Less than a month after raising $100 million led by Fidelity, real-estate startup Compass is striking while the iron is hot. The company has now picked up an even bigger investment of $450 million, this time from the SoftBank Vision Fund, plus another $50M in secondary deals, to fill out a vision of its own: taking its real estate rental and sales platform global.
New York-based Compass is now valued at $2.2 billion post-money, up from $1.8 billion just four weeks ago, with $775 million raised to date.
The massive round essentially overlapping with the previous round — Allon was closing the SoftBank deal in Japan on the same day that the Fidelity investment was getting announced — is not the first notable financial milestone for the startup.
Compass set the pace on this front with its debut back in 2012, when it was called Urban Compass and announced funding of $8 million from an elite group of backers, at the time one of the largest-ever seed rounds for a startup (all things are relative: $8 million seems almost quaint now).
Ori Allon, the co-founder and chairman of Compass, said in an interview that the plan is not only to keep growing in the US from its current footprint of 11 cities — that was one of the stated purposes for the last $100 million in funding — but now to turn that strategy to a wider, global stage.
“We realised that to hit the goal of where we want to be in the next two to three years — Compass everywhere, in every major city worldwide — we needed another partner, and that is the vision Softbank is aligned with,” Allon said in an interview.
The Softbank Vision Fund is the tech and investment firm’s massive, nearly $100 billion fund with partners that include the likes of Apple, Qualcomm, Foxconn and a variety of Middle Eastern investors that is taking huge bets on what it believes are or will emerge as the category leaders across a number of areas. Investments include Uber, WeWork, MapBox, Slack and now Compass, among others.
Some of what has made this startup such a confident bet with founders has been the startup’s pedigree. Allon has an engineering background and had already sold startups to Google and Twitter, and the tech in those startups proved to be foundational to each company’s search business; co-founder and CEO Robert Reffkin is an ex-Goldman Sachs banker who has his own gilded background.
And some of the interest has been because of the tech itself: originally conceived as a kind of disruptor to the business and potential of hyperlocal information, Compass finally took the form of doing this in relation to one specific aspect of living locally: the place where you actually live. Its platform is a clutter-free, easy to read, pared-down but informative list of places that are already vetted before they are placed on the site to match a profile of a typical Compass user.
As for who that user is, Compass so far has focused on high-end properties and customers, which has given it a strong funnel for high values and good margins, as well as a steady stream of people with income to spend on their housing. (And yes, the plan longer term is to widen that out, Allon said, but for now there is still more to do in its current market segment.)
Compass is most certainly not the first company to build a platform to connect would-be home buyers / renters with properties — there are giants like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Homes.com, and Rent. com — but you might think of Compass as the equivalent of the launch of the first iPhone to the various other smartphones that preceded it. It has streamlined what it’s trying to do, and is carefully controlling the experience, with a firm eye on who will be using it — all with the benefit of hindsight of what had come before it.
Perhaps most of all, it seems that for investors, the proof has been in the pudding.
The funding comes on the back of huge growth for Compass. Its roster of top agents — a key part of the company’s two-sided business that is both resident-facing and agent-facing — has grown 500 percent in the last 24 months, and this is helping to bring in more choice inventory to meet demand. The company itself is on track to hit 16,000 transactions and more than $14 billion in sales this year, as well as more than $350 million in revenue.
“Real estate is a huge asset class, but the sector has been relatively untouched by technology and remains inefficient and fragmented,” said Justin Wilson, a senior investment professional at SoftBank’s Vision Fund, in a statement. “Compass is building a differentiated, end-to-end tech platform that aggregates across diverse data streams to support agents and homebuyers through the entire process, well beyond the initial home search. With disruptive technology and unique data advantages, Compass is well-positioned for future growth in a sector that represents trillions in transaction volume.”