Future City: Proptech unicorns multiplying

National /
Dec.December 07, 2021 07:00 AM

Lessen is more

Lessen, a real estate management platform that connects property owners to service providers, nearly quadrupled its previous fundraising with a $170 million Series B round, valuing the company at more than $1 billion.

The Scottsdale, Arizona-based startup is the latest unicorn to come out of a record year for proptech investment, which has seen upwards of $10 billion of equity and debt capital flow into the space. Lessen’s Series B was oversubscribed, CEO Jay McKee said.

Property management is a crowded proptech field, but McKee said the platform’s transparency, comprehensive data and ability to “optimize workflows” set it apart.

“We believe that we are approaching the property-services industry in a unique way that combines tech and field delivery in a way that no one has done before,” McKee said.

The company plans to triple its employee count in the coming months and to take its platform nationwide soon.


Place maker

The real estate agent services platform Place also hit unicorn status — with its first external funding round.

The Bellingham, Washington-based startup raised $100 million in a Series A round led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s growth equity business. Place offers a suite of software and business services for agents that range from human resources and administrative support to branding, marketing and accounting.

Place is built to work with brokerages of all sizes, but it is targeting the top 20 percent of agents, who the company’s founders — 20-year real estate veterans — say run up against significant costs attempting to become business owners.

“Consumers are consistently choosing to work with those top teams because they offer specialized and more consistent service,” co-founder Chris Suarez said. “We see the majority of the industry needing to go that way.”

Place is active in more than 100 markets in the U.S. and Canada. The platform was profitable after its first year of operation, Suarez said.


Hard drive

Digital real estate speculators continue to pile into the metaverse, the emerging virtual world for entertainment, commerce and social gathering.

Tokens.com bought an “estate” in Decentraland in late November for the equivalent of $2.4 million — a new record — only to be outdone a few days later by Republic Realm, which bought a plot in The Sandbox for the equivalent of $4.3 million.

Above all, developers of the metaverse should prioritize experience and entertainment if they want to be successful, Janine Yorio, co-founder of Republic Realm, said.

“It’s not just about making money,” she said. “It’s about making content that makes people want to come back over and over and over again, like social media does.”

Digital land prices have run up significantly in recent months alongside the value of the native metaverse cryptocurrencies like MANA and SAND.

It is too early to say if the gold rush for digital land is a fad, a bubble, or the birth of a legitimate new asset class, but the overall sales figures are formidable. Over one week in November, there were more than 4,400 digital real estate sales, valued at a cumulative $70.6 million, in The Sandbox alone.


STAT OF THE WEEK

$70.6 million

More than 4,400 digital real estate deals worth $70.6 million in The Sandbox in one week in November.


Luxury and legitimacy

If there has been any sign that the recent metaverse craze may be here to stay, it’s the arrival of real-world luxury brokers in the arena.

Oren and Tal Alexander, New York and Miami’s highest-grossing residential real estate brokers, are partnering with Republic Realm to build “architecturally significant master-planned community” that will span at least three of the virtual worlds.

The Alexander Team, who are independent contractors for Douglas Elliman, have invested in digital real estate themselves, and plan to market the virtual mansions to their real-world clientele, among which they say demand is already high. Elliman isn’t directly involved in the venture.

“The world has changed, society has changed people — especially the younger generation, who are not only gaming in the digital world, but to some extent living in the digital world.”


“The world has changed, society has changed people — especially the younger generation, who are not only gaming in the digital world, but to some extent living in the digital world.”

Oren Alexander, The Alexander Team

Lawyer up

Shareholders scalded by Zillow’s exit from iBuying and the attendant sharp decline in its stock price are joining forces.

The company is now facing at least two class-action lawsuits for allegedly misleading investors with falsely positive characterizations of the business and neglecting to update them on the headwinds it faced.

Burned shareholders commonly seek redress in the courts, and more lawsuits may be forthcoming. The company has so far stayed mum on its course of action.

Zillow meanwhile continues to sell off the thousands of homes it bought in bulk using proprietary pricing tools and hoped to quickly flip for a profit.


Small bytes

• Israeli shared-office startup Mindspace raised $72 Million to expand operations in the U.S., Canada and at home. The company currently manages 32 locations across 17 cities and seven countries.
• Clever Real Estate, an online platform connecting consumers with real estate agents, raised $8 million in a Series B round.
• Keyway, a startup that uses data to identify sale-leaseback opportunities, raised $15 million in seed financing.
• Pronto Housing, an affordable housing compliance software platform, closed a $2.5 million seed round.



 
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