Proptech startup Place sues advisory firm claiming cut of Series A 

M&A consultancy Vista Point Advisors wants fee from $100M funding round

Vista Point Advisors' Micheal Lyon and Place's Ben Kinney
Vista Point Advisors' Micheal Lyon and Place's Ben Kinney (Vista Point Advisors, Place, Getty)

Real estate tech unicorn Place Inc. is suing an advisory firm that wants a cut of the startup’s $100 million Series A round. 

Place, a company that provides business infrastructure services such as accounting and human resources to real estate agents filed a lawsuit against Vista Point Advisors, a San  Francisco-based firm that provides guidance on mergers and acquisitions. Vista Point is claiming a $4.9 million fee from the Series A financing, and wants to go to arbitration against Place. Vista Point did not respond to a request for comment.

Place closed its Series A round in November 2021. The funding was led by Goldman Sachs and 3L Capital. Total investment, which amounted to a 10 percent minority stake, pushed the company to a valuation of $1 billion. 

The dispute relates to Brivity, a company started by Place co-founder Ben Kinney. According to the complaint, Kinney hired Vista Point to find a buyer for Brivity in 2019. Place accused Vista Point of “doing very little work,” leading prospects for a sale to evaporate. 

“Instead of a list of potentially viable candidates, Vista Point submitted what it termed a ‘very early skeleton,’ that revealed a total lack of familiarity with the real estate business,” the court filing read.

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Place claims that Vista Point ceased all contact in October 2020. Communication between the two sides apparently restarted on Valentine’s Day last year, with Vista Point founder Michael Lyon sending an email that read: “Congratulations on the recent transaction with Goldman Sachs. Based on the publicly available information on the transaction, we believe that this transaction is covered under our engagement letter.” 

In its petition, Place declared itself as a separate entity that was formed after Visa Point breached its contract with Brivity. Thus, neither Brivity nor Vista Point had anything to do with the Series A round.

The timeline of Place’s founding may be a weak spot in the company’s argument. In the lawsuit, the firm claimed that it was formed in October 2021. An earlier report from Geekwire, which featured statements from Kinney, contradicts this assertion. The article, which said that Place was founded in 2019, mentioned that the firm generated $85 million in revenue in 2020. 

Place was founded by Kinney and Chris Suarez, both of whom are real estate brokers. The firm focuses on the top 20 percent of real estate agents and its technology is based on the Brivity platform. At the time of its Series A round, the company operated in 100 markets in the U.S. and Canada.