South Africa’s Flow gets funding to automate social media advertising for real estate agencies
The process used by millions of agents and thousands of property portals globally to reach buyers and sellers on digital channels is highly fragmented. And it’s evident that proptech, unlike other industries, has lagged in utilizing social media to make sales.
South African startup Flow wants to change how real estate agencies, developers and agents interact with their end customers. With its APIs, Flow connects to the websites of estate agencies and property developers and automates advertising for them on social media channels like Instagram and Facebook. The proptech marketing platform is announcing that it has raised $4.5 million in pre-Series A funding.
The proptech intends to use the funding to include other social media platforms such as TikTok and LinkedIn and other advertising channels like out-of-home billboards. The investment will see co-founders and co-CEOs Gil Sperling and Daniel Levy drive the business’s B2B growth strategy and integrate Flow’s social media–driven real estate marketing platform into existing international property portals and CRM platforms.
Sperling and Levy founded Flow in 2017 as an app that rewards tenants for early rent payments. However, before Flow, both founders previously built an adtech and performance marketing company, Popimedia, which was the largest buyer of Facebook media inventory in Africa for some of the world’s biggest brands. While they sold the business to global communications group Publicis in 2016, it was some of the knowledge gained while running Popimedia that they drew on to pivot Flow into its current business model four years later.
“With our first adtech business, we never dealt with real estate or property as we could never really service them in this country [South Africa]. And the biggest problem was that as much as real estate is the biggest asset class in the world and very valuable vertical, it is the least innovated around because it’s just highly fragmented,” Sperling told TechCrunch on a call.
“When buying and selling homes, if you take South Africa, for example, 40,000 agents are marketing 300,000 listings at any time. Every agent is essentially a little small business because they’re commissioners, and there’s no way that they can afford to each have a marketing, data science department, and design department like big businesses can, and that is one reason why we couldn’t conduct ads or performance marketing for many of them.”
With Flow, the founders want real estate agencies and property developers they couldn’t reach with their former startup to connect with customers on digital channels. The proptech startup automates the marketing for real estate agents for developers and works hand-in-hand with real estate websites such as Property24 and Private Property to pull listings and automatically create ads on Facebook, Instagram and other digital channels.
According to Flow, its proptech marketing platform improves revenue for agents and experiences for property buyers and sellers. On the other hand, Levy points out that the startup makes money when these agents use its SaaS platform and via a percentage cut from their marketing spend. He added that revenue has been growing 20% month-on-month within the past year.
“Our route to market, for the most bit, has been going door-to-door from franchisor to franchisee to different offices within that group. And over the last couple of months, we’ve identified the enterprise channel, as we call it, which is more associated with strapping on our technology to portals,” stated the co-CEO. “So our next phase of traction and growth will come from those relationships, which are significant in our world. And that’s why we’ve just gone through this capital raise to experiment with that essentially.”
Flow currently has over 300+ clients using its platform — a client being a real estate agency or developer where each office has about 15 to 20 smaller agents. So more broadly, Flow is used by nearly 6,000 agents across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mauritius and Australia. It is in talks with partners, mainly property portals and CRM platforms, to expand into Europe (France, Germany, Belgium and the U.K.) where it’ll face stiffer competition — which the co-founders hope Flow will edge out with its technology and attention to design — but a more extensive market base.
Futuregrowth Asset Management led Flow’s pre-Series A round with $2 million. Endeavor Harvest Fund and serial entrepreneur Steven Heilbron participated, while existing investors Kalon Venture Partners, Vunani Fintech Fund and Buffet Investments also doubled down.
“We’ve keenly followed Flow’s progress in South Africa and Australia and integration into the B2B side of the global property industry as the next natural step in the company’s evolution,” says Futuregrowth Asset Management head of Private Equity and Venture Capital, Amrish Narrandes, on the investment. “We share Daniel and Gil’s vision to bring the property industry into the 21st century and know they have the expertise and experience to make it happen — and we’re pleased to be able to be part of a South African company taking bold steps that will bring much-needed change to an essential global industry.”