There is no shortage of websites to help New Yorkers find apartments, but one Brooklyn tech startup thinks it has them all beat.
Nooklyn, which recently closed an $825,000 seed round, says it is different from other real estate platforms because it is the only one-stop shop for finding a place to live.
“If I want to move right now, I can’t find out which buildings require a credit check or how much the security deposit is until I show up for a viewing, and then I am in a high pressure selling environment,” said Moiz Malik, CFO and a managing partner at Nooklyn. “That makes no sense. A good tech platform should give the customer the power to make a transparent decision, and that is what we are trying to do.”
The platform offers hundreds of listings, located mostly in Brooklyn. Visitors can also fill out a rental application, receive a background check, pay their rent and even find somebody to live with via social media. Nooklyn amounts to a combination of features from other platforms, such as StreetEasy’s listing service or On-Site’s rental application finder.
This versatility has made Nooklyn one of the largest real estate brokerages in Brooklyn. Since launching its software platform in 2015, Nooklyn says it has helped 25,000 renters move and processed $40 million in rental payments while growing to 300 agents. Each month, 49,000 rental searches are conducted on Nooklyn.com, according to the company.
“Our mission is to fix the experience of finding apartments,” Nooklyn founder and CEO Harley Courts wrote in a Medium post last year. “From day one, our goal at Nooklyn has been to find people a home that is just right for them.”
Courts, a long-haired NYC native, started Nooklyn after crashing out of his first business: a skateboard company called Substance Skateboards. He became superintendent of a 140-unit building in Bushwick in 2010 and began listing open apartments via a domain name he purchased for $10 called Nooklyn.com. He linked up with real estate broker Joseph Friedman, now Nooklyn’s third managing partner, and began renting apartments around Brooklyn.
The brokerage was profitable from Day 1 and bootstrapped until launching its software platform. Through Nooklyn’s growth, Courts has remained loyal to his skateboarder roots.
“In skateboard culture, if you have 25 cents and I have 25 cents, together we have an Arizona Iced Tea,” Courts said. “This is how we want to approach business.”
This means brokers often collaborate on listings and split the commission. Nooklyn encourages its agents to sell in volume, rather than closing large individual deals. Roughly one third of Nooklyn’s listings are split, which is well above industry averages.
Nooklyn plans on using its seed investment to expand into Manhattan (there’s already a team based at a WeWork in Union Square) as well as build out its engineering, data and design teams. The company plans to open a second Manhattan office in the Lower East Side, and is preparing a Series A investment round.
Bigger picture, the business wants to make its software available nationally while also expanding its brokerage services across New York City.
“Four of the top 20 American cities by population are already in New York City,” said Malik, referring to Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. “We could create a billion-dollar company without ever leaving New York City.”
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