Lease marketplace Flip raises $1.2M

Flip, a startup that helps tenants find someone to take over their lease, is announcing that it has raised $1.2 million in seed funding.

The New York City-based company has created a marketplace where lease holders can post apartments that they need to rent out, and where pre-screened applicants can look at housing before it hits the rental market. (Depending on how badly they need to get out of their lease, the current resident can either charge a fee or offer a reward to whoever moves in.)

“We want to create a more flexible way of leasing property,” CEO Susannah Vila said. “There are people who cannot or just don’t want to live in these 12- or 24-month lease cycles.”

The next big step, according to Vila and COO Elias Wehbe, is introducing a chat bot that can assist with finding apartments, notifying landlords, filling out forms and other parts of the process.

Wehbe said that the bot is already available as part of the Flip service, but the team is continually refining it, with an approach he described as “human-assisted AI” — Flip automates whatever it can and assigns humans to handle the rest.

“The robot interjects within a conversation whenever there’s something that’s something it can assist with,” he added.

More than 350 leases have been “flipped” through the Flip platform, and the company says it’s seeing 20 new leases added every day. And after launching in New York, it’s beta testing in San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles.

The funding comes from Joanne Wilson, Scott Belsky, Techstars Ventures, Built by Girls Ventures (which is backed by TechCrunch-owner AOL), V1 Ventures and MetaProp NYC.