Ojo Labs, an Austin-based startup developing an AI-driven personal assistant for realtors and homebuyers, today announced that it has raised $45 million in a series C financing round, with participation from LiveOak Venture Partners, real estate and relocation services company Realogy Holdings, Royal Bank of Canada, and Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures. The new funding comes mere months after Ojo completed a $20.5 million series B round and follows Ojo’s acquisition of real estate data broker WolfNet Technologies. The series C brings Ojo’s total capital raised to $65.5 million.
The bulk of the cash infusion will be used to expand the company’s data science, product, and engineering teams, said CEO John Berkowitz of Ojo Labs, and to drive product development. Additionally, it’ll lay the groundwork for Ojo’s expansion to all 50 U.S. states, up from the 12 markets where it’s currently available.
“We have utilized a unique combination of AI technology and human operations to solve some very hard technical challenges,” added Berkowitz, who cofounded Ojo Labs with David Rubin in 2015. “Our early investments and willingness to be first to market with this type of product gave us a significant head start in building our now-patented technology.”
Ojo’s chatbot — which is in preview — answers potential homebuyers’ questions about listing information, neighborhood locations, and more via SMS and third-party messaging platforms. (Think queries like “What floor is the master bedroom on?” and “Does it have a pool?”) It scans millions of photos and data sources — including public records and school listings — to recommend properties and taps a proprietary algorithm to surface the partner real estate agents and brokerages that best fit users’ criteria.
But Ojo’s secret weapon is undoubtedly WolfNet’s 100 million property records, which cover 99 percent of all active multiple listing services (the suite of tools real estate brokers use to establish contractual offers of compensation and appraisals) in the U.S. and Canada. Prior to the acquisition in October, WolfNet claimed that half a million realtors used apps and websites powered by its data services.
The goal is to streamline house hunting in a way that feels natural to digitally native buyers, and Ojo Labs just might be onto something. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global chatbot market is expected to reach $1.23 billion by 2025, and analysts at Forrester report that 45 percent of end users prefer chatbots to other forms of communication for customer service inquiries.
“We have been incorporating valuable learnings into our product,” Berkowitz said. “Doubling down on our investments now will further accelerate our competitive edge and, more importantly, will enable us to deliver a truly incredible experience for millions of consumers.”
Ojo Labs has two offices in addition to its Austin headquarters: an AI training and customer service facility in St. Lucia and a Minneapolis-St. Paul location. It expects to add more than 50 new employees to its combined workforce of roughly 290 in the coming months.
“We’re hiring exceptional individuals who are energized by collaborating with talented peers, motivated by solving hard technical challenges, and committed to providing the best experience for our customers,” said Ojo’s executive vice president of engineering, Qingqing Ouyang. “This is an exciting time for the Ojo team. We are wholeheartedly embracing the challenges of using AI to help our customers to make one of the most important decisions of their lives.”