Bilt Rewards banks $60M growth on a $350M valuation to advance credit card benefits for renters

Bilt Rewards, a loyalty program for property renters to earn points on rent with no fees and build a path toward homeownership, announced Tuesday a round of $60 million in growth funding that values the company at $350 million.

The investment comes from Wells Fargo and Mastercard and a group of the nation’s largest real estate owners, including The Blackstone Group, AvalonBay Communities, Douglas Elliman, Equity Residential, GID-Windsor Communities, LENx, The Moinian Group, Morgan Properties, Starwood Capital Group and Related.

Bilt launched back in June out of Kairos, the startup studio led by Ankur Jain, focused on enabling over 109 million renters in the U.S. to earn points from paying their rent every month — typically someone’s largest monthly expense. Since then, the program was rolled out across over 2 million rental units, Jain told TechCrunch.

“We are the first and only alliance of the major property owners to create this kind of program and already have 15 of the top 20 owners involved,” he added. “We are also the only co-branded card to offer points on rent.”

Greg Bates, GID president and CEO, said his company has 130 assets spread across the top 20 markets and manages 40,000 apartment units. He learned about Bilt from a colleague who attended a proptech conference where Jain demoed the Bilt card.

For as long as Bates has been in the real estate industry, about 20 years or so, renters have wanted to pay rent with a credit card for convenience and to earn loyalty points. However, that was cost-prohibitive in terms of the surcharges needed to be added to the rental rate — until Bilt, he said. The card “is incredibly easy to use” and integrates into property owners’ online payment systems.

“Bilt has transformed the value proposition for residents that want to use a credit card and for landlords that want to accept them,” Bates added. “There will always be barriers to entry for products like this, but Bilt spent time with Mastercard and Wells Fargo to develop this unique product which will be a competition differentiator for a few years to come.”

In addition to the new funding, Bilt is also announcing new benefits for its loyalty members and upgraded offerings for the Bilt Mastercard, including the ability to earn up to 50,000 points on rent per year and unlimited points using the credit card.

For members, Bilt will pay interest in the form of points for a member’s account each month based on their average daily points balance over the 30-day period, and offer a concierge service for members choosing to redeem their Bilt points toward a home down payment. In addition, members can earn bonus points on top of points used by landlords on new leases and renewals.

Bilt worked with regulators, as well as Fannie Mae and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to gain approval for using rewards points toward a mortgage. Members can also report their rent payments to the credit bureaus at no cost, which can help build credit history for millions of young renters.

Meanwhile, the company’s new “0-1-2-3” point earning structure for Bilt Mastercard holders provides no annual fee, 1x points on rent payments, 2x points on travel, 3x points on dining and 1x points on all other purchases.

This is the company’s first major external financing round and will be used to expand its real estate and loyalty partner network, grow its distribution channels and make its platform credit card more widely available to the public. Jain estimates Bilt is seeing 20% enrollment across residents.

As more renters move to homeownership over time, Bilt has plans to leverage this potential larger business to eventually become a mortgage provider for them.

“Renting is something people do for a while, and the core business has a massive scale opportunity, especially in the demographic under 35 years old, who tend to be up-and-coming professionals,” Jain added. “This is a unique target market, and Bilt will grow with them as they build their path to homeownership.”

 


By Christine Hall

Rhino looks to replace renters’ security deposits with a small monthly fee

Rhino, the insurtech startup incubated by Kairos and co-founded by Kairos CEO Ankur Jain, has today announced the close of a $21 million Series A round led by Kairos and Lakestar.

Rhino was founded in 2017 with the goal of putting the billions of dollars that are locked up in cash security deposits to renters, all while protecting landlords and their property. As it stands now, landlords usually take one month’s rent to cover any damage that might be done to the apartment during the lease. This is piled on top of first and sometimes last month’s rent, and even at times a broker’s fee of one month’s rent, which adds up to an incredibly steep cost of moving.

Because of certain regulations, this money is held in an individual escrow account and can’t really generate interest, which results in billions of dollars zapped out of the economy and instead sitting dead in some account.

Rhino is looking to give renters the option to pay a small monthly fee (as low as $3) to cover an insurance policy for the landlord. Rhino is itself a managing general agent, allowing the company to both sell and create policy plans for landlords through partnerships with carriers.

Thus far the startup has saved renters upwards of $60 million in 2019, with users in more than 300,000 rental units across the country.

“The greatest challenge is working against legacy and industry norms,” said Rhino CEO and cofounder Paraag Sarva. “That start has begun, but there is a huge amount of inertia behind the status quo and that is far and away what we are most challenged by day in and day out.”

To help speed up the process, Rhino is working alongside policymakers to enact change on a federal level.

Alongside the funding announcement, the company is announcing its new policy proposal that was created in collaboration with federal, state and local government officials. The policy essentially allows for renters to be given a choice when it comes to cash deposits, including allowing residents to cover security deposits in installments or use insurtech products like Rhino to cover deposits.

Rhino says it will be sharing the policy proposal with 2020 Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle.

Rhino is one of a handful of companies that has been incubated by Kairos, a startup studio led by Ankur Jain with the goal of solving the biggest problems faced by everyday Americans. The studio focuses on housing and healthcare, with companies such as Rhino, June Homes, Little Spoon, Cera and a couple startups still in stealth.


By Jordan Crook