A new startup called leaseABLE aims to bring the typically fragmented and secretive world of commercial real estate leasing online, and it just raised $1.5 million to move ahead with that mission.
The company, with executives in both Seattle and San Francisco, raised the round from 28 different angel investors, leaseABLE CEO Cameron Steele told GeekWire in an interview. The money will help the company design and build its first products targeted at landlords.
The company’s goal is to streamline the commercial leasing process by creating an online platform where landlords and tenants can come to agreements on key terms and then work with legal staff to get to a signed lease. Steele said he thinks his company can cut the time it takes to get to a completed deal in half while saving both sides money.
“You’ve got to go through a broker,” Steele said. “There’s no easy way to get data, like you can today with residential real estate through services like Zillow. The process takes forever, and it is very expensive.”
Steele noted that his company is not trying to disrupt the process by displacing any key stakeholders, but rather speed it up by putting all the important pieces of the transaction in the same place online. Nor is leaseABLE trying to be a “Zillow of commercial real estate,” helping people discover office space.
Today, leaseABLE has five people, with a sixth coming on board soon and plans to get to 10 by summer. Three of the four founders, including Steele, worked at Seattle hotel marketing site buuteeq, which was purchased by Priceline in 2014.
Ex-buuteeqers have gone on to found several startups in Seattle. Forest Key, the former CEO of buuteeq, is the founder and CEO of virtual and augmented reality startup Pixvana. One of Buuteeq’s founders, Brian Saab, went on to start and run construction software startup Unearth.
Steele worked at Booking.com and then Open Table, both under the Priceline umbrella, before leaving late last year to scratch his entrepreneurial itch. His father worked as a real estate broker, so he knew about the pain points. But it wasn’t until Saab introduced him to a couple people frustrated with the commercial real estate market that the idea for leaseABLE began to crystalize.
“It’s one of those markets that’s old boys, old school, with archaic technology, but it’s absolutely massive,” Steele said.
Publicly available leasing data can be scarce, with landlords looking to protect their information and tenant roster from rivals, and companies reticent to talk about their office spaces. Steele would like to see that change.
Though not the primary mission of the company, Steele said he could see compiling leasing data to offer services like comps for landlords, tenants and brokers. Someday, he envisions a blockchain-based application for commercial leasing data that would be open to the public. Steele acknowledges that could be a heavy lift and a complete mindset change for the industry, which keeps that kind of information close to the vest.
“We would argue that open data is better than closed data for everybody,” Steele said.