CompStak‘s data is wildly valuable. Without paying a penny, its crowdsourced real estate info platform has compiled the rent, size, and more of 40% of Manhattan commercial leases over the last decade. It’s selling the data to banks and private equity while trading it to real estate agents and landlords for more data. Now CompStak is getting serious, joining 500 Startups who’s led its $565,000 seed.
The idea behind CompStak is simple, brilliant, and hugely profitable. Co-founder Michael Mandel was a New York real estate broker when he noticed a disturbing lack of transparency in the pricing of offices and commercial spaces. Some agents and firms had small chunks of data but no one was widely collecting lease “comps” — detailed records of rent prices, square-footage, landlords, tenants, and income that buildings brought in.
Mandel knew he could sell the data to help landlords price their space, agents find people whose leases are expiring, brokers negotiate great deals for their clients, and real estate investors know where to put their money. But the innovation came in how CompStak would pull in the data.
Rather than trying to buy it, CompStak seeded its database thanks to some broker friends and set up a barter system, where anyone with access to lease comps could upload them to earn points they could spend to access other comps. That means its data set is snowballing without costing CompStak anything.
To make money, CompStak sells enterprise licenses to banks, hedge funds, private equity real estate trusts and others that can use it to improve their wheelings and dealings. In a smart move, agents, brokers, and anyone else that control comps can’t buy access — they have to barter. And don’t worry, it’s not competing with real estate search engine and Y Combinator darling 42Floors. The teams are actually friends.
Now CompStak has data for 50% of Manhattan commercial leases in the last two years and 40% of leases in the last 10 years. This data is not in the public record and I hear its much better than the smaller collections held by traditional real estate research firms like CoStar. CompStak’s data also illuminates trends in what industries are buying more space, which neighborhoods are trending, and what’s a fair price per square foot in an area. That’s why it has been cited by the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and industry rag The Real Deal.
CompStak’s got the ball rolling in New York, so it needed money to beef up the crowdsourcing data platform, hire employees, and expand to new cities. To soak up some Silicon Valley wisdom, it’s joined 500 Startups and will set up an office in Mountain View.
Dave McClure’s incubator also led CompStak’s $565,000 seed round that TechCrunch got the first word on today. Other investors include Jordanian VC Silicon Badia, Expansion Capital (the VC arm of a prominent NYC real estate owner), PropertyShark co-founder Ryan Slack, Moat founder Jonah Goodhart, and real estate hedge fund investor Matt Grodin.
First stop in its expansion is likely to be San Francisco, where startups are in fierce competition for stylish office space that can attract talent. But don’t expect to gain personal access to CompStak anytime soon if you’re not in real estate. Mandel tells me “We’re still in closed beta and only bring on people we want to bring on. We don’t have any plans to roll out to the public.”
CompStak has no immediate plans to sell out either, even though acquirers have already come knocking. Makes sense. If I was an old real estate research firm I’d be terrified of CompStak. Mendel explained to me”We recognize that because what we do is very different, that makes us complementary to many of them. We’ve had interest from other companies and we expect we’ll continue to. But we can gather a ton of info other people can’t. We’re looking to build a formidible company and grow this into something awesome.”
Here is the original post: CompStak Knows Exactly How Much Your Office Should Cost, Raises $565K And Joins 500 Startups
Zillow just announced the launch of Zillow Rentals, the company’s new ad-free marketplace for rental professionals and landlords. Zillow Rentals, the company says, will allow it to help serve rental professionals to better market and manage their listings.
This new product, the company told us, was made possible by Zillow’s June 2012 acquisition of the San Francisco-based rental relationship management service RentJuice. All of RentJuice’s tools and services, including the company’s mobile apps, have now been re-branded as Zillow Rentals. Zillow Rentals, the company says, will offer “best-in-class productivity tools and resources to help them manage and market their listings, for free.”
As Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff noted in a prepared statement today, “the RentJuice acquisition four months ago laid the foundation for this expansion in rentals, and today’s announcement brings us one step closer toward our vision of rewiring the rental industry.”
Besides the free offering, Zillow is also introducing Zillow Rental Premier, which will allow landlords to syndicate their listings across 30 consumer websites and offer tools like credit screening and an email marketing platform.
Indeed, rentals are clearly a focus of Zillow’s expansion plans. With its Zillow Rental Network, it already owns the largest rental network on the Web, according to the company’s own data. Over 6 million renters, says Zillow, visit its web and mobile services every month. This July, the company also expanded its relationship with Yahoo Homes to include rentals. The company is now Yahoo’s exclusive provider for for-sale and for-rent listings.
The RentJuice team, Zillow tells us, is staying in San Francisco (Zillow’s headquarters is in Seattle) and is currently hiring.
The Craigslist crackdown on usage of its listings data by third parties has had some fairly strong fallout. Some have shut down operations after getting cease & desist orders; some, like 3Taps and PadMapper, are now in court defending themselves on copyright infringement allegations. But here’s news of another taking a third way: Lovely, a site based around a map interface that helps people find apartments, created to aggregate Craigslist and other sources of apartment rental data, is today launching nationwide.
The expansion comes after a successful mini-launch in late 2011 in San Francisco and other select regions, where up to 100,000 people use the service each month.
Blake Pierson, the co-founder of Lovely, likens the service to an Orbitz or a Kayak, because of how it aggregates data from a number of other services. That aggregation list is now 12 sources strong and growing. To that end, it competes against the likes of Trulia and Zillow, he says.
Pierson doesn’t want name the full name of suppliers — “We prefer to keep them confidential so competitors don’t just try to replicate our data acquisition strategy,” he tells me — but a few of the bigger names include Apartments.com and regional brokerage aggregators like VLSHomes in the northeast. This is just the starting point for a wider push into the rentals space, he notes.
But also: that expansion doesn’t mean that Lovely is cutting out Craigslist altogether: it is still sourcing CL data via 3Taps — which also happens to be an investor in Lovely. 3Taps’ API is also the conduit for other data it should be noted. Pierson says that 3Taps currently provides about one-third of all the listings on its site, and that proportion is expected to go down to one-quarter in the next couple of months.
Like other services such as PadMapper, Lovely was borne out of the fact that Craigslist was lacking when it came to useful ways of interacting with the listings.
Lovely creates what it calls a “renter’s resume” letting users contact landlords directly from the site, offering real-time inventory availability, and giving users the option to create email alerts based on specific parameters and locations, including specific streets.
Craigslist, of course, is not standing idly by. It is trying to incorporate some features like maps into its service. “We’d be silly not to consider Craigslist a threat,” says Pierson. “They have a ton of money and a ton of users. You don’t become a product company overnight, however, so we have that on our side.” He also points out that CL has to worry about a dozen different verticals, while Lovely is “laser focused” on rentals. “Finally, we’re obsessed with data and using technology to better understand that data. I’m not sure that’s the business they consider themselves in.” On a more charitable note, he says he’s “glad to see them innovating. Their users deserve it.”
Indeed, while Lovely on the surface is a useful way for finding flats, behind the scenes the company is also something of a big data play: Pierson notes that the company has algorithms to sort through and delete duplicates from different data providers, and it’s also working on a form of visual search as another way of house hunting — “and even to remove photos automatically, like those pesky realtor faces they always put in their ads.”
And a nationwide rollout is more than just turning on the switch to work everywhere, he says. “We’ve taken a very market by market approach to understanding what the data limitations are,” he tells me. “Data issues in NYC and Boston where brokers control the market are very much different than markets like SF where they don’t.”
He says this is not unlike Uber — not just in its ad hoc approach to specific markets but also in how it uses data at the back end to create the best front-end experience it can for consumers. (This is something also highlighted earlier today by HouseTrip, another company looking to leverage data behind the scenes to create what otherwise looks like a simple service for finding places to stay.)
“Ultimately, a rental listing is a collection of facts and attributes, and by pulling from a variety of data sources and having technology to understand and parse through all this data, we can piece together the most accurate listing for our users,” Pierson notes.
Pierson says the current business model for Lovely is a straight, per-lease commission that it has with several of its data providers. But in future, Lovely will also expand to professional services for landlords. It is currently beta testing some of these with landlords in San Francisco and plans to launch them publicly in the next few months, along with other service expansions, including a new mobile app.
To date, Lovely has raised just under $2 million in seed funding from Keith Rabois, Aydin Senkut, Benjamin Ling, Walter Kortschak, 3Taps and others. The plan is to start the Series A process in the next couple of months.
Looked for an apartment lately? It sucked, right? You showed up and you had to fill out an application and submit all sorts of stupid paperwork — credit check, proof of employment, utility invoice (apparently to prove that you can pay a bill, like an adult), etc. And then, if you’re lucky, your name will be pulled out of a hat amongst the other half-dozen people who applied for the same property.
Well that whole process sucks for landlords and property management companies as well. After all, they’re the ones who collect all that paperwork and sort through all that data. Don’t you wish there were a better way? Thanks to Rentobo, there is.
Rentobo provides a platform for landlords, listing agents, and property management firms to not only post their open units across a number of different apartment listing sites, but it gives them a way to quickly and easily get information from prospective tenants with an online application process.
The team, which was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2011 class, started off originally with the idea of auctioning off apartment rentals. But it quickly realized that all the infrastructure it was building would be extremely useful in just getting most apartment listings online. So it began to focus instead on what it could do to automate the process and make things easier for both landlords and tenants.
For landlords, first and foremost there was the listing problem. Craigslist still looms large in most major metro areas, despite its crappy interface and lack of functionality. But then there’s Zillow, Trulia, and other sites as well. Rentobo provides a single listing interface for landlords and listing agents to post to all of those sites at once.
It provides a drag-and-drop interface for adding photos to listings, so that prospective tenants know what they’re getting into before they apply. And since all pictures are stored remotely, landlords aren’t constrained by the limit on the number of photos they can upload to Craigslist. All in all, its listings are pretty gorgeous.
But the listings management part of the software is kind of the easy part. Where Rentobo really excels is in reducing the amount of paperwork that changes hands, by allowing landlords to collect information from prospective tenants through online applications. Tenants could even submit information before they even see the apartment, so that there’s no paper to exchange if they do decide they want to apply for a place.
Rentobo is currently free while users beta test it, but when it officially goes live, the startup plans to make money from landlords based on the number of listings they manage using the platform. It’s also working to add the ability to collect application fees, as well as streamline the process for credit checks directly through the platform. Once those features are in place, it could also make some additional revenues based on applications it processes.
Let’s face it. Apartment hunting is one of the most miserable things in existence. Sure, if you’re filthy rich the problems may not seem as dire, but for the average person finding a place to live means tons and tons of work and time.
One of the worst parts of finding a place to live in NYC is dealing with brokers and landlords. On top of every other detail, renters have to worry about getting ripped off by fast talkers, pushing their budgets to the limit. I can’t trust these people to charge me a fair price and the whole situation could use some damned transparency for once.
Well, it turns out this tool exists after all. Going by the name of RentHackr, this site bypasses landlords and brokers altogether so anyone can find out how much people are actually paying in at any given apartment building. The recipe, so it seems, is to crowd source the whole thing.
To start using RentHackr, sign in with your Facebook account, submit your monthly rent and your address (this is all anonymous). Then, you can optionally add extra information, like saying if you’re planning on staying or leaving after your lease.
After that, you’re presented with a map of your city and the cost of apartments in every neighborhood (*Note: This is new, so it may be in your city yet*). Once I saw this, I got the magic. I now have real, transparent information to keep close by whenever I move. This way, I’ll know if I’m about to be royally screwed, or if I’m getting a deal.
On top of that, some users told the site if and when they are planning on leaving their apartment. This gives renters immediate insight on what’s available, even before it’s ever listed by landlords.
From the creators:
The apartment rental experience is broken. Let’s fix it. With RentHackr, you’ll see how much apartments are currently rented for, use tools to discover + track your best apartments and see ahead of time what apartments will be available.
The site is already growing in NYC, but the best results have yet to come, because the more people who join, the better the system works. It genuinely makes sense to cut everyone else out of the equation. Just one renter sharing with another, bringing transparency to the hell that is apartment hunting.
See the original post here: RentHackr: The best way to find out if your landlord is ripping you off