As real estate websites grapple with data scrapers, a firm that’s dedicated to battling “bad bots” — sometimes on the behalf of multiple listing services (MLSs) — has filled its war chest with an additional $21 million.

  • Distil Networks Inc., which blocks 'bad bots' from encumbering websites, has raised an additional $21 million in a Series C funding round.
  • Bad bots have recently taken online real estate by storm, even as their activity has diminished somewhat overall.
  • The growth in real estate startups may be driving the increase in bad bod activity on real estate websites.

As real estate websites grapple with data scrapers, a firm that’s dedicated to battling “bad bots” — sometimes on the behalf of multiple listing services (MLSs) — has filled its war chest with an additional $21 million.

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

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

At the time, Distil said it had found that up to 60 percent of Web traffic on public-facing MLS websites comes from data scrapers. That much activity puts significant stress on a website’s bandwidth, Rami Essaid, co-founder and CEO of Distil Networks, told Inman.

Dozens of MLSs, MLS vendors and real estate companies in the U.S. and abroad use Distil to combat bad bots, according to Distil. They include property portal companies Move, which is the operator of realtor.com, Lamudi and Funda; platforms BoomTownROI, FlexMLS and TLCengine; and MLSs IRES, Triangle MLS and Sandicor, Distil said.

By blocking data scrapers, Distil made the website of East Bay Regional Data Inc., an MLS, load twice as fast, improving user experience and reducing infrastructure costs, Essaid said.

Bad bots have recently taken online real estate by storm, according to Distil.

Although overall Internet traffic to websites from bad bots edged down to 19 percent last year from 23 percent in 2014, real estate websites saw a 300 percent increase in bad bot activity during that period, according to Distil.

The proliferation of real estate startups hungry for listing data has likely driven the onslaught, Distil has theorized.

Silicon Valley Bank, Bessemer Venture Partners, Foundry Group and TechStars were among investors that participated in Distil’s Series C funding round, which brought Distil’s total funding to $65 million.

Distil plans to use the funding to boost growth and “strengthen core offerings.”

In an announcement, Distil listed achievements since its Series B funding round in 2015 that included:

  • launching Distil API Security “to reduce risk and downtime across critical API attack vectors”
  • acquiring ScrapeSentry to provide website traffic analysis, customized reporting and engineering assistance
  • securing more than 100 enterprise customers, including B&H Photo, Wayfair and Glassdoor.

Email Teke Wiggin

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