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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

 
 

After working with thousands of interns, Allie Danziger of Ampersand Professionals says she's now got a product to upskill and train new hires for employers. Photo courtesy of Ampersand

After seeing success with her internship training and matchmaking platform, Allie Danziger, founder and CEO of Ampersand Professionals, has expanded the concept to include a new hire training service that allows employers to better optimize the onboarding process and have a well-trained new staff member from day one.

In just over a year, Ampersand has worked with over 7,000 professionals through its original concept of upskilling and matching young professionals to internship programs. A few months ago, Danziger and her team expanded to include career development training for students first entering the workforce with the City of Houston's Hire Houston Youth program. Danziger says it was developing out the platform for this program that proved there was a need for this type of training.

"While we have focused on matching professionals with businesses for paid internships, we recognized a further gap with employers that have their own recruiting/talent acquisition teams, or just their own preferred way of bringing on entry-level talent, and didn’t have a need for our matching platform," Danziger tells InnovationMap. "But, they recognized the benefit of our proven training platform that pre-vets and de-risks their hires, and still wanted access to the training for their own hires."

The new program has evolved from training interns to new hires, so parts of the program that focuses on interviewing or applying for a job have been removed. Instead, the 8.5 hours of training focuses on networking, best practices for working with a manager and team, performance reviews, common software training, and more.

Danziger says usually new hires need the most experienced mentor or manager, but they don't usually get that support — especially when it comes to businesses that don't have their own built-out mentorship or training program.

"Ampersand’s new training product fills that gap — it gives employers of any size any easy solution to provide basic job readiness training to employees, access to our team of dedicated coaches, and a detailed report at the end of their training summarizing how their new hire did in the training and any trends recognized and tips for managing this employee based on what the platform uncovered," she says. "Businesses can also sign up for additional coaching sessions and customize training materials, as an add-on if interested."

The program costs the employer $100 per new employee, and checkout online takes less than a minute. Through both this program and the original internship program, Ampersand is constantly evolving its training content.

"These professionals are going through the same training experience that we have proven out over the last year, and we are constantly adding to based on data we see in the user experience," Danziger says.

Danziger recently joined the Houston Innovators Podcast discuss some of the benchmarks she's met with Ampersand, as well as the importance of investing in Gen Z hires. Listen to that episode below.


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