News reports yesterday disclosed that OJO Labs and WolfNet were becoming one company. The news traveled fast and furious, despite the fact that the “official” news release was issued this morning on the newswire.
How cool is it that one of the hottest Artificial Intelligence startups just bought an established, 20+ year-old real estate data giant?
Here are some classic quotes from yesterday news coverage of this historic event:
“The largest aggregator of MLS data has been acquired by one of the industry’s hottest artificial intelligence companies.”
“This is probably the most impressive fundamental move toward assisting the industry in improving the consumer experience. We partnered a Ferrari with the fuel.” – Ken Jenny, advisor to the merger
“It’s the right communication at the right time with the consumer, and that’s really a missing piece right now.” – Joel MacIntosh, Founder and CEO, WolfNet
“It enables real estate pros and brokers to provide AI to help consumers in the home-search process. That is the beginning. There is no end.” – Ken Jenny, advisor to the merger
“These guys (WolfNet) are years ahead of everybody else, so lets put resources into that instead of trying to re-invent it.” – David Rubin, OJO Labs co-founder
“We’ve seen startups come and go, tons of companies flicker in and flicker out, but this is a different deal. What they have and bring to the marketplace is at a different level, a different feature set that will make a fundamental difference in the marketplace. That’s what made us so excited about moving forward with this deal.” – Joel MacIntosh, Founder and CEO, WolfNet
“(OJO) empowers the agents and those in their sphere to better serve the consumer.” – Ken Jenny
“The OJO AI assistant is in its infancy but is already the most personalized approach to real estate ever created.” – Joel MacIntosh, Founder and CEO, WolfNet
“The MLS has the best property data there is, and with WolfNet, the speed and quality of those feeds will be key components of the data powering OJO.” – John Berkowitz, CEO of OJO Labs
“Joel is definitely an O.G. in the industry.” – Greg Robertson
“We believe that we have the beginning of one of the largest companies ever to come out of Austin. We’re not selling early. We’re building something big and world-changing here.” – John Berkowitz, CEO of OJO Labs
“The industry is saying wow. It’s not every day a small AI startup acquires a giant data provider to create a much bigger company.” – John Berkowitz, CEO of OJO Labs
AUSTIN BUSINESS JOURNAL
“(T)he merger could potentially make the home-buying process more efficient for real estate companies, brokers and their customers.”
“WolfNet will improve OJO’s machine learning, according to OJO Labs Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder David Rubin. ‘That means OJO will get smarter, faster and, most importantly, the consumer’s real estate transaction experience in the future is going to get better.'”
Here is the official news release issued this morning at 8:00 am Central Time:
OJO Labs Combines with Real Estate Data Giant WolfNet Technologies
Combination creates data-rich AI firm set to benefit millions of consumers, industry
Austin, TX – October 11, 2018 – AI conversational technology leader OJO Labs announced today its combination with real estate data giant WolfNet Technologies. The terms of the agreement are not disclosed.
OJO Labs, based in Austin, Texas, empowers consumers to make better decisions through its conversational AI, “OJO.” For homebuyers and sellers, its leading-edge, machine-learning assistant OJO engages consumers through mobile messaging and innovative web experiences that reimagines the home transaction experience.
WolfNet manages one of the world’s most complete, accurate and current real estate databases with more than 100 million property records and covers 99% of all active Multiple Listing Services (MLS) property listings in the U.S. and Canada. A leading provider of MLS data standardization services, Twin Cities-based WolfNet is best known in the real estate industry for pioneering Responsive IDX property search. Nearly a half million real estate agents use apps or websites that are powered by WolfNet data services. Its clients include real estate franchises, brokerages, teams, agents and real estate technology providers.
“Millions of consumers will benefit from this partnership,” said John Berkowitz, CEO of OJO Labs. “The MLS has the best property data there is, and with WolfNet, the speed and quality of those feeds will be key components of the data powering OJO. OJO will also ingest and learn from public records data, school information and more for every major market in America – across the nation’s 383 metro areas.”
“All of this will fuel OJO’s machine learning,” added David Rubin, Co-founder of OJO Labs. “That means OJO will get smarter – faster – and most importantly, the consumer’s real estate transaction experience in the future is going to get better.”
For WolfNet founder Joel MacIntosh, who spent the last 22 years growing WolfNet into a category leader, the fusion of OJO Labs and WolfNet is a “next level collaboration” for his business and the real estate industry.
“The significance of this day may be lost on those who haven’t heard what leading AI experts are saying about OJO Labs today. OJO Labs has some of the brightest people leading their technology efforts. The OJO AI assistant is in its infancy but is already the most personalized approach to real estate ever created. Fuse this with WolfNet, known for our innovative leadership, and I believe our employees, our clients, our partners and the real estate industry overall will see this as a next level move,” MacIntosh said.
Impact for OJO Labs and WolfNet customers includes:
- A smarter, more responsive OJO that will benefit from the fastest, most comprehensive and standardized MLS data available industrywide.
- Access to significant improvements to data standardization and enriched raw data via machine learning and AI.
- Rapid access to combined products and services licensed to use the real estate data and related technology platforms.
The combined companies now have more than 290 employees, with headquarters in Austin, Texas. The WolfNet brand remains unchanged and will continue to be led by MacIntosh with its 43 employees remaining at the Saint Louis Park operation just west of downtown Minneapolis. OJO Labs also operates an office in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia where the AI training takes place. OJO Labs and WolfNet have worked together for more than two years. “We know each other well and our cultures are a great fit,” MacIntosh added.
OJO Labs was founded by Rubin and Berkowitz in 2015 and the company has raised more than $28 million in capital, including $20.5 million in Series B funding in May. Investors included Realogy Holdings Corp., Royal Bank of Canada, Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, and ServiceMaster, joined by leading Texas venture capital firms LiveOak Venture Partners and Silverton Partners.
OJO Labs has patented AI technology that solves the biggest problems plaguing the development of intelligent, conversational systems. The first application of the technology is in real estate. OJO is the first and only AI-based assistant that can understand a user’s intent and preferences to answer almost any real estate related question.
How OJO works
OJO’s AI assistant answers questions that some consumers searching for a home may be hesitant to ask an agent. Consumers in all stages of a home shopping process often don’t want to bother an agent with questions, while others, early in the process, fear asking an agent questions could result in sales pressure. OJO’s AI assistant solves both problems.
OJO has access to WolfNet’s vast database so when a home shopper sends a text to OJO and asks if a property has a particular feature, like a backyard, OJO can find the data and respond. Most importantly, OJO’s response is truly conversational in tone: “Yes, it has 4 large oak trees for privacy and shade around the back patio.” OJO also is using image recognition software and AI to quickly learn what a home buyer likes and doesn’t like about homes. It then searches through millions of photographs in seconds to find homes that match a buyer’s personality and style.
Interacting on behalf of real estate agents and brokerages, OJO is available 24/7 to help consumers with questions, home search needs, mortgage information and other resources related to the homeownership journey. Engaging the consumer in a two-way dialogue over an extended period provides OJO with crucial insights that it can then share with a real estate agent when the consumer gives consent and chooses to connect. This trusted, nurtured connection creates a mutually beneficial experience for both the consumer and agent. It’s a crucial fusion of top technology and human interaction.
About OJO Labs
OJO Labs is on a mission to empower people to make better decisions through the fusion of machine and human intelligence. The company’s unique, patented AI technology products can conduct text conversations with consumers at scale. By combining natural language understanding with data and personalization, the products allow for consumers to deeply engage in a purchase process prior to interacting with a salesperson. OJO Labs is backed by the two most active VC firms in Texas, leaders in real estate and financing industries, as well as key high-net-worth individuals. OJO Labs has been recognized as a Best Places to Work in Austin by the Austin Business Journal, an Austin A-List and 50 On Fire winner. The OJO team has decades of combined success scaling businesses and deep experience in engineering, data science, product marketing, and operations.
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