Distil Networks has kept “bad bots” from stealing multiple listing service data from property search websites. Coming off a $21 million funding round, the startup is now gearing up to offer the same protection to mobile property search apps.

Website security company Distil Networks has kept “bad bots” from stealing multiple listing service data from property search websites.

Coming off a $21 million funding round, the startup is now gearing up to offer the same protection to mobile property search apps.

In mid-2013, Distil Networks launched what it hoped would be an “industrywide intelligence network” to identify and thwart those who scrape real estate data without permission.

At the time, a dozen MLSs were using Distil’s technology to protect their public-facing property search websites. Today, the company says it has “a little under two dozen MLS” customers.

Six providers of MLS platforms have also implemented Distil Network technology, protecting all of the MLS-public facing sites and agent and broker Internet data exchange (IDX) sites powered by their platforms.

Those companies include FBS, provider of the MLS platform Flexmls, and Information and Real Estate Services LLC, which powers ColoProperty.com.

Distil’s cloud-based, automated “bot blocking solution” acts as a shield between a website and end users, keeping out “bad bots” (programs that scrape data) while letting through legitimate traffic, including “good bots” like search engines.

Distil Network's sign-up form.

Distil Network’s sign-up form.

Distil Networks can sell its software to individual real estate agents and brokers. But keeping MLS data out of the wrong hands becomes much more likely if the local MLS adopts Distil Network’s software, rather than just a handful of its members.

MLSs that deploy Distil Network’s product generally cover the cost of the software for members but require members to install the technology on their websites for continued access to the MLS, said Distil Networks CEO Rami Essaid.

But even if an MLS has bot-proofed the local patchwork of property search websites, its data remains vulnerable to theft through APIs (application program interfaces).

APIs provide the building blocks and data-transfer channels necessary to build software that incorporates MLS data, such as mobile property search apps. Bad bots could use mobile property search apps to steal MLS data through APIs. 

To address the problem, Distil Networks will roll out a product that blocks MLS data theft through APIs in the third quarter, Essaid said.

“I would say, right now, we do a great job of protecting websites,” Essaid said. “The new product will help protect mobile apps and other API calls from being botted as well.”

Distil Networks’s Series B funding round was led by Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP). Other investors that pitched in included Foundry, TechStars, ff Venture Capital, Idea Fund and Correlation Ventures.

As part of the funding round, David Cowan, partner at BVP and co-founder of VeriSign, Good Technology and Defense.net, will join Distil’s board of directors.

The round brings Distil’s total funding to date to $38 million.

Email Teke Wiggin.


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