What you need to know about Zumper, a $400M startup accused of renter bias

Rental platform backed by likes of Axel Springer, Blackstone and Marcus & Millichap

TRD NATIONAL /
Sep.September 18, 2020 08:00 AM
Zumper CEO Anthemos Georgiades (Getty; iStock)
Zumper CEO Anthemos Georgiades (Getty; iStock)

On September 1, Zumper published a set of core principles it said defined its brand: inclusivity, safety and respect.

“We believe that everyone deserves a fair shot and a safe place to call home,” Anthemos Georgiades, CEO of the rental platform, wrote on the company blog. “We do not tolerate any form of discrimination with regard to race, color, nationality, age, gender identity, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.”

Just two weeks later, Zumper is dealing with the fallout from a damning report that found it
systematically weeded out low-income renters. Citing interviews with current and past employees, Business Insider reported Sept. 15 that Zumper managers instructed employees to categorize some renters as “unserviceable.” Further, internal data revealed the company’s engineering team installed filters that screened out renters with Section 8 housing vouchers.

Zumper has categorically denied the allegations. Still, the report is a black eye for an eight-year-old firm that’s become both a Silicon Valley and real estate industry darling, raising $150 million to date from the likes of Greylock, Kleiner Perkins and Andreessen Horowitz, as well as Blackstone Group, Marcus & Millichap and DivcoWest.

Early on, the company caught the attention of Silicon Valley after appearing at a startup competition and nabbed $1 million in funding. It was most recently valued at $400 million, after closing a $60 million Series D in March 2020 led by e.ventures, according to Pitchbook. That valuation was a big jump from its 2018 figure of $215 million, which it achieved after raising $45 million.

Like other fast-growing startups, Zumper has been on an M&A tear. In 2016, it paid $10 million for New York City-based PadMapper. Last year, it snapped up NowRenting, a platform that automates the rental process for landlords. It also reportedly acquired MySpace NYC, a residential brokerage in Brooklyn, and partnered with Chicago-based brokerage Spaces Real Estate.

Its growth has caused anxiety among some in the industry, who’ve expressed concern that Zumper would seek to replace agents. In 2017, Zumper launched a residential brokerage arm in New York, prompting brokerage chiefs to lash out.

Compared to listing portals like Zillow and Apartments.com, Zumper is still a bit player. Its website and mobile app had 10.3 million visitors in August 2020, according to SimilarWeb. By comparison, Apartments.com, which is owned by CoStar, had 40.4 million visitors last month. Zillow, which has for-sale and rental listings, had 289 million.

Since last year, Zumper has been bulking up its C-suite. In October 2019, it tapped Vishal Makhijani, ex-COO at Zynga, as its COO and president, followed by Patty Crawford, a former CoStar executive, as vice president of strategic sales. Last month, Darren Goode, a former Apple exec, joined Zumper as chief marketing officer, and just this week Zumper hired former Uber design executive Shalin Amin as chief experience officer.

Last month, the company rolled out Instarent, a product that allows renters to fully sign leases digitally. It was that launch that led Zumper to publish the core values statement. “Although the principle of fairness has always been central to our ethos,” Georgiades wrote, “we never formally set standards about the eway our company should work together.”






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