Buildout, a Chicago-based real estate marketing startup, announced on Thursday that it has raised an $8 million Series A from Susquehanna Growth Equity.
Buildout’s marketing software is designed specifically to meet the needs of the commercial real estate industry, allowing users to instantly update websites, marketing materials, proposals, third-party listings and emails from a single location. The company also provides custom maps that let real estate professionals easily show where their properties are located.
“We were looking for a market with a lot of opportunity, and that was what led us to commercial real estate,” said co-founder and CEO Vishu Ramanathan. “We went to a brokerage firm in Chicago, and we could see how much work went into his marketing. So we offered to do that work for him for $100 a month.”
Ramanathan and his co-founder, Jason Tillery, took on the task of creating brochures, populating emails and updating websites for the broker by hand until they understood the process well enough to automate it. Eventually, those efforts turned into Buildout’s tech platform.
Founded in 2013 with a $300,000 seed investment, Ramanathan said his company has grown from three employees to 35 in the past three years. He expects to make more than 30 new hires in the upcoming year.
“We’re going to hire primarily in development and client services, although we are also going to do some hiring in sales,” said Ramanathan. “Interestingly, because my partner and I are both software developers, we have a fairly small software development team, relative to the rest of the company. So we’ll be fleshing that out.”
Buildout said its product is currently used by more than 1,600 brokerages, serving over 10,000 users in all 50 states. Ramanathan said there is a prevailing view that the real estate industry is reluctant to adopt new technologies, but in his experience, much of that reluctance comes from a lack of good options.
In expanding Buildout’s team, the founder said he and his partner want to be careful to put the team’s culture first. To him, that means a lot more than having a ping pong table and serving up cold brew coffee.
“We have those things, but what defines our culture is how we relate to each other. You spend an awful lot of your life with the people you work with,” said Ramanathan. “We have found that by treating people with respect and giving them support, encouragement and opportunity for growth, that really makes a big difference to their happiness.”
Ramanathan said that was a realization he came to early on, after one of his first employees made a big mistake in front of a customer.
“At that moment, I could feel that this could go either way — if I get mad, no amount of cold brew will make them like working here again,” he said. “To me, that tells you about a company’s culture: Do you hide your mistakes, or do you tell people about them so everyone can work together to fix them.”
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