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Compass launches new consumer search tools, says IPO ‘likely’

09/16/2019

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Compass CEO Robert Reffkin announced Monday that his fast-growing brokerage has launched a batch of new consumer-oriented property search tools, and also said that it’s “likely” his company will go public sometime in the future.

Two of the new tools, dubbed “Recommended For You” and “Similar Homes,” are designed to serve up listings to consumers who are searching properties on Compass’ website. The tools arrive at their recommendations using artificial intelligence, and will springboard off of homes that a particular consumer is looking at, as well as that consumer’s past search and viewing history.

Compass’ new, beefed-up website will also include a section called “Collections” that functions as a “visual workplace” where Compass agents and clients can collaborate and check market conditions in real time, according to Reffkin.

A screenshot of Compass’ new Collections section of its website. Credit: Compass

Reffkin first announced the features during an appearance on CNBC Monday, where he described the new tools as part of Compass’ “new site.”

“There are technology companies that focus on agents but not the consumer and there are technology companies that focus on the consumer but not the agent,” Reffkin said on air. “We’re unique in that we’re focusing on both and really allowing them to collaborate together.”

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The launch of the various search and collaboration tools comes about a month and a half after Compass announced it had raised $370 million in a Series G funding round. At the time, the company said that it would use the money to build a redesigned consumer search and app experience — potentially helping Compass deliver on its aspiration to build an “end-to-end” software platform.

That funding round also helped boost Compass’ valuation to a staggering $6.4 billion. The company has so far raised $1.5 billion, much of it coming from massive Japan-based fund Softbank.

Though Reffkin did not explicitly say so in his interview Monday, the launch of the new A.I.-driven search and collaboration tools is presumably the first fruits of that recent cash infusion.

The new tools also come at a time of intense scrutiny for Compass; though the firm has long touted its bonafides as a technology company, it has more often made headlines for snapping up rival brokerages, aggressive recruiting tactics and, most recently, an ever-more bitter lawsuit with Realogy.

Should these new tools prove transformative, then, they could theoretically go a long way toward justifying Compass’ claims that it should be viewed — and valued — as a technology firm rather than simply a real estate brokerage.

And perception matters for Compass.

Compass CEO Robert Reffkin | Photo credit: Compass

In his interview Monday, Reffkin also said that “an IPO is likely in our future.” However, Reffkin did not say when Compass might make an initial public offering on the stock market, adding, “I don’t go to sleep at night thinking about an IPO.”

How, when and if Compass might go public has long been a topic of speculation in the real estate industry and nearly two years ago the company’s chief revenue officer Rob Lehman said that an IPO was “certainly a possible path for us.”

The evolution over the last couple of years from Lehman’s “possible” to Reffkin’s “likely” IPO comments is supported by a host of moves and acquisitions, the latest of which is, of course, Monday’s announcement of various consumer-oriented search and collaboration tools.

And while the timing of Compass’ IPO remains publicly unknown, Reffkin did offer a positive assessment of the real estate environment during his interview Monday.

“There has never been a low-interest-rate environment that hasn’t been good for real estate,” he said. “So I think it’s a good time to be a buyer.”

Watch the full video of Reffkin’s comments here: 

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