Back in August, I wrote about Closing Time, the new service that was launched to simplify the process of buying a house. It does so by creating a comprehensive list of things that the home purchaser needs to do in the month or so between signing a contract and picking up the keys.
The company recently closed on a $2.7 million round of funding that will help them expand the service and maybe, in the future, attack new verticals. (But that’s a long way off.)
Along with Accel Partners, the list of investors in this round reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of former Yahoo execs. That includes Yahoo founder and former CEO Jerry Yang, former SVP and treasurer Gideon Yu, former SVP Vish Makhijani, former CTO Zod Nazem, and former CPO Ash Patel. Oh yeah, Rob Chandra, formerly at Bessemer Ventures, and Owen Van Natta, former COO of Facebook, Myspace, and Zynga, are also investors.
The investor list makes a lot more sense when you consider that Amitree founders Jonathan Aizen and Paul Knegten sold their last company, display ad startup Dapper, to Yahoo in 2010. So there’s some confidence among that group that whatever these guys do, it’s probably going to be good.
The funny thing is that the Amitree guys didn’t really know very much about real estate when they started. But you know, one of them was going through the process of buying a house and then realized how much it sucked and how there needed to be better tools for completing the process. So they built that tool.
(They didn’t know much about ads either when they started Dapper either, Aizen tells me, but that worked out ok.)
Anyway, in the process of building Closing Time, the two founders spent a significant amount of time educating themselves and talking to agents and brokerages to figure out what their needs were and how the product could help their clients through the home-buying process.
Aizen tells me that a big reason for that is that they wanted to be a partner to brokerages and agents, you know, something that helps them out, rather than compete with them. And that, in turn, will help Closing Time get better distribution, as it’s a tool that agents can offer up to their clients.
To enable that, the company has created a way for brokerages to create their own branded Closing Time portals, which shepherd the home buyer through the process. In that way, agents can provide a smoother transition, increasing customer satisfaction and hopefully increasing referrals. With that in mind, it’s partnered with some brokerages — like Zephyr in the San Francisco Bay Area — to offer it to clients.
Amitree’s seeing pretty good traction among active users, with most opening its emails and going to the site every day. It’s also getting good feedback, with 85 percent of users who went through the process saying that they’d refer their agents to other buyers.
Amitree is still pretty lean at just three employees. Aizen and Knegten recently brought on former Dapper coworker Tony Novak as their CTO, and are looking to double in size thanks to the new funding.
For now the team is focused on real estate but they see huge opportunities to expand into other verticals with the abstract rule engine that they’ve built. And hey, they’ve now got some money to play around with.