The Landing is bringing shoppable social and collaboration to interior design

Monetizable mood boards might sound like the moonshot idea that no one asked for, but when you think about it, the vision is already informally happening in various corners of the internet. A young generation of users shops with community in mind, whether that’s buying merchandise from your favorite influencers or giving into those Instagram advertisements after spending way too much time on the grid.

As more users think of shopping as a social, digital-first activity, The Landing, a seed-stage startup coming out of stealth, is hoping to win over those who have an affinity for designing homes and spaces. On The Landing, users can create, and shop from, room designs to help furnish their homes.

Image Credits: The Landing

“There’s no contextually rich, visual shopping destination, where you could curate and discover and share and shop all in one place,” co-founder Miri Buckland said. The Landing hopes to be that destination.

Started by Buckland and Ellie Buckingham, The Landing is launching with $2.5 million in financing, in a round led by Aileen Lee at Cowboy Ventures. Lee will be taking a board seat. Other investors include Dara Treseder, the CMO of Peloton, Manish Chandra and Tracy Sun, the founders of Poshmark, Unshackled, Designer Fund, and Progression Fund.

The Landing began as a pandemic pivot. Buckland and Buckingham were always interested in solving the pain point of contextual furnishing for users, but began by physically moving people into apartments and helping them set up different furniture. Then, the pandemic hit and limited the ability to do high-touch services. Buckingham says that this was “potentially the best forcing function” to focus on what kind of business The Landing wanted to be.

“I don’t need to be the person moving into your apartment with a couch,” she said. “It was about the importance of empowering creativity and empowering individuals to create digital and physical spaces.” That’s when they dropped the moving service business, and instead used furnishing as a vector to solve the problem of contextual and social e-commerce.

It’s a smart idea that has not gone unnoticed. Houzz, a Sequoia-backed home improvement startup, connects users to products from third-party retailers as well as services from architects, designers, or contractors. There’s also Modsy, which has raised north of $70 million to date, which helps users virtually redesign their homes.

Buckingham worked for Modsy when she was at business school, where she first started noticing that she disagreed with the startups’ main thesis.

“Their motto was basically a digital rendition of an existing human service,” she said. “And I came away from the experience not super convinced that the service model was the scalable, future answer to consumerization of access to design.” She noticed that the younger generation was looking for a self-serve, customizable answer, instead.

Miri Buckland and Ellie Buckingham, the co-founders of The Landing.

The Landing is launching with creative tooling capabilities, which allow users to build and design spaces within its platform. In the coming months, the team is focused on adding a social layer atop the design tool, with features like profiles, discovery, fede, and commenting.

The Landing’s Slack channel is currently being used to discuss these features and what is most in-demand from early users.

The founders aren’t worried about a lack of demand, or only being a platform for the few times that people furnish their homes throughout their lifespan. As Buckland pointed out, people browse Zillow all the time, and have Reddit channels about dream homes, creating designs, and more. The startup is aiming to serve that population as well — the dreamers and not just the realists.

From food delivery to housing: Former Favor founders raise millions for Sunroom Rentals

Real estate tech startup Sunroom Rentals, which leases units on behalf of property managers and apartment owners, has raised $11 million in a Series A round of funding led by Gigafund.

Ben Doherty and Zachary Maurais, former founders of the delivery app Favor, launched Sunroom in May 2018 with the mission of “boosting the profitability” of mid-size property managers and apartment owners by giving them a way to outsource their leasing operations.

The pair sold Favor to Texas grocer H-E-B in 2018 and soon after shifted their focus on building out Sunroom. The Austin-based company has developed an app that it says gives renters a way to tour, apply for and lease a unit “entirely online.” COVID-19 has led to more renters wanting virtual ways to explore and secure rental units. Mobile-first, Maurais noted, is particularly appealing to millennials and Gen Zers.

“Personally, we love to create products that fulfill consumer’s most basic needs,” said Maurais, the company’s president. “With food under our belt, we decided to focus on housing.”

While one might wonder what the parallels between food delivery and housing might be beyond fulfilling consumers’ needs, CEO Doherty said the rental market in 2021 looks a lot like the food delivery market in 2013.

“In 2013, Grubhub had successfully put many restaurant menus online, but most of the transactions and delivery process was still offline,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re in a similar position with the rental market, as the majority of rental listings are online, but touring, applying or leasing units is still done offline.”

Since its launch, Sunroom Rentals has signed more than 2,000 leases and had over 100,000 renters sign up for its services in fast-growing Austin, where it focused its initial efforts.

“According to the U.S. Census, that represents roughly 10% of renters in the greater Austin metro,” Maurais said. “Instead of going shallow and wide nationally, we decided to go deep in markets, in an effort to gain network effects, which was a strategy that worked well for us at Favor.”

Sunroom Rentals claims that it’s leasing units five days faster than the market average. This benefits property managers, Doherty said, because they can grow quicker “while improving leasing performance.”

Looking ahead, the company will use the funding to expand across Texas, including in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. It will also invest in its partner portal, which aims to give owners and property managers a way to view real-time data on leasing performance.

Sunroom Rentals currently has 18 employees with the goal of more than doubling its headcount this year. It’s in particular looking to hire across its engineering, product and sales departments.

As mentioned above, Gigafund led the Series A financing, which included participation from NextGen Venture Partners, Calpoly Ventures and a slew of angel investors, including Gokul Rajaram (Google & Square) and Homeward’s Tim Heyl, among others. Existing backers include Founders Fund Seed, Draper Associates, Boost VC and Capital Factory (among many others). The round marked Sunroom’s first “priced” round, meaning the first time it’s given up stock.

Jonathan Basset, managing partner at NextGen Venture Partners, believes Sunroom was essentially in the right place at the right time and “on trend with touchless leasing even before COVID hit.”

“I watched them build a profitable consumer marketplace in a competitive market with Favor and was impressed with them as operators,” he said. “These businesses have a surprising amount of similarities and I’m confident they can rise to the challenge.

Last week, TechCrunch reported on the raise of another startup operating in this increasingly crowded space. Seattle-based Knock — a company that has developed tools to give property management companies a competitive edge — raised $20 million in a growth funding round led by Fifth Wall Ventures.

Knock’s goal is to provide CRM tools to modernize front office operations for these companies so they can do things like offer virtual tours and communicate with renters via text, email or social media from “a single conversation screen.” For renters, it offers an easier way to communicate and engage with landlords.

Maurais said the two differ in that Knock is a CRM built for leasing agents with a SAAS model where as Sunroom is a marketplace, where renters match, tour and apply with partnered properties.

“Sunroom also provides a suite of leasing & analytics software to its partners and generates both transactional and subscription revenues,” he added.

After 80% ARR growth in 2020, Saltmine snags $20M to help employees return to a ‘new normal’ office

What is working in the office going to look like in a post-COVID-19 world?

That’s something one startup hopes to help companies figure out.

Saltmine, which has developed a web-based workplace design platform, has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round.

Existing backers Jungle Ventures and Xplorer Capital led the financing, which also included participation from JLL Spark, the strategic investment arm of commercial real estate brokerage JLL. 

Notably, JLL is not only investing in Saltmine, but is also partnering with the San Francisco-based startup to sell its service directly to its clients — opening up a whole new revenue stream for the four-year-old company.

Saltmine claims its cloud-based technology does for corporate real estate heads what Salesforce did for CROs in digitizing and streamlining the office design process. It saw an 80% spike in ARR (annual recurring revenue) last year while doubling the number of companies it works with, according to CEO and founder Shagufta Anurag. Its more than 35 customers include PG&E, Snowflake, Fidelity, BlackRock, Nike and Workday, among others. Its mission, put simply, is to help companies “create the best possible workplaces for their employees.”

Saltmine claims to have a 95% customer retention rate and in 2020 saw 350% year over year growth in monthly active users of its SaaS platform. So far, the square footage of all the office real estate properties designed and analyzed by customers on Saltmine totals 50 million square feet across 1,500 projects.

Saltmine says it offers companies tools to do things like establish social distancing measures in the office. Its platform, the company says, houses all workplace data — including strategy, design, pricing and portfolio analytics — in one place. It combines and analyzes floor plans with project requirements with real-time behavioral data (aggregated through a combination of utilization sensors and employee feedback) to identify companies’ design needs. Besides aiming to improve the workplace design process, Saltmine claims to be able to help companies “optimize their real estate portfolios.”

The pandemic has dramatically increased the need for a digital transformation of how workplaces are designed and reimagined, according to Anurag. 

“Given the need for social distancing capabilities and a greater emphasis on work-life balance in many office settings, few workers expect a complete ‘return to normal,’ ” she said. “There is now enormous pressure on corporate heads of real estate to adapt and modify their workplaces.”

Once companies identify their new needs, Saltmine uses “immersive” digital 3D renderings to help them visualize the necessary changes to their real estate properties.

Singapore-based Anurag has previous experience in the design world, having founded Space Matrix, a large interior design firm in Asia, as well as Livspace, a digital home interior design company.

“I saw the same pain points and unmet needs in office real estate that I did in the residential market,” she said. “Real estate is the second-largest cost for companies and has a direct impact on their largest cost — their people.”

Looking ahead, Saltmine plans to use its new capital to (naturally) do some hiring and continue to acquire customers — in particular, seeking to expand its portfolio of Global 2000 companies.

Saltmine has about 125 employees in five offices across Asia, Europe and North America. It expects to have 170 employees by year’s end and to be profitable by the end of fiscal year 2021.

The company’s initial focus has been in North America, but it is now beginning to expand into APAC and Australia. 

JLL Technologies’ co-CEO Yishai Lerner said JLL Spark was drawn to Saltmine’s approach of making data and analytics accessible in one place.

“Having a single source of truth for data also facilitates collaboration across teams, which is important, for example, in workspace planning,” he told TechCrunch. “This reduces inefficiencies and improves workflows in today’s fragmented design, build and fit-out market.”

JLL Spark invests in companies that it believes can benefit from its distribution and network — hence the firm’s agreement to sell Saltmine’s software directly to its customers.

“As JLL tenants and clients continue to embrace the future of work, they are seeking technology solutions that keep their buildings running efficiently and effectively,” Lerner said. “Saltmine’s platform checks all of the boxes by streamlining stakeholder collaboration, increasing transparency and simplifying data management.”

After 80% ARR growth in 2020, Saltmine snags $20M to help employees return to a ‘new normal’ office

What is working in the office going to look like in a post-COVID-19 world?

That’s something one startup hopes to help companies figure out.

Saltmine, which has developed a web-based workplace design platform, has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round.

Existing backers Jungle Ventures and Xplorer Capital led the financing, which also included participation from JLL Spark, the strategic investment arm of commercial real estate brokerage JLL. 

Notably, JLL is not only investing in Saltmine, but is also partnering with the San Francisco-based startup to sell its service directly to its clients — opening up a whole new revenue stream for the four-year-old company.

Saltmine claims its cloud-based technology does for corporate real estate heads what Salesforce did for CROs in digitizing and streamlining the office design process. It saw an 80% spike in ARR (annual recurring revenue) last year while doubling the number of companies it works with, according to CEO and founder Shagufta Anurag. Its more than 35 customers include PG&E, Snowflake, Fidelity, BlackRock, Nike and Workday, among others. Its mission, put simply, is to help companies “create the best possible workplaces for their employees.”

Saltmine claims to have a 95% customer retention rate and in 2020 saw 350% year over year growth in monthly active users of its SaaS platform. So far, the square footage of all the office real estate properties designed and analyzed by customers on Saltmine totals 50 million square feet across 1,500 projects.

Saltmine says it offers companies tools to do things like establish social distancing measures in the office. Its platform, the company says, houses all workplace data — including strategy, design, pricing and portfolio analytics — in one place. It combines and analyzes floor plans with project requirements with real-time behavioral data (aggregated through a combination of utilization sensors and employee feedback) to identify companies’ design needs. Besides aiming to improve the workplace design process, Saltmine claims to be able to help companies “optimize their real estate portfolios.”

The pandemic has dramatically increased the need for a digital transformation of how workplaces are designed and reimagined, according to Anurag. 

“Given the need for social distancing capabilities and a greater emphasis on work-life balance in many office settings, few workers expect a complete ‘return to normal,’ ” she said. “There is now enormous pressure on corporate heads of real estate to adapt and modify their workplaces.”

Once companies identify their new needs, Saltmine uses “immersive” digital 3D renderings to help them visualize the necessary changes to their real estate properties.

Singapore-based Anurag has previous experience in the design world, having founded Space Matrix, a large interior design firm in Asia, as well as Livspace, a digital home interior design company.

“I saw the same pain points and unmet needs in office real estate that I did in the residential market,” she said. “Real estate is the second-largest cost for companies and has a direct impact on their largest cost — their people.”

Looking ahead, Saltmine plans to use its new capital to (naturally) do some hiring and continue to acquire customers — in particular, seeking to expand its portfolio of Global 2000 companies.

Saltmine has about 125 employees in five offices across Asia, Europe and North America. It expects to have 170 employees by year’s end and to be profitable by the end of fiscal year 2021.

The company’s initial focus has been in North America, but it is now beginning to expand into APAC and Australia. 

JLL Technologies’ co-CEO Yishai Lerner said JLL Spark was drawn to Saltmine’s approach of making data and analytics accessible in one place.

“Having a single source of truth for data also facilitates collaboration across teams, which is important, for example, in workspace planning,” he told TechCrunch. “This reduces inefficiencies and improves workflows in today’s fragmented design, build and fit-out market.”

JLL Spark invests in companies that it believes can benefit from its distribution and network — hence the firm’s agreement to sell Saltmine’s software directly to its customers.

“As JLL tenants and clients continue to embrace the future of work, they are seeking technology solutions that keep their buildings running efficiently and effectively,” Lerner said. “Saltmine’s platform checks all of the boxes by streamlining stakeholder collaboration, increasing transparency and simplifying data management.”

After 80% ARR growth in 2020, Saltmine snags $20M to help employees return to a ‘new normal’ office

What is working in the office going to look like in a post-COVID-19 world?

That’s something one startup hopes to help companies figure out.

Saltmine, which has developed a web-based workplace design platform, has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round.

Existing backers Jungle Ventures and Xplorer Capital led the financing, which also included participation from JLL Spark, the strategic investment arm of commercial real estate brokerage JLL. 

Notably, JLL is not only investing in Saltmine, but is also partnering with the San Francisco-based startup to sell its service directly to its clients — opening up a whole new revenue stream for the four-year-old company.

Saltmine claims its cloud-based technology does for corporate real estate heads what Salesforce did for CROs in digitizing and streamlining the office design process. It saw an 80% spike in ARR (annual recurring revenue) last year while doubling the number of companies it works with, according to CEO and founder Shagufta Anurag. Its more than 35 customers include PG&E, Snowflake, Fidelity, BlackRock, Nike and Workday, among others. Its mission, put simply, is to help companies “create the best possible workplaces for their employees.”

Saltmine claims to have a 95% customer retention rate and in 2020 saw 350% year over year growth in monthly active users of its SaaS platform. So far, the square footage of all the office real estate properties designed and analyzed by customers on Saltmine totals 50 million square feet across 1,500 projects.

Saltmine says it offers companies tools to do things like establish social distancing measures in the office. Its platform, the company says, houses all workplace data — including strategy, design, pricing and portfolio analytics — in one place. It combines and analyzes floor plans with project requirements with real-time behavioral data (aggregated through a combination of utilization sensors and employee feedback) to identify companies’ design needs. Besides aiming to improve the workplace design process, Saltmine claims to be able to help companies “optimize their real estate portfolios.”

The pandemic has dramatically increased the need for a digital transformation of how workplaces are designed and reimagined, according to Anurag. 

“Given the need for social distancing capabilities and a greater emphasis on work-life balance in many office settings, few workers expect a complete ‘return to normal,’ ” she said. “There is now enormous pressure on corporate heads of real estate to adapt and modify their workplaces.”

Once companies identify their new needs, Saltmine uses “immersive” digital 3D renderings to help them visualize the necessary changes to their real estate properties.

Singapore-based Anurag has previous experience in the design world, having founded Space Matrix, a large interior design firm in Asia, as well as Livspace, a digital home interior design company.

“I saw the same pain points and unmet needs in office real estate that I did in the residential market,” she said. “Real estate is the second-largest cost for companies and has a direct impact on their largest cost — their people.”

Looking ahead, Saltmine plans to use its new capital to (naturally) do some hiring and continue to acquire customers — in particular, seeking to expand its portfolio of Global 2000 companies.

Saltmine has about 125 employees in five offices across Asia, Europe and North America. It expects to have 170 employees by year’s end and to be profitable by the end of fiscal year 2021.

The company’s initial focus has been in North America, but it is now beginning to expand into APAC and Australia. 

JLL Technologies’ co-CEO Yishai Lerner said JLL Spark was drawn to Saltmine’s approach of making data and analytics accessible in one place.

“Having a single source of truth for data also facilitates collaboration across teams, which is important, for example, in workspace planning,” he told TechCrunch. “This reduces inefficiencies and improves workflows in today’s fragmented design, build and fit-out market.”

JLL Spark invests in companies that it believes can benefit from its distribution and network — hence the firm’s agreement to sell Saltmine’s software directly to its customers.

“As JLL tenants and clients continue to embrace the future of work, they are seeking technology solutions that keep their buildings running efficiently and effectively,” Lerner said. “Saltmine’s platform checks all of the boxes by streamlining stakeholder collaboration, increasing transparency and simplifying data management.”

After 80% ARR growth in 2020, Saltmine snags $20M to help employees return to a ‘new normal’ office

What is working in the office going to look like in a post-COVID-19 world?

That’s something one startup hopes to help companies figure out.

Saltmine, which has developed a web-based workplace design platform, has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round.

Existing backers Jungle Ventures and Xplorer Capital led the financing, which also included participation from JLL Spark, the strategic investment arm of commercial real estate brokerage JLL. 

Notably, JLL is not only investing in Saltmine, but is also partnering with the San Francisco-based startup to sell its service directly to its clients — opening up a whole new revenue stream for the four-year-old company.

Saltmine claims its cloud-based technology does for corporate real estate heads what Salesforce did for CROs in digitizing and streamlining the office design process. It saw an 80% spike in ARR (annual recurring revenue) last year while doubling the number of companies it works with, according to CEO and founder Shagufta Anurag. Its more than 35 customers include PG&E, Snowflake, Fidelity, BlackRock, Nike and Workday, among others. Its mission, put simply, is to help companies “create the best possible workplaces for their employees.”

Saltmine claims to have a 95% customer retention rate and in 2020 saw 350% year over year growth in monthly active users of its SaaS platform. So far, the square footage of all the office real estate properties designed and analyzed by customers on Saltmine totals 50 million square feet across 1,500 projects.

Saltmine says it offers companies tools to do things like establish social distancing measures in the office. Its platform, the company says, houses all workplace data — including strategy, design, pricing and portfolio analytics — in one place. It combines and analyzes floor plans with project requirements with real-time behavioral data (aggregated through a combination of utilization sensors and employee feedback) to identify companies’ design needs. Besides aiming to improve the workplace design process, Saltmine claims to be able to help companies “optimize their real estate portfolios.”

The pandemic has dramatically increased the need for a digital transformation of how workplaces are designed and reimagined, according to Anurag. 

“Given the need for social distancing capabilities and a greater emphasis on work-life balance in many office settings, few workers expect a complete ‘return to normal,’ ” she said. “There is now enormous pressure on corporate heads of real estate to adapt and modify their workplaces.”

Once companies identify their new needs, Saltmine uses “immersive” digital 3D renderings to help them visualize the necessary changes to their real estate properties.

Singapore-based Anurag has previous experience in the design world, having founded Space Matrix, a large interior design firm in Asia, as well as Livspace, a digital home interior design company.

“I saw the same pain points and unmet needs in office real estate that I did in the residential market,” she said. “Real estate is the second-largest cost for companies and has a direct impact on their largest cost — their people.”

Looking ahead, Saltmine plans to use its new capital to (naturally) do some hiring and continue to acquire customers — in particular, seeking to expand its portfolio of Global 2000 companies.

Saltmine has about 125 employees in five offices across Asia, Europe and North America. It expects to have 170 employees by year’s end and to be profitable by the end of fiscal year 2021.

The company’s initial focus has been in North America, but it is now beginning to expand into APAC and Australia. 

JLL Technologies’ co-CEO Yishai Lerner said JLL Spark was drawn to Saltmine’s approach of making data and analytics accessible in one place.

“Having a single source of truth for data also facilitates collaboration across teams, which is important, for example, in workspace planning,” he told TechCrunch. “This reduces inefficiencies and improves workflows in today’s fragmented design, build and fit-out market.”

JLL Spark invests in companies that it believes can benefit from its distribution and network — hence the firm’s agreement to sell Saltmine’s software directly to its customers.

“As JLL tenants and clients continue to embrace the future of work, they are seeking technology solutions that keep their buildings running efficiently and effectively,” Lerner said. “Saltmine’s platform checks all of the boxes by streamlining stakeholder collaboration, increasing transparency and simplifying data management.”

After 80% ARR growth in 2020, Saltmine snags $20M to help employees return to a ‘new normal’ office

What is working in the office going to look like in a post-COVID-19 world?

That’s something one startup hopes to help companies figure out.

Saltmine, which has developed a web-based workplace design platform, has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round.

Existing backers Jungle Ventures and Xplorer Capital led the financing, which also included participation from JLL Spark, the strategic investment arm of commercial real estate brokerage JLL. 

Notably, JLL is not only investing in Saltmine, but is also partnering with the San Francisco-based startup to sell its service directly to its clients — opening up a whole new revenue stream for the four-year-old company.

Saltmine claims its cloud-based technology does for corporate real estate heads what Salesforce did for CROs in digitizing and streamlining the office design process. It saw an 80% spike in ARR (annual recurring revenue) last year while doubling the number of companies it works with, according to CEO and founder Shagufta Anurag. Its more than 35 customers include PG&E, Snowflake, Fidelity, BlackRock, Nike and Workday, among others. Its mission, put simply, is to help companies “create the best possible workplaces for their employees.”

Saltmine claims to have a 95% customer retention rate and in 2020 saw 350% year over year growth in monthly active users of its SaaS platform. So far, the square footage of all the office real estate properties designed and analyzed by customers on Saltmine totals 50 million square feet across 1,500 projects.

Saltmine says it offers companies tools to do things like establish social distancing measures in the office. Its platform, the company says, houses all workplace data — including strategy, design, pricing and portfolio analytics — in one place. It combines and analyzes floor plans with project requirements with real-time behavioral data (aggregated through a combination of utilization sensors and employee feedback) to identify companies’ design needs. Besides aiming to improve the workplace design process, Saltmine claims to be able to help companies “optimize their real estate portfolios.”

The pandemic has dramatically increased the need for a digital transformation of how workplaces are designed and reimagined, according to Anurag. 

“Given the need for social distancing capabilities and a greater emphasis on work-life balance in many office settings, few workers expect a complete ‘return to normal,’ ” she said. “There is now enormous pressure on corporate heads of real estate to adapt and modify their workplaces.”

Once companies identify their new needs, Saltmine uses “immersive” digital 3D renderings to help them visualize the necessary changes to their real estate properties.

Singapore-based Anurag has previous experience in the design world, having founded Space Matrix, a large interior design firm in Asia, as well as Livspace, a digital home interior design company.

“I saw the same pain points and unmet needs in office real estate that I did in the residential market,” she said. “Real estate is the second-largest cost for companies and has a direct impact on their largest cost — their people.”

Looking ahead, Saltmine plans to use its new capital to (naturally) do some hiring and continue to acquire customers — in particular, seeking to expand its portfolio of Global 2000 companies.

Saltmine has about 125 employees in five offices across Asia, Europe and North America. It expects to have 170 employees by year’s end and to be profitable by the end of fiscal year 2021.

The company’s initial focus has been in North America, but it is now beginning to expand into APAC and Australia. 

JLL Technologies’ co-CEO Yishai Lerner said JLL Spark was drawn to Saltmine’s approach of making data and analytics accessible in one place.

“Having a single source of truth for data also facilitates collaboration across teams, which is important, for example, in workspace planning,” he told TechCrunch. “This reduces inefficiencies and improves workflows in today’s fragmented design, build and fit-out market.”

JLL Spark invests in companies that it believes can benefit from its distribution and network — hence the firm’s agreement to sell Saltmine’s software directly to its customers.

“As JLL tenants and clients continue to embrace the future of work, they are seeking technology solutions that keep their buildings running efficiently and effectively,” Lerner said. “Saltmine’s platform checks all of the boxes by streamlining stakeholder collaboration, increasing transparency and simplifying data management.”

Outfit wants to make DIY home improvements easier to tackle

Doing home renovations yourself can be more cost-effective than hiring a contractor, but many people don’t know where to begin. Ian Janicki, the founder and CEO of DIY home renovation startup Outfit, has always wanted to make architecture and design more accessible to people.

“I realized I could leverage my knowledge of being handy to create a product that scaled,” he told TechCrunch.

For those who want to go through the Outfit process, the first step is submitting information about the space they’re looking to renovate, such as dimensions and photos, as well as the maximum amount they’re looking to spend. Outfit then provides information about the expected cost of the project, the handiness level required to complete the project and everything that would need to be done in order to complete the project.

“We make sure it’s transparent and that you understand the amount of time that might be required,” Janicki said.

Once someone decides they want to move forward, Outfit then sends all the necessary tools and materials to the customer. Through the app, Outfit offers a step-by-step guide for completing the project. In the event someone gets stuck, they can chat with Janicki or someone else from the Outfit team for support.

Image Credits: Outfit

Outfit has had a small set of pilot customers — some who have completed their projects and some whose projects are still underway.

“The millennial generation is now starting to purchase their homes and has been accelerated because of remote work and COVID,” Janicki said. “They’re the Ikea generation and can put together bookshelves and are really used to digital experiences and now demanding this digital solution.”

So far, the projects have ranged in cost from $1,000 to $15,000, but it really depends on things like how invasive the project is, how big the space is and more, Janicki said. The rendered after photo below would probably cost about $9,000. In general, Outfit charges customers the cost of the actual materials (e.g. power drills, wrenches, cabinets, tiles, etc.) and then adds a percentage of the total on top as a surcharge to the customer.

outfit before and after kitchen renovation

Image Credits: Outfit

Down the road, Outfit envisions offering rentals of the tools themselves but Janicki said he just wanted to streamline everything in the early days.

“Reverse logistics is complicated to we’re trying to take it one step at a time,” he said.

There are a number of home improvement startups out there, such as Eano, Renno and others, but Janicki said he’s not aware of any direct competitors. He said he recognizes that there are some people who are fully capable of buying all the necessary items themselves, watching a video on YouTube and then completing the project. Meanwhile, homeowners are also just as capable of hiring someone to do the project for them. But with Outfit, however, Janicki sees it as somewhere in between. He calls it “DIY plus.”

“In terms of being handy, it’s a rare trait that everyone appreciates,” Janicki said. “If we can elevate people in their handiness level, i’m going to be super happy. It’s that pride that you were actually able to accomplish that.”

Outfit is currently available nationwide. To date, the company has backing from Y Combinator, and previously raised about $700,000 from investors like GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, B Capital Group’s Crissy Costa, Gumroad CEO Sahil Lavingia and others.

Proptech startup Knock secures $20M to grow SaaS platform for property managers

In recent years, the U.S. has seen more renters than at any point since at least 1965, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau housing data. 

Competition for renters is fierce and property managers are turning to technology to get a leg up.

To meet that demand, Seattle-based Knock – one startup that has developed tools to give property management companies a competitive edge – has raised $20 million in a growth funding round led by Fifth Wall Ventures.

Existing backers Madrona Venture Group, Lead Edge Capital, Second Avenue Partners and Seven Peaks Ventures also participated in the financing, which brings the company’s total capital raised to $47 million.

Demetri Themelis and Tom Petry co-founded Knock in 2014 after renting “in super competitive markets” such as New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. 

“After meeting with property management companies, it was eye-opening to learn about the total gap across their tech stacks,” Themelis recalled.

Knock’s goal is to provide CRM tools to modernize front office operations for these companies so they can do things like offer virtual tours and communicate with renters via text, email or social media from “a single conversation screen.” For renters, it offers an easier way to communicate and engage with landlords. 

“Apartment buildings, like almost every customer-driven business, compete with each other by attracting, converting and retaining customers,” Themelis said. “For property management companies, these customers are renters.”

The startup — which operates as a SaaS business — has seen an uptick in growth, quadrupling its revenue over the past two years. Its software is used by hundreds of the largest property management companies across the United States and Canada and has more than 1.5 million apartment units using the platform. Starwood Capital Group, ZRS, FPI and Cushman & Wakefield (formerly Pinnacle) are among its users.

As Petry explains it, Knock serves as the sales inbox (chat, SMS, phone, email), sales calendar and CRM systems, all in one. 

“We also automate certain sales tasks like outreach and appointment scheduling, while also surfacing which sales opportunities need the most attention at any given time, for both new leases as well as renewals,” he said.

Image Credit: Knock

The company, Themelis said, was well-prepared for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our software supports property management companies, which operate high-density apartment buildings that people live and work in,” he told TechCrunch. “You can’t just ‘shut them down,’ which has made multifamily resilient and even grow in comparison to retail and industrial real estate.”

For example, when lockdowns went into effect, in-person property tours declined by an estimated 80% in a matter of weeks.

Knock did things like help property managers transition to a centralized and remote leasing model so remote agents could work across a large portfolio of properties rather than in a single on-site leasing office, noted Petry.

It also helped them adopt self-guided, virtual and live video-based leasing tools, so prospective renters could tour properties in person on their own or virtually.

“This transformation and modernization became a huge tailwind for our business in 2020,” Petry said. “Not only did we have a record year in terms of new customers, revenue growth and revenue retention, but our customers outperformed market averages for occupancy and rent growth as well.”

Looking ahead, the company says it will be using its new capital to (naturally!) hire across product, engineering, sales, marketing, customer success, finance and human resources divisions. It expects to grow headcount by 40% to 50% before year-end. It also plans to expand its product portfolio to include AI communications, fraud prevention, applicant screening and leasing, and intelligent forecasting. 

Fifth Wall partner Vik Chawla, who is joining Knock’s board of directors, pointed out that the macroeconomic environment is driving institutional capital into multifamily real estate at an accelerated pace. This makes Knock’s offering even more timely in its importance, in the firm’s view.

The startup, he believes, outshines its competitors in terms of quality of product, technical prowess and functionality.

“The Knock team has accomplished so much in just a short period of time by attracting very high quality product design and engineering talent to ameliorate a nuanced pain point in the tenant acquisition process,” Chawla told TechCrunch.

In terms of fitting with its investment thesis, Chawla said companies like Knock can both benefit from Fifth Wall’s global corporate strategic partners “and simultaneously serve as a key offering which we can share with real estate industry leaders in different countries as a potential solution for their local markets.”

Base Operations raises $2.2 million to modernize physical enterprise security

Typically when we talk about tech and security, the mind naturally jumps to cybersecurity. But equally important, especially for global companies with large, multinational organizations, is physical security – a key function at most medium-to-large enterprises, and yet one that to date, hasn’t really done much to take advantage of recent advances in technology. Enter Base Operations, a startup founded by risk management professional Cory Siskind in 2018. Base Operations just closed their $2.2 million seed funding round, and will use the money to capitalize on its recent launch of a street-level threat mapping platform for use in supporting enterprise security operations.

The funding, led by Good Growth Capital and including investors like Magma Partners, First In Capital, Gaingels and First Round Capital founder Howard Morgan, will be used primarily for hiring, as Base Operations looks to continue its team growth after doubling its employe base this past month. It’ll also be put to use extending and improving the company’s product, and growing the startup’s global footprint. I talked to Siskind about her company’s plans on the heels of this round, as well as the wider opportunity and how her company is serving the market in a novel way.

“What we do at Base Operations is help companies keep their people in operation secure with ‘Micro Intelligence,’ which is street-level threat assessments that facilitate a variety of routine security tasks in the travel security, real estate and supply chain security buckets,” Siskind explained. “Anything that the Chief Security Officer would be in charge of, but not cyber – so anything that intersects with the physical world.”

Siskind has first-hand experience about the complexity and challenges that enter into enterprise security, since she began her career working for global strategic risk consultancy firm Control Risks in Mexico City. Because of her time in the industry, she’s keenly aware of just how far physical and political security operations lag behind their cybersecurity counterparts. It’s an often-overlooked aspect of corporate risk management, particularly since in the past it’s been something that most employees at North American companies only ever encounter periodically, when their roles involve frequent travel. The events of the past couple of years have changed that, however.

“This was the last bastion of a company that hadn’t been optimized by a SaaS platform, basically, so there was some resistance and some allegiance to legacy players,” Siskind told me. “However, the events of 2020 sort of turned everything on its head, and companies realized that the security department ,and what happens in the physical world, is not just about compliance – it’s actually a strategic advantage to invest in those sort of services, because it helps you maintain business continuity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, and global political unrest all had significant impact on businesses worldwide in 2020, and Siskind says that this has proven a watershed moment in how enterprises consider physical security in their overall risk profile and strategic planning cycles.

“[Companies] have just realized that if you don’t invest and how to keep your operations running smoothly in the face of rising catastrophic events, you’re never going to achieve the the profits that you need, because it’s too choppy, and you have all sorts of problems,” she said.

Base Operations addresses this problem by taking available data from a range of sources and pulling it together to inform threat profiles. Their technology is all about making sense of the myriad stream of information we encounter daily – taking the wash of news that we sometimes associate with ‘doom-scrolling’ on social media, for instance, and combining it with other sources using machine learning to extrapolate actionable insights.

Those sources of information include “government statistics, social media, local news, data from partnerships, like NGOs and universities,” Siskind said. That data set powers their Micro Intelligence platform, and while the startup’s focus today is on helping enterprises keep people safe, while maintaining their operations, you can easily see how the same information could power everything from planning future geographical expansion, to tailoring product development to address specific markets.

Siskind saw there was a need for this kind of approach to an aspect of business that’s essential, but that has been relatively slow to adopt new technologies. From her vantage point two years ago, however, she couldn’t have anticipated just how urgent the need for better, more scalable enterprise security solutions would arise, and Base Operations now seems perfectly positioned to help with that need.