“We believe that we have the beginning of one of the largest companies ever to come out of Austin,” Berkowitz said. “We’re not selling early. We’re building something big and world-changing here.”
And on Wednesday, OJO Labs announced it is merging with real estate data giant, WolfNet Technologies, based in St. Paul, Minn.
OJO Labs, which has raised about $26 million since its founding in 2015, did not disclose the financial terms of the transaction.
The combined company will have about 290 employees including OJO Lab’s 46 employees at 720 Brazos and it will be headquartered in Austin. WolfNet will continue to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary with its office in St. Paul. OJO Labs also has an office on the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean.
When OJO Labs entered the real estate market it quickly realized WolfNet was ahead of everyone else in the real estate data market and that no matter how good OJO Lab’s engineering resources OJO Labs couldn’t replicate what it had done, Berkowitz said.
So OJO Labs partnered with WolfNet a couple of years ago. During that time, the two companies have grown closer, Berkowitz said. He has also gotten to know the founders Joel and Jenny MacIntosh.
“We realized how incredible they were as leaders and owners and our cultures really matched,” he said.
WolfNet, founded in 1996, manages real estate databases with more than 100 million property records that cover 99 percent of all active Multiple Listing Services, known as MLS, in the U.S. and Canada. 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.
WolfNet decided they wanted to be part of a much bigger opportunity by combining with OJO Labs, Berkowitz said.
“The employees were very excited,” Berkowitz said. “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.”
WolfNet gives OJO Labs a real competitive advantage, Berkowitz said.
“Now we get to deliver to consumers and the real estate industry something people have been asking for, for a while, much cleaner data,” he said.
OJO Labs plans to share its data with the industry and to collaborate more with its data, Berkowitz said.
“We’re going to open up the advancements we make for ourselves for others,” he said.
The main sources of residential real estate information come out of more than 700 MLS services in the country that control various markets. It becomes increasingly complex to search that data at scale because of different formats and systems. OJO Labs and WolfNet are going to streamline the data to make it faster and easier to search through than ever, Berkowitz said.
WolfNet has a process for data mining that is the fastest industry standard for keeping data accurate and updated and OJO is adding to that and supercharging the data across the country, Berkowitz said.
“No other data provider that keeps it as near real-time as possible,” he said.
Waiting 24 hours to access data on a home that has been in a market can be a problem and result in lost opportunities for potential homebuyers.
OJO Labs has created a home assistant powered by artificial intelligence that is free to consumers. Its technology lets homebuyers ask all kinds of questions of the OJO assistant about home features ranging from things like swimming pools, views of downtown, larger kitchens, large lots, school districts, etc. The OJO assistant then mines through data to send the homebuyer texts of potential homes with photos and listings. The more interaction with the homebuyer, the smarter the assistant becomes in providing tailored recommendations.
“We’re sending them specific homes and having conversations about the homes,” Berkowitz said. “The speed and accuracy about that is a pain point for consumers.”
OJO Lab’s product is in its infancy, but it is way ahead of anyone else in the real estate industry, Berkowitz said.
Although it’s early, there is a real technology shift happening that OJO is on the front line of, Berkowitz said.
“This afternoon in one of our 12 markets, a man or woman will be browsing for real estate and will come into OJO and will have a conservation with a machine that will lead to one of the biggest decisions of their lives,” Berkowitz said. “OJO is on the front line of a real shift of how consumers interact with technology. We believe we are just at the beginning of a very large company.”