Despite a growing number of investments in property assets over the past year, the ways these firms handle investor relationships has been slow to change.
Due to increased investment from large institutional investors and volatility in the number of homes and home prices, there is growing demand for investor relation solutions.
While proptech changes the ways property is built, managed and sold, a large number of these deals still involve back-and-forth emails, Excel sheets and wire transfer.
Agora is one startup trying to update the antiquated ways that developers interact with investors. Founded in Tel Aviv in 2018, the company provides a real estate investment management platform to help reduce the huge amount of time and work that is being done manually.
“What’s really important for them is to have a single tool that really connects everything,” Agora co-founder and CEO Bar Mor told FinLedger.
Mor says that while there are so many family offices and smaller developers raising capital from investors, and more large companies allocating capital towards these assets, the tools they use to manage these investor relationships are outdated.
In fact, he says that 85% of real estate investors and entrepreneurs are still using manual tools like email and Microsoft Excel.
“Even a smaller, mid-sized company developer might have, let’s say 20 deals, and each deal you have 20 investors. One invests $100,000, another one $500,000, another one 2 million, and each one has a certain portfolio within this,” he said, showing the complexity involved with these deals and the struggle of handling this information manually.
Mor says that this customer relationship management (CRM) also has to have financial information, which led the company to develop money transfer distribution and e-signature capabilities.
While these solutions can be built out and developed within existing CRMs like Salesforce, that is also labor intensive and not specially suited to the needs of property investors.
“The set of tools that these type of companies have to manage the relationships with their investors, to manage all of their back office work reporting money transfers – we’re documenting the chores, creating transparency and keeping track of portfolio performance,” Mor said, noting that “Key Operating Indicator (KOI) allocation, the performance of investments, is still very outdated, and most companies are using Excel sheets, a lot of back and forth communication and manual, inefficient workflows.”
Agora has raised $9.9 million in funding to date, including its most recent $9 million seed round led by Aleph, one of the largest venture capital firms in Israel.
Mor says the company is using this funding to continue expanding through the US market and push product development to incorporate financial technology solutions.
Cybersecurity and protecting investor’s data
Considering the platform’s financial-centric use case, Agora also is in a spot where it needs to consider Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) cybersecurity measures.
Agora is specially suited to handle these obstacles, which increasing face fintechs and other startups during the world’s ongoing digital transformation, according to Mor.
The three co-founders met during their time in Unit 8200, Israel Defense Forces’ cyber intelligence unit-turned startup machine, meaning the company has a very strong cybersecurity background.
Mor also comes from a family of real estate developers, with his father and uncle running notable property companies within Israel, and says this has ingrained the importance of investor’s sensitive financial information.
As a result he says Agora works with AWS to completely encrypt its data, ensuring it meets the highest standard of security and holds cybersecurity as a top priority.
Despite the company being founded in Israel, it has focused its growth and customer base in the US, with Bar saying 70% to 75% of its customers are from the United States.
Agora’s plans for the future
Looking ahead, Mor says that Agora is excited to keep growing its customer base and improving its product for existing clients, with plans to bring even more value “to the table.”
“For many of our customers, we are the first SaaS software that they buy, so they are doing everything offline,” he said, looking at how Agora can provide added value.
“We’re trying to take all the different services and all the different things that they used to do very manually and offline, without data and without access, and really connect all of these points in order to create value in different kind of ways. I think that’s really exciting, as well as starting to get involved with payments, financial information and how we can leverage debt in order to create more value. It’s a huge opportunity,” Mor said.