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Austin startup eyes Houston for expansion following $5.75M seed round

Ownwell, which uses machine learning and local property tax expertise to help property owners fight hikes in tax assessments, is growing in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

A $5.75 million round of seed funding raised by an Austin-based proptech startup will help the company grow its presence in Houston.

Ownwell’s technology analyzes millions of properties to identify property owners who are overpaying, and the company then offers to protest tax assessments on the owners’ behalf for a 25 percent cut of any savings they realize. The company estimates that nearly nine out of 10 protests are successful, and customers save an average of $1,457.

Ownwell currently employs five people in Houston and expects that number to reach 10 by the end of this year. Overall, 14 of the company’s 29 employees live in the Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Waco areas.

First Round Capital led the $5.75 million round. Additional investors include Wonder Ventures, Founder Collective, Long Journey Ventures, and former PayPal board member Scott Banister. So far, Ownwell has raised $7.5 million in funding.

With the fresh round of funding, Ownwell plans to accelerate hiring in areas such as sales, marketing, technology, and operations.

Ownwell couples machine learning with local property tax expertise to help property owners fight hikes in tax assessments.

“Property owners have a lot to consider when deciding to protest: the costs in time and money, the complexity of the process, and the access to real estate expertise and advice,” Colton Pace, Ownwell’s CEO, says in a news release. “As part of our mission to reduce the inequities of property ownership, Ownwell handles the entire process of appealing on behalf of property owners and charges the lowest fees currently on the market.”

Joseph Noor, Ownwell’s chief technology officer, says each property tax appeal the company files isn’t considered complete “until it has been verified, analyzed, augmented, and finalized by a member of our property tax specialist team.” Ownwell doesn’t earn money unless an appeal succeeds.

“At Ownwell, we strive to provide our clients the benefits of modern technology with the thoughtful touch that can only be imparted by an expert in the field,” Noor tells InnovationMap.

Colton Pace is the CEO of Austin-based Ownwell. Image courtesy of Ownwell

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Building Houston

 
 

With the consumer price index rising 9.1 percent since last year, many Americans are evaluating new employment opportunities with better pay. However, employees would be wise to consider the risks of accepting a new position in the face of inflation and a possible recession, which could leave employers unable to sustain higher wages and generous benefits.

As a safer option in the longterm, employees may wish to ask for a raise from their current management, yet many do not know how to start the conversation. By understanding best practices for negotiations, employees can improve their chances of obtaining a pay raise without undermining relationships.

Understand the risks of job-hopping

Conventional wisdom suggests that job hopping can result in higher salary increases than an annual raise. During the pandemic, many employees took advantage of labor market shortages to secure new positions for higher pay. However, job hopping presents risks, particularly in an uncertain economic environment. Companies may institute “last in, first out” layoffs, leaving recent hires unemployed.

Even in strong economic conditions, job-hoppers face uncertain outcomes. When employees leave a company, they may leave behind teammates, mentors, client partnerships and friendships years in the making. These relationships can redevelop in a new organization, but employees may find themselves in an unfamiliar setting, facing unrealistic expectations or unexpected challenges that were not clear during the interview process.

Prepare ahead of time

Before approaching management with a request for a raise, employees should understand their own financial needs and how much additional compensation would improve their finances. If inflation has caused financial strain, employees should gather recent data on inflation, including the consumer price index, to share with management. The more information employees can offer about changing economic conditions, the more management will understand and accept their position.

Focus on the positive

Employees should begin a conversation about salary with praise for the organization and a reiteration of their commitment to the team. By beginning on a positive note, employees set the tone for a mutually productive conversation. Although employees may view salary negotiations as adversarial across the table, productive negotiations are a conversation with both employee and employer on the same team.

Likewise, while employees may worry about looking greedy, employees should not let that fear prevent them from opening the conversation. Employers also understand that employees work to meet their financial needs. While employers may face budget constraints or other considerations in salary allocation, strong management also recognizes the importance of nurturing growth among employees, both in compensation and job responsibilities.

Nonetheless, employees should focus the discussion on broader economic conditions like inflation, not on their personal budget items. By acknowledging the economic environment outside of the employer’s control, employees can then respectfully request their salary be adjusted for inflation.

Employees with a record of strong results can also gather data or performance reviews to demonstrate their contributions to the team beyond the expectations of their role. In doing so, employees can frame a salary increase as a celebratory recognition of the mutually successful partnership between employee and employer and an investment in the relationship.

Be flexible if negotiations stall

If employers decline to adjust an employee’s salary for inflation, employees should not give up on negotiating additional compensation or benefits. Rather than a pay raise, employees can ask for reimbursement for gas mileage or additional remote days to cut down on their commutes. If management declines a pay raise based on timing, employees can acknowledge that management may face budgetary constraints, remaining flexible but firm. For instance, a compromise may involve revisiting the discussion in three to six months.

As employees face record-breaking inflation, it remains critical to consider the risks of departing one role for another. By implementing best practices in salary negotiations, employees can secure a salary increase that matches inflation, avoid the uncertainty of job-hopping and invest in the future at their current company.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity,a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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