Another new Seattle startup has raised cash to fix problems in the complicated world of real estate.
Showdigs 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 Kobi Bensimon 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 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 blog post 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 Trilogy Equity Partners. 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 sold the business to property management software company RealPage 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.”