Shared Vacation Home Platform Pacaso Joins the Unicorn Club, Six Months After Launch

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

The venture capitalist Aileen Lee coined the term "unicorn" in 2013 as a catchy way to denote startups reaching the milestone of a billion-dollar valuation. It was meant to describe something unusual; at the time there were just 39 unicorns.

In today's red hot startup market, unicorns are far less rarified, currently numbering more than 600 worldwide, according to CB Insights.

Pacaso, a platform facilitating fractional ownership in second homes, announced Wednesday it too will join the unicorn club. That makes it one of the fastest companies ever to reach a $1 billion valuation, according to Pitchbook data.


Launched by two former Zillow executives six months ago, Pacaso had the good fortune to be perfectly positioned to benefit from three major trends that emerged during the pandemic – a sizzling real estate market fueled by low interest rates, strong demand for second homes given that employees can work from anywhere and a frothy fundraising environment where VCs are tripping over themselves to sign term sheets for promising young startups.

"If you were to talk to me a year ago and asked, 'Do you think this company will be a billion dollar company someday?,' I would have said yes without hesitation, but I would have thought it would have taken five years instead of six months," said CEO and co-founder Austin Allison. "It's certainly a favorable market for companies that have really promising stories and really high growth. Is it frothy? That term is probably up for debate. It's certainly a good time to be raising."

Allison, 35, previously founded Dotloop, a startup to manage real estate transactions, in 2009. It was acquired by Zillow Group in 2015, which at the time was headed by Spencer Rascoff, who is also the co-founder and chairman of dot.LA. The two started Pacaso last year with $17 million in Series A venture funding in a deal led by Maveron.

Pacaso co-founders Spencer Rascoff (left) and Austin Allison.

The new round, led by Greycroft and Global Founders Capital, brings in $75 million to help fuel the company's expansion into new markets beyond where it has the most initial success β€” Napa, Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs, Malibu and Park City. Pacaso also announced it has secured $1 billion in debt financing.

The company says more than half a million people have visited the website and 60,000 aspiring buyers have "engaged" the platform.

Putting a modern twist on timeshares, Allison and Rascoff started Pacaso to seamlessly bridge the gap between the vast supply of vacation homes that sit empty most of the year and buyers who can't afford or do not need to purchase an entire house.

Allison also argues there is an advantage for communities over Airbnb, with its short-term renters who are only staying temporarily over Pacaso, with its ownership model.

"They have significant skin in the game," Allison said. "They become part of the community. They get to know the neighbors."

Once buyers purchase a fraction of a home, Pacaso sets up an LLC for the co-owners and helps handle maintenance, financing and scheduling. In return, it takes a 10% cut of the purchase price on top of a yearly 1% property management fee.

"We're going to make second homeownership a reality for the top 20 percent of the world and that's a big market opportunity," Allison said. "Second home ownership has been a dream that people had long before the pandemic happened."

Pacaso

Allison talks a lot about democratizing vacation home ownership, but Pacaso's listings are still far out reach for most people, requiring $812,000 to own an eighth of an oceanfront 3-bedroom in Malibu or $873,000 to own an eighth of a lavish nine-acre estate in Napa. But he says less extravagant listings are on the horizon.

"We're planning to add a lot more markets and a lot more price points to make Pacaso and second home ownership accessible to a much broader audience, which is core to our mission," he said. "Twelve months from now, I expect that the majority of our homes will be within one to three hundred thousand per share."

Allison also expects more listings in cities, reversing the traditional notion of a second home, and he gives himself as an example. His primary home is in Napa but once workers return to the office he says he would use Pacaso to have a place to stay when he is in San Francisco.

"We're seeing this co-ownership concept deliver value in both directions, for urban people looking to get out or non-urban people looking to get in," Allison said. "There's a lot of interest in people owning second homes, regardless of where that home is located. And most of the time, people don't need to own the whole thing."

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Weekly Recap: The State of Venture Capitalism in Southern California

Luis Gomez

Luis Gomez is dot.LA's Engagement Editor. Prior to joining the dot.LA team, he served as the audience growth consultant for Capital & Main. He has also previously worked as a digital producer for The San Diego Union-Tribune, NPR affiliate KPCC in Los Angeles and Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter at @RunGomez.

Top L.A. venture capitalists are benefitting from a white hot market.

This week, dot.LA published the first of several findings out of its quarterly poll of top Los Angeles venture capitalists. In short, those surveyed remain optimistic about the economic recovery and more than half say their companies saw valuations jump in the second quarter.

Among other findings:

  • All of the 33 investors who took the survey saw employee headcounts increase at their portfolio companies last quarter
  • Most VCs surveyed expect more hiring on the horizon
  • Some (36%) said they're having trouble retaining workers.

LA Startups To Watch πŸ‘€

MedTech Innovator has launched BioTools Innovator, a new virtual accelerator for genomics, personal medicine, targeted drug therapy and other life science startups.

Culver City-based startup Modern Animal is looking to grow by appealing to both overtaxed vets and the new rush of pet owners with its hybrid telemedicine subscription service. On Friday, it announced a $75.5 million investment to help do it.

Adway promises to pay drivers $50-$350 a month in what they call "passive" income by projecting ads on the side of their cars. This week, the nearly three-year-old company clinched a $6 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures.

Spinn, the maker of a coffee brewing machine that uses a unique "centrifuge process," has raised $20 million in a round of funding announced Monday. The startup says its focus on sustainability sets it apart from other at-home brewing machines.

#TechLA's Movers & Shakers This Week πŸ“’

Rocket Lab this week successfully launched a satellite for the U.S. Space Force after a failed mission in May. MIT-trained engineer and serial tech entrepreneur Krisztina "Z" Holly writes that Rocket Lab's quiet launch represents the real reason to have faith in space exploration, rather than space tourism.

Rental services are finally coming to the masses. Los Angeles-based Arrive Outdoors is making the technology behind its camping gear renting success available to brands that want to add a "rent" button on a product detail page. The company also announced it has raised $4 million in Seed II funding led by Amino Ventures.

LA Tech and Venture Capital News πŸ—ž

El Segundo-based Dibbs, which brands itself as "the only real-time fractional sports card marketplace," this week secured a $13 million Series A round led by Foundry Group, with star athletes like Chris Paul and Skylar Diggins-Smith also investing.

Meta Data Software, a company that organizes the massive content libraries at some of the biggest streaming services, is calling Los Angeles its new home.

New data from PledgeLA's survey of Los Angeles tech companies and venture firms shows there is still a big disparity in pay among women, Black and Latinx tech workers.

Even as sports events scaled down during the pandemic, Elysian Park Ventures saw an opportunity in the digital realm. Co-founder Cole Van Nice says COVID ultimately advanced the timelines for the sports industry.

Listen Up πŸŽ™

Need a podcast recommendation this weekend? Here are some new pods we have for you:

Hear from Alex Friedman, the co-founder of LOLA, a feminine care brand created to address the need for more transparency in women's health, in the latest episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast. Listen on Stitcher | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | iHeart Radio

On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, veteran media investor Daniel Leff spills the truth about streaming services: everyone's chasing Netflix. Listen on Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify

🚨 ​EXTRA EXTRA 🚨

Hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees in Irvine and many more remotely walked off the job on Wednesday to protest a workplace culture they call misogynistic and toxic. The walkout came after workers decried the company's response to a lawsuit brought forward by a California agency that accuses Activision Blizzard of fostering a pervasive "frat boy" culture. At their protest, they called on the company to be more transparent in its hiring practices.

Olympics viewership on NBC is taking a dive. New data shows a 36% decline from the 2016 Games across all NBC's platforms, which include its linear TV channel, Peacock and NBC Sports digital.

LA Tech and Venture Capital Events πŸ’¬

Immersive gaming experiences took a hit during the pandemic as venues shut down, but industry leaders expect them to come roaring back as people seek greater connections and the industry grows. This week, dot.LA hosted an intimate gathering at the immersive Two Bit Circus in downtown Los Angeles. Watch the video and sort through photos of the event.

Other upcoming Southern California events in the tech and startup scene in August:

Is your organization having an event? Let us feature it in our newsletter! Email luis@dot.la.

Am I doing this right? πŸ€”

Throw me feedback, compliments or questions on this newsletter at luis@dot.la or on Twitter at @rungomez.

'No Matter What I’m Doing, It's Always Controversial': Cloud9's All-Women Esports Team Talks Sexism in Gaming

Leigh Giangreco
Leigh Giangreco is a reporter covering culture, politics and news. Her work has appeared in outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and Washington City Paper.

The belief that female players aren't tokens in esports is still a radical one. Just as dominant women's teams in traditional sports like the U.S. women's national soccer team struggle with discrimination, women in esports face online harassment and sexism.

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Disney, Walmart Join Local Governments in Requiring Worker Vaccinations

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

Entertainment giant Disney and retailer Walmart on Friday became the latest companies to require employees to be vaccinated. They followed Facebook and Google earlier this week.

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