Funnel raises $14.1M as demand surges for online leasing

Essex Property, Cortland joined platform in August

Funnel's Tyler Christiansen and Caren Maio
Funnel's Tyler Christiansen and Caren Maio

Funnel, a startup that helps landlords manage their rental portfolios, has raised $14.1 million to meet a surge in demand for online leasing tools.

The company, founded in 2011 and formerly known as Nestio, said the Series AA round was led by RET Ventures with participation from prior backers Camber Creek and Trinity Ventures. Trinity led the startup’s $8 million Series A in 2015.

CEO Tyler Christiansen said Funnel initially raised $8 million before Covid, but reopened the round after bringing 250,000 new units onto its platform. The round brings Funnel’s total funding to $32 million.

In 2018 the company raised a $4.5 million strategic round from a group of real estate heavy-hitters, including Rudin Ventures, the Durst Organization, LeFrak Ventures, Moinian Group’s Currency M and Lightstone Group affiliate Torch Venture Capital.

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The company’s core product is an inventory management and syndication tool for landlords. Over the past couple of years, it has launched marketing and leasing products, including AI-powered software that responds to potential renters in real time. Though it initially operated only in New York City, since 2019 it has also targeted a national audience for its products.

The company will use the new funds to accelerate that growth and product development.

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Christiansen said Funnel will launch two additional products by the end of this year: a virtual assistant to guide prospective tenants through the leasing process, and an online leasing tool, which was previously in development.

“No more paper,” he said. “Everything is remote, everything is digital, everything is mobile.”

Christiansen, Funnel’s former chief revenue officer and COO, became the company’s chief executive in July, replacing co-founder Caren Maio, who moved into the role of president and chairman. Prior to joining Funnel, Christiansen was a senior vice president of sales at Entrata, a digital property-management platform.

In recent months, investors have scrambled to fund startups that bring the leasing process online. MeetElise, an AI-powered startup with a virtual assistant, raised $6.75 million in July. OJO Labs, which has a virtual assistant that works with home buyers, raised $40 million last year.

As it looks to grow, Funnel is targeting larger, enterprise clients. In August, it signed Essex Property Trust and Cortland as clients.

“There was a lot of old-school mentality in the multi-family [sector] that slowed adoption to more modern tools,” he said. Covid changed that dynamic. “It was no longer possible to rely on the in-person way of manual leasing anymore,” he added.

The company currently has 40 employees, including a newly-hired data scientist and machine-learning engineers. Until now, Funnel has worked to automate new leases. Next year, it will focus on renewals to help big landlords build loyalty with renters.