Former Trulia president Paul Levine will join the venture capital firm Sapphire Ventures as a partner, where he will look for companies building on Trulia and Zillow’s innovation in the real estate industry by improving the real estate transaction, he said Friday.
“As much as I would love to say Zillow and Trulia revolutionized real estate, really where we had significant impact was in making it easier for consumers to understand what’s on the market and connecting them with agents,” he told Inman.
“But the core process of buying and selling a home is not that different than it was 10 years ago. The innovation to come around the real estate transaction is going to blow people’s minds.”
Levine worked at Trulia from 2011 to 2017, serving as president and before that as chief operating officer. In the mid-2000s, Levine worked on real estate tech at Yahoo. He left Trulia in 2017 and spent the past year advising companies and looking for a company to join, before settling on venture capital instead.
“I’m excited to join Sapphire Ventures — a fantastic VC firm with proven success and an outstanding team that is smart and aggressive, yet still humble and thoughtful,” he wrote in a blog post on Medium announcing his move.
“Sapphire cares deeply about its companies, and supports them with a powerful network of resources. As a Partner at Sapphire, I’ll be investing in growth-stage companies in the consumer, marketplace and fintech spaces. These are sectors where I’m passionate, have first-hand experience to share, and yet still have lots to learn.”
In an interview with Inman, Levine clarified that those three areas of consumer, marketplace and fintech would include real estate tech companies.
“I definitely will be looking at real estate tech companies. I didn’t mention it specifically almost because I thought it’d be obvious that I’d be looking at real estate tech,” he said. “Any good real estate business is going to have a consumer dimension, many are marketplaces, and real estate is fintech in a way. For most people, it’s the largest purchase they’ll ever make. There are a lot of financial considerations in the home purchase itself, and mortgage and insurance are directly fintech.”
Within real estate tech, Levine said he is interested in companies working on iBuying like Opendoor and Knock; tools for agents like Agentology and HomeLight; mortgage tech companies like Blend and Ethos Lending; innovations in title; and companies like CrowdStreet making real estate assets more accessible to consumers as investments.
“What’s interesting to me about real estate as a category — investors are always looking for a few things for a space to invest in: a big market, an area where technology and data can make a difference, dissatisfied consumers,” Levine said. “I think all of that exists in real estate.”
Levine said he was influenced in his decision to join Sapphire by Trulia founder Pete Flint, who is now a partner with the venture firm NFX. Flint focuses on early-stage companies, while Levine plans to target companies in the growth stage. The two will work together as investors and already collaborated on Flint’s investment in the all-cash offer startup Ribbon, Levine said.
Prior to joining Sapphire, Levine invested in a few real estate companies as an angel investor, although he will no longer invest independently after joining Sapphire. He backed Agentology, Ethos Lending and RealtyShares. His decision to join to Sapphire will increase the firm’s interest in and focus on real estate tech. Sapphire has largely backed business software companies along with investments in consumer internet companies like LinkedIn and the popular tool in real estate, DocuSign.