Compass nabs $450 million

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Compass nabs $450 million in largest real estate tech investment in U.S. history

Japanese firm SoftBank is betting big on the white hot real estate tech company

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Humongous breaking news this morning for Compass, the white-hot real estate tech company: it just received a $450 million investment from SoftBank Vision Fund, the collaborative tech investment vehicle started by Japanese company Softbank and a host of big international players.

The $450 million investment in Compass marks the largest private real estate tech investment in U.S. history, according to Compass, and follows on the heels of a $100 million investment from other funders last month, which valued the company at $1.8 billion.

Collectively, Compass has raised $775 million in capital, money that will assist in its bid to expand across 10 new metropolitan markets within the next two years.

The are eye-popping figures for a company that launched in New York in 2013 (under the name “Urban Compass”) and was initially focused on rental units in the city only, but has since expanded to a sales focus and into over 10 markets nationwide. Compass Chief Revenue Officer Robert Lehman told Inman in a phone interview that the company would potentially acquire small brokerages to bring in new talent, similar to Compass’s recent expansion to Chicago, where it hired 20 agents from the area away from established franchises Coldwell Banker and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

In an announcement last month, Compass CEO Robert Reffkin told brokers and other employees that the New York-based company aimed to grab 20 percent of the market share in the 20 largest U.S. cities by 2020 (a plan known internally as “2020 By 2020”), and would be developing its own Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software platform and high-tech, solar powered “For Sale” signage.

This morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Reffkin announced Compass’s expansion to San Diego and compared the company to Amazon and Tesla:

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Compass touts itself as “the first modern real estate platform, which reduces the friction and frustration associated with selling, buying, or renting a property by providing real estate agents with a set of powerful tools to increase efficiency and sales volume.” But industry sources say that the company’s success has lots to do with its image, culture, and marketing, which position the company as a young, vibrant, Google-like startup, in a sector filled with many longstanding and slower-moving giants.

“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 the SoftBank Vision Fund, in a prepared statement released Thursday. “Compass is building a differentiated, end-to-end 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.”

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Tech Hill Commons

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Hey Entrepreneurs: Tech Hill Commons Wants to Bring Your Ideas to Life

By Chris Blondell

Everything’s coming up Nashville. That would certainly seem to be the case if you talked to Brian Moyer of The Nashville Technology Council. Moyer is the President and CEO of the NTC and a serial entrepreneur and technologist.

“Technology has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Prior to taking the role as CEO, I was a founding member of the NTC and also served on the board of directors for two years. I still look to learn something new every day and enjoy helping others achieve their goals. I’m excited for this opportunity to represent Nashville’s technology industry.”

Brian Moyer.

The Nashville Technology Council is described on their site as a “catalyst for the growth and influence of Middle Tennessee’s technology industry.” By investing directly into Nashville’s vibrant community, the NTC is looking to become a national leader in technology-based innovation and development. So, if it’s stepping towards the future, Moyer and the NTC want to be a part of it.

We all know that Nashville is quickly becoming a beacon for anything technology related. In recent years it’s seen a boom in technological investment, and has had its own share of successes in the industry with a lot of promise for the future.

“It’s a very exciting time to live in Nashville. We have an enticing creative culture with a low cost of living, which has led to more people wanting to be here. Over the past ten years, on average Nashville has added 39 more jobs a day, ranking 16th of the top 20 US cities.

“We have a diverse economy made up of a number of industries including healthcare, entertainment, hospitality, manufacturing, and distribution. The demand for those in the field of technology is high. Not only is our tech industry growing, but the demand for “tech occupations” across all our industries is growing.”

Sounds like the place to be if you’re a tech entrepreneur, right? It only gets better.

In a major step forward, the NTC and Comcast have decided to partner on an innovative new facility called Tech Hill Commons, and it will be the tech council’s brand new home.

The innovation hub's floor plan. Image: Tech Hill Commons.

“We saw the need for a space that would not only house our corporate offices but also provide opportunities for connecting and supporting the Nashville tech community. Our board agreed. About that same time, Comcast approached us to say they had partnered on similar spaces in other key markets around the country. Planning and a search for space began.

“We were fortunate to find the perfect location in an area of Nashville that the Mayor has dubbed ‘Tech Hill.’ It’s easily accessible with plenty of parking and only minutes from downtown Nashville. We are taking over the entire lobby level floor, approximately 9,500 square feet. Tech Hill Commons will be leveraged to help in our mission and realization of our vision.”

In other words, if you’re a tech-minded entrepreneur, Tech Hill Commons is the place to be. While cities like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, even New York, have spaces where tech-minded folks can flock to in order to perfect their trade. When out-of-staters think of Nashville, what typically pops into their heads is country music and hot chicken. Moyer, the NTC, and Comcast are working very hard to change that with Tech Hill Commons.

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Image: Tech Hill Commons

But how will this work? How and why should people use this space? Moyer says, “One of our key roles is to serve as collaborators. Bringing together like-minded groups and individuals to solve issues and strengthen our tech community. Having our own space to facilitate those discussions will be a great benefit.

“Through our learning center, we are also focused on training the next generation of technology workers. We envision Tech Hill Commons as a place where members of our tech community can gather to work, collaborate, and connect.”

Why go it alone when you can have direct access to all the people you need? Forget working from your basement, or renting office space. Tech Hill Commons is here to be taken advantage of. It would be the central hub for, say, launch events, hackathons, Mac-a-thons, you name it. If it’s related to technology and if you can collaborate on it, Tech Hill Commons is the space for you.

So, where does Comcast fit in? For one, Comcast has been on the front lines of innovation, investing in anything that has to do with stepping into the future. “Aside from financial support and in-kind technology services, Comcast has provided specialists to help with space planning and negotiating furnishing. I can say with certainty that we would not have been able to make this happen without the incredible support we have received from them. Everyone on their team has been outstanding to work with.”

If ever there was an example of what a good partnership can accomplish, NTC and Comcast’s collaboration on Tech Hill Commons is it.

Nashville has steadily been on the rise in the past few years. It’s been known as a home base for country music, and that will never change, but soon it will be known for more than just honky tonk. Nashville will be known for innovation, for technology, for the entrepreneurial spirit. Nashville won’t just be Music City, it’ll be a place where ideas are fostered.

Everything’s coming up Nashville, and Brian Moyer, the NTC, and Comcast are on the front lines.