Showdigs interfaces for property managers, users and brokers. (Showdigs Photo) Another new Seattle startup has raised cash to fix problems in the complicated world of real estate. raised a $3 million seed round to make life easier for property managers who are inundated with requests for showings of rental homes and apartments. The company operates an Uber-like marketplace model, connecting property managers in need of people to show houses and apartments with real estate brokers looking to make some extra cash. “They get bombarded with hundreds of inquiries every time they have a vacancy,” Showdigs CEO said in an interview with GeekWire. “The problem is they have to start following up with everyone and scheduling meetings and times for people to see the unit, and this is where they get swamped and need help.” Showdigs CEO Kobi Bensimon. (Showdigs Photo) Showdigs plugs into property managers’ systems, and when they get a request for a showing from a site like Zillow or Apartments.com, the company sends back a link to set up an appointment. Visits can be scheduled with as little as 30 minutes notice, and Showdigs then pings brokers on the platform in the neighborhood to do a showing, the same way Uber finds nearby drivers for ride requests. Brokers make $25 per showing, paid by property managers, with Showdigs taking a cut. The company is still tinkering with how it brings in revenue, testing options like taking a percentage off each showing, offering subscriptions for property managers, flat fees per vacant unit and more. Showdigs just launched its service in November, starting small in the West Seattle neighborhood. A month later, the company expanded to all of Seattle and Portland. In 2019, Showdigs plans to expand to more major markets. Showdigs is one of a number of Seattle startups tackling problems in the real estate industry. Some are dealing with the sales process (FlyHomes), while others aim to solve construction (Blokable) and title and escrow (JetClosing). FlyHomes is testing a similar service — “a role where rideshare drivers who were also real estate agents could show homes on demand,” as this notes — but for those looking to buy properties, not rent. Today, Showdigs has about 150 brokers on the platform and is working with 10 large property managers. The company just showed its 1000th unit. The nine-person company is split between Seattle and Tel Aviv, Israel. Bensimon and a lot of the business team are in Seattle, while the product team, led by Waze veteran Ohad Ron, is in Israel. The seed round was led by Bellevue, Wash.-based venture capital firm . Bensimon said the cash infusion will be used to beef up the company’s software and platform, so that when the time comes to expand, scaling up the business will go smoothly. Bensimon is a veteran of the real estate tech business. He co-founded and led a startup called ActiveBuilding that helped large apartment complexes communicate with tenants. He in 2013. The experience at ActiveBuilding gave Bensimon a window into the issues property managers deal with and inspired the idea that became Showdigs. Brokers rarely show apartments anymore thanks to technological innovations from sites like Zillow. But they possess unmatched local knowledge, the training to show units and flexible schedules to take some load off overbooked property managers. Brokers are primarily reliant on sales commissions, so Showdigs gives them an opportunity to earn extra money in between sales or keep cash coming in during a dry spell. “It’s a way for them to complement their income,” Bensimon said of the platform for brokers. “They get a commission every time they make a sale, and sometimes they could go for months without having an income.”
The Knock team. (Knock Photos) When it comes to communication with customers, many apartment landlords still rely only on phone and email to connect with potential tenants and existing renters. wants to change that. The Seattle startup today announced a $10 million Series A round led by Madrona Venture Group to help grow its communications and CRM platform used by nearly 200 multifamily property management companies. The 52-person company has seen revenue grow by 11X over the past two years and is operating in nine U.S. cities. Total funding to date is $15.5 million. What Knock does: Knock’s technology facilitates communication between property managers and renters — responding to questions, organizing tours, etc. — and also manages customer relationships, bringing both services in one place. Knock’s product can be used with property management software systems such as Yardi and Realpage, and also provides back-end analytics data to highlight engagement and internal sales statistics. It integrates with communication tools such as Facebook Messenger and productivity apps including Outlook and Slack. Knock will use the fresh funding to invest in data science and analytics that can help property managers predict tenant turnover and reduce vacancy rates. Backstory: Knock, originally called ZipDigs, was co-founded in 2014 by and , two University of Washington grads who previously worked together at UBS Wealth Management. The entrepreneurs were frustrated with the leasing process, specifically with how difficult it was to communicate with landlords. “All these different communication channels in one centralized platform was just not available prior to Knock,” Petry said. , the company’s other co-founder, left in April 2018. More renters: Themelis said that almost every major metropolitan market is seeing a record amount of multi-family development. That’s good news for Knock. “With all that supply, there’s competition to get renters to move into those properties,” Themelis said. Competition: Some companies offer landlords lead management or communication tools, but Petry said none bring them together in the way that Knock does. Knock co-founders Tom Petry and Demetri Themelis. Investor insight: In a blog post, Scott Jacobsen, managing director at Madrona, detailed how Knock “grew from a booking widget for prospective tenants to a comprehensive CRM.” “By listening to customers and deeply understanding the pain points and friction (a behavior we see in all great founding teams), the Knock team has built the best CRM system for multi-family property managers and are just getting started in their ambition to build a comprehensive, modern marketing cloud for the industry,” Jacobsen wrote. Not that Knock: There’s another real estate startup called Knock that a $400 million round two months ago for its “home trade-in program.” Seattle real estate startups: Knock is one of several startups in the region building tech for the real estate industry. Others include , , , , , MoxiWorks, IMPREV, and Faira — not to mention industry giants such as Zillow Group and Redfin.