New in the world of proptech: A reckoning for Knotel, the rise of construction tech & more

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Jan.January 24, 2020 05:00 PM
Knotel CEO Amol Sarva

Knotel CEO Amol Sarva

Proptech is a $20 billion industry that’s already reshaping and upending traditional real estate as we know it. And this is just the beginning. Each Thursday, The Real Deal’s Future City newsletter breaks down the biggest news in proptech across the globe, from 3-D printer homebuilders in Long Island, to emerging tech brokerages in India, to crowdfunding property startups in San Francisco. Of course, we also cover the intrigue around firms backed by SoftBank. There are lots of them.

Our newsletter features exclusive interviews, insight and analysis that’s a must-read for brokers, developers and VCs alike. You can sign up here.

Here is the Jan. 23 edition

Das rental middleman

Home, a German startup that connects tenants and landlords, just scored €11 million in a Series A funding round led by early stage VC firm Capnamic and EQT Ventures. The company works as a digital middleman, signing leases directly with owners and renting out the units to tenants. They claim that 1,100 landlords request to sign up for their service a month. Home’s goal is to use the new funds to expand past Berlin, Munich and Hamburg to seven additional German cities by April 2020.

Homebuilding, from start to finish

Proptech focused VC firm Fifth Wall Ventures just led a $35 million Series B round for tech-fueled general contractor Homebound. The startup guides homeowners through each step of the building process, giving them digital access to building plans, budgeting, and construction progress. Founder Nikki Pechet started the company in response to the Tubbs Fire, which wiped out thousands of homes in Northern California in 2017.

Bonuses at Airbnb
Safety is still on Airbnb’s mind this week. They’ll be factoring in guest safety metrics in employee bonuses, per the Wall Street Journal. The change would tie the bonuses of more than 6,000 employees, along with executives, to the safety of guests and hosts on the platform. A shooting killed five at an Airbnb home on Halloween last year and the company responded by announcing new safety measures including plans to verify all 7 million of its listings, which sounds almost impossible to pull off.

Stat of the Week

That’s how much WeWork’s leasing activity plunged in the fourth quarter. The flailing company signed just four new leases in the U.S., covering 184,022 square feet of space compared to an average of 2.54 million square feet in the last four quarters.

They’re clearly rushing to cut costs after the whole IPO debacle. In that vein this week, WeWork’s selling off its stake in women-focused co-working startup The Wing. They’ll join a long list of startups that were once part of the WeWork sphere, including Managed by Q, Meetup, and Teem.

No-no Knotel
WeWork isn’t the only co-working company scrambling to make cuts. As much as a third of Knotel’s New York-focused staff received pink slips last week, sources told TRD. Around 20 people were laid off from the 50-to-60-person team at their New York location. Sales reps, customer service employees, a construction project manager and workers from Knotel’s furniture business were among the layoff victims. The cuts come not long after the firm’s head of corporate finance left. Knotel, which claimed to have raised $400 million six months ago to reach unicorn status, has been struggling with high vacancy rates in New York. Former Knotelers told TRD‘s David Jeans that the business model was quite similar to that of WeWork, which reminds us of this A+ tweet from CEO Amol Sarva:

Getting ready to move

Corporate relocation startup Shyft just nabbed $15 million in a Series A round. The startup is aimed specifically at employees whose company will cover the cost of their move. Users chat with a “move coach” to help them through the corporate relocation process and get estimates from movers.

Startup Spotlight

The land of milk, honey and con-tech

It’s no secret that Israel has been a hotbed for tech startups over the past few years with navigation app Waze as the country’s biggest success story. But it’s not just Waze that’s been making waves. The country’s proptech industry has ballooned along with the wider expansion of the tech industry, bringing some unique startups, especially in construction, to the field.

Construction tech startup Intsite aims to shorten project times by integrating AI with construction cranes. The Tel Aviv-based company created tech that helps automate the navigation of tower cranes. They’re not the only ones testing out unique solutions at construction sites around Israel. The country’s construction industry trade association, Bonei Yisrael has a tech initiative that focuses on 3D printing materials and drones that monitor building projects.

Credifi’s back from the dead

Mortgage data firm Actovia is buying up a former competitor that suddenly shuttered last month. Just a few weeks ago it seemed like it was the end for the Tel Aviv-based data startup Credifi. But with the acquisition, the CRE data company will be back as a separate company under the Actovia umbrella. Actovia CEO Jonathan Ingber told TRD that they may merge with Credifi in the future to form one big CRE data firm.

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