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Founder Files: Building Real Estate Unicorn Pacaso With Austin Allison

Bessie LiuProfiles

Austin Allison, co-founder and CEO of Pacaso. Image courtesy of Pacaso.

Less than a year and a half after its launch, Pacaso — a real estate platform that simplifies second home ownership — reached ‘unicorn’ status.

The startup received a $1.5 billion valuation in September this year after its Series C raised $125 million in funding.

Austin Allison was inspired to build Pacaso when he and his wife were looking to purchase a second home in 2013.

“We saved up all our money and put it down on a second home, and we had to rent the home out on Airbnb to pay the bills, and it just changed our lives for the better,” Allison told The Org.

“That second home became a really life enriching place where we made memories with our friends and family members that are now really important to who we are, so I wanted to make that dream possible for more people.”

A real estate enthusiast

A veteran in the real estate industry, Pacaso was not Allison’s first successful startup in the space.

Soon after graduating from the University of Cincinnati, where he majored in Real Estate Development and Engineering, Allison founded dotloop, a transaction management platform for real estate brokers and agents.

“When I started my first company I didn’t have a network of people, I didn’t have a track record and I didn’t have any money,” Allison said. “So what ended up happening was that I attracted a lot of people who were also first timers, but fast forward ten years, we had built a company that became a market leader.”

Allison eventually ended up selling dotloop to Zillow, where he worked for four years. It was there he also met his soon to be co-founder, Spencer Rascoff, who was the CEO of Zillow at the time.

“We always talked about starting a company together some day, so when we started working on ideas, Pacaso was one of the ideas that we ultimately ended up pursuing.”

A seasoned team behind the successful startup

Between Allison and Rascoff, the duo had already built a strong network of extremely seasoned and talented specialists in the real estate space, making building out Pacaso’s C-suite a relatively simple feat.

“We hired a Chief Marketing Officer, a Chief Technology Officer, a Chief Product Officer, Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Acquisitions Officer, Chief Financial Officer -- this is the team that will be there when we become a $100 billion company someday,” Allison said. “ We identified who our dream team was, and that’s what we built.”

From the very beginning, Allison was aware that a strong executive team would be critical to the success of his business.

Pacaso team1

Executive Team at Pacaso. Image courtesy of Pacaso.

“A great team will solve problems, it may take some time, some failure and some iteration, but if you have the best people who work really well together and are aligned around a common mission that addresses a bigger problem and need for society, the team will succeed.”

Very soon after raising a Series A, the team had built a prototype of its product and began testing the market, they officially launched Pacaso, after a few iterations, on October 1, 2020.

The very core of Pacaso’s mission is to make second-home ownership accessible to everyone. Through market research, the Pacaso team found that of homeowners who wanted to own a second home but did not have one already, almost half of them said price was the main factor holding them back. To solve this problem, the company sells and manages luxury properties to up to eight different buyers.

“As soon as we found product market fit, I had a feeling it was going to go well,” Allison said. “If you can empower people to right size their ownership and buy more homes for less cost, with none of the hassle because we manage all the details, it’s a real unlock for hundreds of million of people around the world who aspire to own second homes.”

Since launching its product, the company has recorded an annualized revenue run rate of $330 million, and now has over 120 employees spread across 20 states who all work remotely. Moving forward, Allison plans to expand Pacaso’s presence in Europe, recently announcing Spain as its first out of U.S. market.

Pacaso

Founder Files Q&A:

What's one piece of advice you wish you could tell your younger self?

“To build a really big business that has a really big impact on society, it has to be within a really large market.”

What does a day in your life look like?

“I would say my main job is to make sure that we have the right people on the team, and that those people are empowered and supported to do their best work. So most of my day-to-day activities are related to those things: strategic planning, hiring, and engaging in people and culture related activities. I would say maybe 10% of my time is external facing: doing interviews and attending events. Then, when we're in fundraising mode, I would say probably 30 to 40% of my time is involved in speaking with investors.”

If you were in any other role at the company, what would you be?

“I would probably be a home manager. A home manager is the person that interacts with our homeowners, they're like the designated point of contact. The reason why I would pick that role is because they're on the front lines -- they're the closest to our customers and the communities where we operate and I'd like to be closer to that.”

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