COVID has brought contactless to the forefront in situations where technology can replace human interaction. This societal shift has had a significant impact on the real estate industry, forcing it to reexamine how to better serve and communicate in times where in-person interactions are not advisable. MeetElise has built an AI personal assistant that helps leasing agents manage the rental process and respond immediately to prospect leads, questions, and even schedule guided tours. MeetElise’s automation solution enables multifamily property management companies to streamline their rental process through text messaging and email, yielding improved conversion and reduction in time spent for a leasing agent for these tasks. The subscription platform integrates with the property management company’s existing systems.
AlleyWatch caught up with CEO Minna Song to learn how MeetElise helps leasing agents keep up with today’s demanding market and how the need for automation has caused MeetElise to grow 50% since the start of COVID. Founded in 2017, MeetElise has raised a total funding amount of $8.4M across two rounds.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Series A – led by a venture capital fund, Navitas Capital that is backed by some of the leading real estate firms. Additional strategic investors include multifamily leaders (and Navitas LP’s) AvalonBay Communities and Equity Residential.
MeetElise is an artificial intelligence-powered human-like leasing assistant that integrates directly with property management systems to help automate the apartment leasing process. Responding to prospect leads immediately, answering community-specific questions, following up with unresponsive prospects, scheduling tours (both virtual and in-person), and even guiding prospects through a self-guided tour are all able to be done automatically.
What inspired the start of MeetElise?
My cofounder, Tony Stoyanov, and I aspired to fundamentally change the housing industry, eliminating inefficiencies through technology and automation.
How is MeetElise different?
Elise uses advanced machine learning to truly engage potential residents of multifamily properties, converting leads at 65% higher rates and freeing up (on average) 2-3 hours a day of leasing agents’ time. Elise can answer ~90% of lead questions without needing assistance.
Works over email and text message to serve the prospect throughout the entire process of leasing an apartment, not just generating a lead for a human leasing agent to handle.
What market does MeetElise target and how big is it?
MeetElise targets the housing industry – starting with the residential rental real estate market. There are over 43M rental homes in the US.
What’s your business model?
We charge a subscription fee depending on the size of our client’s portfolio or residential rental assets.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business?
There has been a surge of interest in using automation to run the day-to-day activities of our clients’ businesses. We’ve grown 50% just since the start of COVID.
What was the funding process like?
Navitas had previously invested in MeetElise as part of our Seed round. In November 2019, I gave a presentation on how artificial intelligence would fundamentally change the real estate industry at the Navitas LP conference (those in attendance at the intimate event included leaders from Hines, AvalonBay, Equity Residential, First American, and JLL). Following that conference and the conversations that began there, Navitas approached us with a term sheet to preempt the round, filled out by existing investors AvalonBay and Equity Residential (early adopters of the product) and a few employees and friends of MeetElise that wanted to personally invest.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Choosing investors that we trusted and wanted to partner with and would bring a strategic advantage to growing our business.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our advanced technology (some of the most sophisticated AI being deployed in the real estate industry) and founding team.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
- Launching our self-guided tour product after beta.
- Automating the entire leasing process from end to end.
- Growing our client base with several of the largest apartment owners and managers in the country as well as broadening our product service offering to serve small to midsize residential real estate businesses.
- Expanding our team to serve the high demand for our product.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
For founder-teams who have never raised funding, don’t be shy to ask friends and family for help if you are doing something you believe in. Move-in with a friend or family (everything is virtual now anyway) and go without funding as long as possible, ideally until you are making some revenue. It’s not a favorable ecosystem to raise on an idea.
Move-in with a friend or family (everything is virtual now anyway) and go without funding as long as possible, ideally until you are making some revenue. It’s not a favorable ecosystem to raise on an idea.
If you need to raise institutional funding, search for firms who have recently raised a new fund as they are still actively looking for opportunities to invest in great companies.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Growing, growing, growing!
We have an extensive product roadmap to keep building value-add features and products for our customers.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC?
Robots don’t eat!
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