crunch Live goes down every Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT. Our next episode is with Forerunner’s Eurie Kim and Oura CEO Harpreet Rai, and you can check out the upcoming schedule right here.

In the meantime, dive into the wide-ranging conversation we had with Wallace and Wand. You can find the full video, including the ECL Live pitch-off, below.

Investing in the board

The first step in running a useful and beneficial board is determining who should be on that board, and that starts with the first round of capital investment and carries on forever.

One of the strategic benefits of Fifth Wall as an investor, according to Wallace, is that the firm was built specifically with strategic LPs in the real estate realm, allowing the firm to connect portfolio companies with massive incumbent players in the industry. Incumbents get access to new tools and software, portfolio companies get big customers, and Fifth Wall gets to reap the benefits of both. It’s a rare win-win-win.

We asked Wand about how he chose his investors, and how to weigh the value of a top-tier VC firm and a strategic angel investor, for example.

He explained that there is no right answer to a question like that, but it should always be thoroughly discussed by the team. One of the benefits of having a top-tier VC firm on board is that it has a signaling effect, helping you to recruit early team members and open doors.

#assaf-wand, #brendan-wallace, #ec-real-estate-and-proptech, #ecl, #extra-crunch-live, #hippo, #real-estate, #tc

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Brazil’s Loft adds $100M to its accounts, $700M to its valuation in a single month

Nearly exactly one month ago, digital real estate platform Loft announced it had closed on $425 million in Series D funding led by New York-based D1 Capital Partners. The round included participation from a mix of new and existing investors such as DST, Tiger Global, Andreessen Horowitz, Fifth Wall and QED, among many others.

At the time, Loft was valued at $2.2 billion, a huge jump from its being just near unicorn territory in January 2020. The round marked one of the largest ever for a Brazilian startup.

Now, today, São Paulo-based Loft has announced an extension to that round with the closing of $100 million in additional funding that values the company at $2.9 billion. This means that the 3-year-old startup has increased its valuation by $700 million in a matter of weeks.

Baillie Gifford led the Series D-2 round, which also included participation from Tarsadia, Flight Deck, Caffeinated and others. Individuals also put money in the extension, including the founders of Better (Zach Frenkel), GoPuff, Instacart, Kavak and Sweetgreen.

Loft has seen great success in its efforts to serve as a “one-stop shop” for Brazilians to help them manage the home buying and selling process. 

Image courtesy of Loft

In 2020, Loft saw the number of listings on its site increase “10 to 15 times,” according to co-founder and co-CEO Mate Pencz. Today, the company actively maintains more than 13,000 property listings in approximately 130 regions across São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, partnering with more than 30,000 brokers. Not only are more people open to transacting digitally, more people are looking to buy versus rent in the country.

“We did more than 6x YoY growth with many thousands of transactions over the course of 2020,” Pencz told TechCrunch at the time of the company’s last raise. “We’re now growing into the many tens of thousands, and soon hundreds of thousands, of active listings.”

The decision to raise more capital so soon was due to a variety of factors. For one, Loft has received “overwhelming investor interest” even after “a very, very oversubscribed main round,” Pencz said.

“We have seen a continued acceleration in our market share growth, especially in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the two markets we currently operate in,” he added. “We saw an opportunity to grow even faster with additional capital.”

Pencz also pointed out that Baillie Gifford has relatively large minimum check size requirements, which led to the extension being conducted at a higher price and increased the total round size “by quite a bit to be able to accommodate them.”

While the company was less forthcoming about its financials as of late, it told me last year that it had notched “over $150 million in annualized revenues in its first full year of operation” via more than 1,000 transactions.

The company’s revenues and GMV (gross merchandise value) “increased significantly” in 2020, according to Pencz, who declined to provide more specifics. He did say those figures are “multiples higher from where they were,” and that Loft has “a very clear horizon to profitability.”

Pencz and Florian Hagenbuch founded Loft in early 2018 and today serve as its co-CEOs. The aim of the platform, in the company’s words, is “bringing Latin American real estate into the e-commerce age by developing online alternatives to analogue legacy processes and leveraging data to create transparency in highly opaque markets.” The U.S. real estate tech company with the closest model to Loft’s is probably Zillow, according to Pencz.

In the United States, prospective buyers and sellers have the benefit of MLSs, which in the words of the National Association of Realtors, are private databases that are created, maintained and paid for by real estate professionals to help their clients buy and sell property. Loft itself spent years and many dollars in creating its own such databases for the Brazilian market. Besides helping people buy and sell homes, it offers services around insurance, renovations and rentals.

In 2020, Loft also entered the mortgage business by acquiring one of the largest mortgage brokerage businesses in Brazil. The startup now ranks among the top-three mortgage originators in the country, according to Pencz. When it comes to helping people apply for mortgages, he likened Loft to U.S.-based Better.com.

This latest financing brings Loft’s total funding raised to an impressive $800 million. Other backers include Brazil’s Canary and a group of high-profile angel investors such as Max Levchin of Affirm and PayPal, Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and David Vélez, CEO and founder of Brazilian fintech Nubank. In addition, Loft has also raised more than $100 million in debt financing through a series of publicly listed real estate funds.

Loft plans to use its new capital in part to expand across Brazil and eventually in Latin America and beyond. The company is also planning to explore more M&A opportunities.

This article was updated post-publication to reflect accurate investor information

#andreessen-horowitz, #baillie-gifford, #better-mortgage, #better-com, #brazil, #co-founder, #d1-capital-partners, #david-velez, #dst, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #instacart, #instagram, #joe-lonsdale, #latin-america, #loft, #max-levchin, #mike-krieger, #money, #new-york, #nubank, #palantir, #paypal, #proptech, #real-estate, #real-estate-tech, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #startup, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #united-states, #venture-capital, #zillow

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Hustle Fund backs Fintor, which wants to make it easier to invest in real estate

Farshad Yousefi and Masoud Jalali used to drive through Palo Alto neighborhoods and marvel at the outrageous home prices. But the drives sparked an idea. They were not in a financial position to purchase a home in those neighborhoods (to be clear, not many people are) either for investment or to live. But what if they could invest in homes in up and coming cities throughout the U.S.?

Then they realized that even that might be a challenge considering that with all their student debt, affording a down payment would be impossible.

“There was nothing available out there besides a crowdfunding platform, which when we first signed up, took away $1,000 from our account that we didn’t have, and then our capital would be locked up for 3 to 10 years,” recalls Yousefi.

So the pair started doing research and spoke to 1,000 individuals under the age of 35. Eight out of 10 said they would like to invest in real estate but were deterred by all the barriers to entry.

“There is clearly a large demand for access to real estate,” Yousefi said. “And we wanted to give people a way to invest in it like they can in stocks, via a mobile app.”

And so the idea for Fintor was born.

Yousefi and Jalali founded the company in 2020 with the goal of purchasing homes via an LLC, and turning each into shares through a SEC-approved broker dealer. Individuals can then buy shares of the homes via Fintor’s platform. Its next step is to sign agreements with individual real estate investors or bigger real estate development firms to list their properties on the platform and give people the opportunity to buy shares.

And now Fintor has raised $2.5 million in seed money to continue building out its fractional real estate investing platform. The startup aims to “fractionalize” houses and other residential property, giving people in the U.S. access to investment opportunities “starting with as little as $5.” The company attracted the interest of investors such as 500 Startups, Hustle Fund, Graphene Ventures, Houston-based real estate investor Manny Khoshbin, Mana Ventures and other angel investors such as Cindy Bi, Skyler Fernandes, VU Venture Partners, Minal Hasan, Andrew Zalasin, Alluxo CEO and Founder Safa Mahzari, SquareFoot CEO and founder Jonathan Wasserstrum and Teachable CEO and founder Ankur Nagpal.

Image Credits: Fintor

Fintor is eying markets such as Kansas City, South Carolina, and Houston, Texas, where it already has some properties. It’s looking for homes in the $80,000 to $350,000 price range, and millennials and GenZers are its target demographic.

“Fintor can give the same return as the stock market, but at half the risk,” Yousefi said. “As two [Iranian] immigrants, we’ve seen how much this country has to offer and how real estate sits at the top of everything, yet is so inaccessible.”

The pair had originally set out to raise just $1 million but the round was quickly “way oversubscribed,” according to Yousefi, and they ended up raising $2.5 million at triple the original valuation.

Jalali said the company will use machine learning technology to filter and rate properties as it scales its business model.

“We’ll use ML to categorize neighborhoods and to come up with the price of properties to offer to potential sellers,” he added. “Our ultimate goal is to create indexes so that people can invest in multiple properties in a given city. That creates diversification right away.”

.Elizabeth Yin, co-founder and general partner of Hustle Fund, believes that Fintor is solving a generational problem with real estate.

“Retail investors have almost no access to great real estate investments today and the best opportunities are reserved for the select few,” she told TechCrunch. “Not to mention that in addition to access, retail investors often need a lot of capital in order to have a diversified portfolio or be accredited to join funds.”

Fintor’s approach to securitize real estate assets will give millions of investors who are not accredited investors access they would otherwise not have had, Yin added. 

“Simultaneously, it provides increased liquidity to property owners, while improving the user experience for both parties,” she said. “Effectively this becomes a new asset class, because it’s entirely turnkey and is fractionalized, which opens up many new pockets of investors.”

#ankur-nagpal, #articles, #ceo, #cindy-bi, #crowdfunding, #elizabeth-yin, #entrepreneurship, #financial-technology, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #graphene-ventures, #houston, #hustle-fund, #kansas-city, #machine-learning-technology, #ml, #palo-alto, #proptech, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #retail-investors, #south-carolina, #squarefoot, #startups, #tc, #technology, #texas, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission, #united-states, #venture-capital

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Knox Financial raises $10M to take the pain out of being a landlord

We’ve all heard the phrase “passive income” to describe how people can make money by owning rental properties. Many Americans would love to passively earn money, but the process of becoming a landlord can be intimidating and complicated. 

I mean, how many people have looked back and wished they hadn’t sold a property after seeing its value rise years after selling it?

And those who are already landlords can get overwhelmed by the complexities of managing properties.

One startup out of Boston, Knox Financial, aims to help people identify and manage residential rentals with its algorithm-based platform, and it’s raised a $10 million Series A to help it further that goal. Boston-based G20 Ventures led the round, which included participation from Greycroft, Pillar VC, 2LVC, and Gaingels.  

The investment brings Knox’s total raised since its inception in 2018 to $14.7 million. The company closed on a $3 million seed round in January 2020, led by Greycroft.

Knox co-founder and CEO David Friedman is no stranger to startups. He founded Boston Logic – an integrated marketing platform and online marketing services for real estate offices and agents – in 2004. He sold that company (now under the name Propertybase) to Providence Equity for an undisclosed amount in 2016.

Knox launched its platform in March of 2019, with the goal of offering homeowners who are ready to move “a completely hands-off way” of converting a home they’re moving out of into an investment property. It also claims to help landlords more easily and efficiently manage their rentals.

At the time of its seed round early last year, the company was only operating in the Boston market and had 50 units on its platform. It’s now operating in seven states, has “hundreds” of investment properties on its platform and is overseeing a portfolio of more than $100 million.

So how does it work? Once a property is enrolled on Knox’s “Frictionless Ownership Platform,” the company automates and oversees the property’s finances and taxes, insurance, leasing and legal, tenant and property care, banking and bill pay.

Knox also has developed a rental pricing and projection model for calculating the investment rate of return a property will produce over time.

Image Credits: Knox Financial

“We save investors a lot and almost always make their portfolios more profitable,” Friedman said. “If someone is moving or upsizing, we can turn properties into incredible ROI generators or cash flow.”

The company’s revenue model is simple.

When a dollar of rent moves through our system, we keep a dime,” Friedman told TechCrunch. “We align our interests with our customers. If there’s no rent coming in, we’re not making money. Or if a tenant doesn’t pay rent, we don’t make money.”

Knox plans to use its new capital to continue expanding geographically and getting the word out to more people.

“We want to become the de facto platform for real estate investment acquisition and ownership,” Friedman said. “And we have to be coast to coast to really do that for everybody. So, we’re still very early in our growth trajectory.”

Bob Hower, co-founder and partner of G20 Ventures, shared that weeks after his college graduation, he had bought a fixer upper with his mother’s help. A week after finishing renovations, he put the house on the market. Over the subsequent 5 months, he gradually reduced the price as the market softened, and eventually the property sold at a small profit.

“That house now is worth a multiple of what I paid for it,” Hower recalls. “In hindsight, the mistake I made was deciding to sell the house at all.”

That experience helped Hower appreciate what he describes as a “clarity of thinking” in Knox’s business model.

“Had Knox existed decades ago, I’d likely still have that fixer-upper I bought after college,” he said. “Investing platforms such as Betterment have collapsed multiple advising and optimization activities into a simple single-sign-on service, and Knox is the first company to apply this type model to residential real estate investing.”

#articles, #banking, #boston, #david-friedman, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #g20-ventures, #greycroft, #knox, #knox-financial, #landlord, #pillar, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #renting, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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