Urban Compass puts out casting call for residential brokers, nabs Rudin investment

Both moves hint at business direction of monied tech start-up

Bill Rudin, Ori Allon and Joshua Kushner
Bill Rudin, Ori Allon and Joshua Kushner

For months, tech blogs have speculated about the purpose of Urban Compass, the tech start-up that hired Citi Habitats veteran Gordon Golub earlier this year. But so far founder Ori Allon has remained notably silent on what the start-up will do. Now, two new announcements from the company provide further evidence that its mysterious objective may be closely linked to real estate.

Bill Rudin, CEO of family real estate dynasty Rudin Management, has been named as one of the company’s investors, alongside previously announced real estate-related investors such as Joshua Kushner’s Thrive Capital. Rudin, whose real estate portfolio comprises over 14 million square feet of residential and commercial space, appeared on Urban Compass’ website listed as an investor yesterday.

Allon declined to specify Rudin’s exact capital contribution to the start-up. So far, Urban Compass has raised $8 million in total seed funding to date, according to the firm’s latest announcement, with other investors including Kenneth Chenault, the CEO of American Express, and Cyrus Massoumi, the CEO of the medical booking service ZocDoc.

Rudin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his investment.

Allon has said previously that his new company will be a hyper-localized service that requires full-time on-the-street workers, as opposed to merely office-based engineers. It will also rely heavily on mobile devices. He has previously cited Google Street View as an inspiration. Allon said he preferred to wait until April, when Urban Compass with launch in beta, to provide further details.

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However, in another sign of what may be to come, Allon told The Real Deal he is actively recruiting residential real estate brokers to join the company as “neighborhood specialists.”

While Allon would not specify exactly the role these brokers would play in the company, nor exactly what Urban Compass itself does, he said applicants must be knowledgeable about Manhattan neighborhoods, and would be paid a salary and receive equity in the newbie company. While Urban Compass already has so-called neighborhood specialists on board, those specialists primarily have backgrounds in hospitality, rather than real estate, Allon said.

Since these neighborhood specialists will not be paid a commission, Urban Compass is “looking for brokers that have their best days when they simply make their clients feel great about the service they received,” Allon said.

Urban Compass co-founder Mike Weiss also has a real estate background; prior to joining the start up, he focused on real estate private equity at Goldman Sachs and worked at hospitality website Airbnb. Golub joined the company in January after 18 years at Citi Habitats, as The Real Deal previously reported.

Allon is the serial founder behind companies such as Julpan, a tool for analyzing social information, which Twitter acquired in 2011. He also built an internet search algorithm called Orion, which Google bought in 2006.