It took some persistence, but real estate startup Houwzer, a tech-enabled real estate brokerage, just closed a $4.5 million “seed extension” round of funding aimed at growing its presence in Philly and Washington D.C, while expanding to a third big market over the next year.
Among the backers are past investors such as Ben Franklin Capital Partners — via StartUp PHL’s second seed fund — angel investor syndicate Broad Street Angels, NBA star David Robinson and an immediately recognizable name in Philly business: real estate and private equity captain Ira Lubert.
“Our vision at Houwzer is to be the best real estate company in the world – and for the world,” said the B Corp’s CEO, Mike Maher, a Navy veteran who founded Houwzer in 2014. “We now have the network and resources to help us scale nationally.”
We asked Maher, who also cofounded coworking company Benjamin’s Desk (now 1776): How does a founder go about getting a million-dollar check from an investor like Lubert, who hears hundreds of pitches a year?
“The simple answer is: he turned me down three times before he said yes,” Maher said. “Like any entrepreneur, you keep selling your story and sticking to it. He first saw the deal as just a PowerPoint, but at the end of the day it came down to traction. We now have great traction in our home market.”
Maher said Lubert began tracking the company and would offer pointers and questions around where he’d like the company to be before investing.
“With people like Ira and [investor] Josh Kopelman, you can tell it’s time well spent,” Maher said of the pitching process. “I’ve tried to understand that if they’re giving you the floor, even if you get a no you’re doing it right. You gotta get comfortable with hearing no’s.”
Robinson (yes, The Admiral of San Antonio Spurs fame) came into the picture after an intro from Fitler Club founder David Gutstadt. Like many former sports stars, investing is now Robinson’s jam, by way of Admiral Capital Group, a firm he cofounded with former Goldman Sachs exec, Dan Bassichis.
“He has a big focus on real estate,” Maher said. Plus, both Maher and Robinson are both veterans who attended the United States Naval Academy.
Up ahead in the company’s roadmap is a large Series A raise aimed at taking Houwzer national. It currently employs 75 full-timers between Philly and Washington D.C.
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