The role of artificial intelligence and machine learning in real estate has been accelerating. Yesterday, real estate’s natural conversation AI leader OJO Labs of Austin announced $45 million in new funding. To borrow an analogy from advisor Ken Jenny – who once described OJO Labs as a “Ferrari” – AI is about to really take off in our industry as this sports car now has rocket fuel.
OJO Labs you might recall, grabbed headlines last fall when it combined with data giant WolfNet of the Twin Cities. Its ‘OJO” AI virtual assistant had already been turning a lot of heads. OJO engages homebuyers and sellers through natural conversations using mobile messaging and innovative web experiences, basically reinventing how consumers can begin a search for a home and fully engage from the first point of contact – built for those not quite ready to talk with an agent. And when a buyer is prepared to speak with an agent, they are transitioned to a real agent seamlessly.
It’s a win-win because agents won’t waste their time on prospects who when they start shopping have a ton of questions about homes that they will never buy. Those questions can take an agent hours to research. These same questions may take OJO just a few moments to figure out the answers and respond to, as OJO pulls from massive amounts of information. The consumer wins because they get a better home buying experience from the start.
For Austin and the Twin Cities it means MORE JOBS, really GOOD jobs with the kind of culture that makes the “Best Places” to work for lists.
For real estate, the growing value of AI and machine learning is clear with leading investors taking notice. The magnitude of investing is exciting because of what will come next!
Here’s the full news release:
OJO Labs Raises $45 Million in Series C Funding to Accelerate Product Development and Fuel Expansion
Powerful technology offers the best home buying, selling experience for millions of consumers
AUSTIN, Texas, March 19, 2019 – OJO Labs, which empowers consumers to make better decisions by providing the AI based personal assistant, “OJO,” has raised $45 million in Series C funding to accelerate its development and market expansion. The company will further increase its market leading position with significant hiring in its Data Science, Engineering, Product and Design teams. The round is funded by a group of participants deeply committed to both consumers and real estate industry professionals, including LiveOak Venture Partners, Realogy Holdings Corporation, Royal Bank of Canada, and Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures.
OJO is a leading-edge virtual assistant that engages homebuyers and sellers through natural conversations using mobile messaging and innovative web experiences that reimagine the home search and transaction experience. OJO Labs noted the new financing was made possible due to massive traction the company has been gaining with both consumers and partners. Its product has been live in 12 U.S. markets, Toronto, Canada, and is now being rolled out at a large scale nationwide.
“We have utilized a unique combination of AI technology and human operations to solve some very hard technical challenges,” said John Berkowitz, CEO of OJO Labs. “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. We have been incorporating valuable learnings into our product. 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 is the only AI-based digital assistant that can understand a homebuyer or seller’s needs, preferences, and goals giving it the ability to create a personalized experience during the entire process. Partnering with real estate agents and brokerages, OJO is available for consumers 24/7 to help with listing information, home discovery, neighborhood selection, budget or financing guidance, and education surrounding one of the largest purchases consumers make. When consumers are ready, OJO matches them with highly qualified agents who can best serve their needs. By providing both parties with a foundation of information through a warm hand off, OJO helps to establish trust between the agent and the consumer from the start.
OJO’s ability to engage consumers with a conversational interface in tandem with rich visual experiences powered by photo-recognition technology, data analytics, and personalized insights makes it the most relevant and engaging home shopping platform available. Behind the scenes, OJO is supported by an extensive network of industry experts who supplement the platform’s data with knowledge. Continuous data training improves the OJO platform to be smarter and more effective with every interaction. This patented combination of machine learning and human interaction is unlike any other industry technology.
According to Berkowitz, the firm’s revenue is ramping up fast. They are quickly expanding teams in each of their three offices – Austin, where OJO Labs is based, Minneapolis-St. Paul, where last fall, OJO Labs joined forces with leading real estate data services provider, WolfNet, and St Lucia, where they operate their AI training and customer service teams. OJO Labs and WolfNet expect to add more than 50 new jobs in the two US markets in the coming months.
OJO Labs Executive Vice President of Engineering, Qingqing Ouyang, says she is looking to rapidly grow their Data Science, Engineering, Product and Design operations.“We’re hiring exceptional individuals who are energized by collaborating with talented peers, motivated by solving hard technical challenges, and committed to provide the best experience for our customers.” said 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.”
About OJO Labs Inc. – 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 consumers to deeply engage in a purchase process before 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 industry executives. 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, recognized in Comparably’s 2018 Best Company Culture Awards, named a Built In Austin 2019 Best Company to Work For, and a 2019 Artificial Intelligence Excellence Awards recipient. The OJO team has decades of combined success scaling businesses and deep experience in data science, engineering, product marketing, and operations.