This RE startup is trying to eliminate the rental broker

Keyo claims it places tenants faster than traditional agents, and guarantees leases
By Meenal Vamburkar | April 01, 2019 06:27PM

A Silicon Valley real estate tech startup says its artificial intelligence technology will change the risk calculus for rental landlords. It also claims it can find a qualified tenant faster than a traditional broker.

Palo Alto-based Keyo said Monday it’s guaranteeing that its landlord clients are paid for every month of a lease, even if the tenant defaults or leaves early. The company has a network of 2,700 apartments in New York City and claims to have collected more than $3.5 million in guaranteed rent payments.

Basically, landlords sign up their vacant apartments through Keyo and the company places qualified tenants in the units. Keyo charges the landlord one month’s rent to place the tenant — effectively a broker fee — and guarantee the financial terms of the lease. The tenant isn’t charged any additional fee by Keyo. Its app allows tenants to pay landlords directly — and the company has partnered with credit bureaus.

Keyo launched in May 2018 pitching itself as an AI-powered platform that can place and guarantee tenants in less time than a broker.

The venture-backed company’s investors include Village Global — which is backed by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt and Michael Bloomberg — and Evan William’s Obvious Ventures. Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Bebo founder Michael Birch are direct investors in Keyo. It’s raised a total of $2 million, according to Crunchbase. But the firm says to date it has raised $7.5 million.

In February, TheGuarantors, a startup that insures New York renters who don’t meet landlord requirements, closed on $15 million in Series B funding. Companies like TheGuarantors and Insurent are aiming to fill a gap in the rental market amid the city’s high prices and upfront costs. Most landlords only accept tenants with an annual income of at least 40 times the monthly rent and who have credit scores greater than 700. If someone were to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan priced at $3,000, it could cost over $10,000 upfront when factoring in first month, last month, security and broker fee.