‘Our product was built for times like these’: Seattle startup Knock raises $12M


By Taylor Soper

As many tech startups cut staff and figure out how to survive during the COVID-19 crisis, Knock is doing just the opposite.

The Seattle startup today announced a $12 million Series B investment round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Lead Edge Capital and Seven Peaks Ventures.

Knock has seen increased activity over the past few months with its software that helps apartment property managers with productivity and business-related tools. With social distancing mandates in place, clients are leaning on Knock to communicate with tenants; provide self-guided video tours; keep up with lease collections; and more.

“In many ways, our product was built for times like these and the value we deliver to our customers has never been more apparent than during this crisis,” said Knock CEO and co-founder Tom Petry.

Petry said the company is seeing “unprecedented surge in product usage,” including with its two-way communications tool.

Other real estate companies such as Seattle giants Zillow Group and Redfin are also investing in tech tools as shelter-in-place orders prevent traditional industry norms.

Petry said apartments are a “pretty resilient asset class” and won’t be impacted as much as office and retail properties due to the economic crisis, though certain markets with high exposure to hospitality and manufacturing jobs will be affected more. He noted that even as in-person apartment visits have dropped substantially, the amount of signed leases was virtually flat.

“Regardless of geography or asset type, unemployment will certainly put pressure on rent growth and rent collections in most markets, so everybody is monitoring how quickly jobs and incomes are able to rebound,” Petry added. “In general, occupancy and rent growth are expected to soften, but the majority of operators think that occupancy and rents will be back to previous levels within 12 months. Time will tell.”

Knock describes its software category as the “intelligent front office,” helping property managers deal with marketing, sales, CRM, retention, performance management, predictive analytics, and reporting all in one platform.

Knock’s products can be used with existing property management software systems and other communication and productivity apps.

The company doubled its revenue and number of apartment units managed over the past year.

Knock, originally called ZipDigs, was co-founded in 2014 by Petry and Demetri Themelis, two University of Washington grads who previously worked together at UBS Wealth Management. The entrepreneurs were frustrated with the leasing process, specifically with how difficult it was to communicate with landlords. Jay Zeng, the company’s other co-founder, left in April 2018.

The company has recently added new execs from companies including DocuSign, SAP, Google, and Microsoft. It has 105 employees total. Knock dialed back its headcount plans for the year but is still actively hiring for a few roles. Total funding to date is $27.5 million.

“Knock is that much more critical to its customers in what could be softer rental markets to come, and we are excited to have the opportunity to double down on our investment in the company to help accelerate their product roadmap and ability to add value to multifamily operators,” Madrona Managing Director Scott Jacobsen said in a statement.

Madrona led the company’s $10 million Series A round in March 2019.

Knock is one of several startups in the Seattle region building tech for the real estate industry. Others include Flyhomes, Remarkably, Pro.com, Porch, JetClosing, MoxiWorks, IMPREV, Faira, Picket Homes, Modus, and more — not to mention industry giants such as Zillow Group and Redfin.

Seattle-based Knock is not to be confused with Knock, the well-funded real estate company that offers a “home trade-in program.”