SoftBank is considering taking a majority stake in WeWork

SoftBank may soon own up to 50 percent of WeWork, a well-funded provider of co-working spaces headquartered in New York, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

SoftBank is reportedly weighing an investment between $15 billion and $20 billion, which would come from its $92 billion Vision Fund, a super-sized venture fund led by Japanese entrepreneur and investor Masayoshi Son.

WeWork declined to comment.

SoftBank already owns some 20 percent of WeWork. The firm invested $4.4 billion in the company in August 2017, $1.4 billion of which was set aside to help WeWork expand in China, Japan and Southeast Asia.

This August, WeWork raised another $1 billion from SoftBank in convertible debt. At the same time, WeWork disclosed financials to a handful of media outlets, sharing that its revenue had doubled to $763.8 million in the first half of 2018 as losses increased to $723 million.

SoftBank, for its part, seems to have a hankering for real estate tech. Not only has it become a key stakeholder in WeWork, but it has deployed significant amounts of capital to Opendoor, Compass, Katerra and others.

Last month, the Vision Fund backed Opendoor, a platform for buying and selling homes, with $400 million. The same day, it led a $400 million round for Compass, valuing the real estate brokerage startup at $4.4 billion. As for Katerra, SoftBank poured $865 million into the construction tech business in January.

WeWork, founded in 2010 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, has raised nearly $5 billion in a combination of debt and equity funding to date. It was valued at $20 billion in 2017, though reports earlier this summer estimated its valuation would fall somewhere between $35 billion and $40 billion with additional capital from SoftBank. A $40 billion valuation would make it the second most valuable VC-backed company in the U.S. behind only Uber.

WeWork has more than 268,000 members across 287 locations in 23 countries.

Divvy, an interesting new fractional home ownership startup, just raised a Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz

Tech startups have found all kinds of ways to lend money to people who have either too little or not very good credit.

The approach of a nearly two-year-old, 15-person San Francisco-based startup called Divvy Homes is among the more creative we’ve seen, even while we question (for now) whether it’s good over the long term for potential customers.

How it works:  in Cleveland, Atlanta, and Memphis, where Zillow estimates that median home prices are $52,000, $82,00, and $242,000, respectively, Divvy will enable a person or family to select a home they’d like to someday own, then to buy that home with Divvy’s help. The family chips in at least two percent for a downpayment. Divvy pays for the rest, then it collects a monthly amount that includes both market-rate rent and an equity payment.

It does this until the newly installed residents have amassed a 10 percent stake in the home. The reason, says the company: by partnering with Divvy, tenants — some of whom have credit scores as low as 550, which is considered “very poor” by the consumer credit ratings agency Experian — can build their credit scores and eventually land a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which requires a credit score of at least 580.

According to CEO Brian Ma — who cofounded the startup at the company creation studio HVF Labs — the idea is for this to happen within three years, at which point Divvy will sell and transfer the property over to them.

It’s easy to appreciate why this might be attractive to potential homebuyers who can’t secure a traditional mortgage in the current market — not all of whom suffer from poor credit but who are sometimes contract and self-employed workers without months of salary stubs to show nervous bankers. For example, Divvy says that it charge less in rent as a buyer’s equity begins to add up. That equity, it insists, can later turn into the person or family’s first mortgage payment.

For largely self-serving reasons, Divvy does what it can to ensure that the house isn’t a dud, too.  As Ma describes it, Divvy uses data science and algorithms to ensure that a property makes sense financially, meaning that it will likely appreciate and that the tenants aren’t paying so much that they can’t simultaneously build equity in their homes.

Divvy also works with inspectors to make doubly certain each home is “move-in ready and won’t have large unforeseen expenses during the lease, like major roof, structural, pest, or foundation issues,” says Ma, who previously cofounded three startups, as well as spent several years as a program manager with Zillow.

Still, it’s also easy to imagine that some of Divvy’s aspiring homeowners will never actually own their homes. Consider: While Divvy may help some percentage of them improve their credit score, roughly 62 percent of consumers with credit scores under 579 are “likely to become seriously delinquent (i.e., go more than 90 days past due on a debt payment) in the future,” says Experian.

Naturally, like any other property owner, Divvy will evict tenants who don’t pay, even if it does so reluctantly.

“If a rent payment is missed, we will follow up to see how we can help,” says Ma. “Most of the time, it’s immediately curable or curable within a couple days. If it’s been longer than a week and we believe the tenant is going through some hardship, we will work our best to offer alternatives, including allowing them to purely rent the property by dropping the equity payments to lower their monthly payment. If we can’t find a way to cure the situation, we will go through an eviction procedure.”

Divvy also establishes the buyback price at the time that it’s buying the home — which can work for, or against, the tenants who hope to own it someday.

Adena Hefets, another Divvy cofounder who worked previously in both VC and private equity, recently explained to us that Divvy has a back-end model that projects where the house would price three years down the line and it allows tenants to “buy it back at that price at any time.” Yet buying it back early would invariably mean overpaying. More, in the cities where Divvy is operating, housing prices don’t move around a lot, so a tenant could be overpaying at any buyback price that’s north of where the home sells today. (Home prices in Northeast Ohio were rising as of last spring, but they were still at 2004 levels.)

With the broader housing market poised for a slowdown, tenants wanting to buy their homes might decide it’s cheaper in the end to just move out of them and find something else. Where would that leave Divvy? We’d guess it would leave it looking more a modern residential real estate investment trust than a “rent-to-own innovator.”

That’s not a terrible thing for Divvy, even if it sounds a little less glamorous. In fact, the company — which says already buying one home a day — is today disclosing that it has raised $30 million in equity and debt from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and a commercial bank called Cross River Bank that notably is backed by a16z.

Ma declines to say how much of the round is equity and how much is debt. But he says that Alex Rampell, an a16z investor whose other real estate-related bets include a different fractional ownership startup, Point, has joined the company’s board.

Pictured above (at TC headquarters), left to right: Divvy founders Nicholas Clark, Brian Ma, and Adena Hefets.

The next big restaurant chain may not own any kitchens

If investors at some of the biggest technology companies are right, the next big restaurant chain could have no kitchens of its own.

These venture capitalists think the same forces that have transformed transportation, media, retail and logistics will also work their way through prepared food businesses.

Investors are pouring millions into the creation of a network of shared kitchens, storage facilities, and pickup counters that established chains and new food entrepreneurs can access to cut down on overhead and quickly spin up new concepts in fast food and casual dining.

Powering all of this is a food delivery market that could grow from $35 billion to a $365 billion industry by 2030, according to a report from UBS’s research group, the “Evidence Lab”.

“We’ve had conversations with the biggest and fastest growing restaurant brands in the country and even some of the casual brands,” said Jim Collins, a serial entrepreneur, restauranteur, and the chief executive of the food-service startup, Kitchen United. “In every board room for every major restaurant brand in the country… the number one conversation surrounds the topic of how are we going to address [off-premise diners].”

Collins’ company just raised $10 million in a funding round led by GV, the investment arm of Google parent company, Alphabet. But Alphabet’s investment team is far from the only group investing in the restaurant infrastructure as a service business.

Perhaps the best capitalized company focusing on distributed kitchens is CloudKitchens, one of two subsidiaries owned by the holding company City Storage Solutions.

Cloud Kitchens and its sister company Cloud Retail are the two arms of the new venture from Uber co-founder and former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, which was formed with a $150 million investment.

As we reported at the time, Travis announced that he would be starting a new fund with the riches he made from Uber shares sold in its most recent major secondary round. Kalanick said his 10100, or “ten one hundred”, fund would be geared toward “large-scale job creation,” with investments in real estate, e-commerce, and “emerging innovation in India and China.”

If anyone is aware of the massive market potential for leveraging on-demand services, it’s Kalanick. Especially since he was one of the architects of the infrastructure that has made it possible.

Other deep pocketed companies have also stepped into the fray. Late last year Acre Venture Partners, the investment arm formed by The Campbell Soup Co., participated in a $13 million investment for Pilotworks, another distributed kitchen operator based in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, Kitchen United has been busy putting together a deep bench of executive talent culled from some of the largest and most successful American fast food restaurant chains.

Former Taco Bell Chief Development Officer, Meredith Sandland, joined the company earlier this year as its chief operating officer, while former McDonald’s executive Atul Sood, who oversaw the burger giant’s relationship with online delivery services, has come aboard as Kitchen United’s Chief Business Officer.

The millions of dollars spicing up this new business model investors are serving up could be considered the second iteration of a food startup wave.

An earlier generation of prepared food startups crashed and burned while trying to spin up just this type of vision with investments in their own infrastructure. New York celebrity chef David Chang, the owner and creator of the city’s famous Momofuku restaurants (and Milk Bar, and Ma Peche), was an investor in Maple, a new delivery-only food startup that raised $25 million before it was shut down and its technology was absorbed into the European, delivery service, Deliveroo.

Ando, which Chang founded, was another attempt at creating a business with a single storefront for takeout and a massive reliance on delivery services to do the heavy lifting of entering new neighborhoods and markets. That company wound up getting acquired by UberEats after raising $7 million in venture funding.

Those losses are slight compared to the woes of investors in companies like Munchery, ($125.4 million) Sprig, ($56.7 million) and SpoonRocket ($13 million). Sprig and Spoonrocket are now defunct, and Munchery had to pull back from markets in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle as it fights for survival. The company also reportedly was looking at recapitalizing earlier in the year at a greatly reduced valuation.

What gives companies like Kitchen United, Pilotworks and Cloud Kitchens hope is that they’re not required to actually create the next big successful concept in fast food or casual dining. They just have to enable it.

Kitchen United just opened a 12,000 square foot facility in Pasadena for just that purpose — and has plans to open more locations in West Los Angeles; Jersey City, N.J.; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Seattle and Denver. Its competitor, Pilotworks, already has operations in Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, and Providence, R.I.

While the two companies have similar visions, they’re currently pursuing different initial customers. Pilotworks has pitched itself as a recipe for success for new food entrepreneurs. Kitchen United, by comparison is giving successful local, regional, and national brands a way to expand their footprint without investing in real estate.

“One of the directions that the company was thinking of going was toward the restaurant industry and the second was in the food service entrepreneurial sector,” said Collins. “Would it be a company that served restaurants with their expansions? Now, we’re in deep discussions with all kinds of restaurants.”

Smaller national fast food chains like Chick-Fil-A or Shake Shack, or fast casual chains like Dennys and Shoney’s could be customers, said Collins. So could local companies that are trying to expand their regional footprint. Los Angeles’ famous Canter’s Deli is a Kitchen United customer (and an early adopter of a number of new restaurant innovations) and so is The Lost Cuban Kitchen, an Iowa-based Cuban restaurant that’s expanding to Los Angeles.

Kitchen United is looking to create kitchen centers that can house between 10-20 restaurants in converted warehouses, big box retail and light industrial locations.

Using demographic data and “demand mapping” for specific cuisines, Kitchen United said that it can provide optimal locations and site the right restaurant to meet consumer demand. The company is also pitching labor management, menu management and delivery tools to help streamline the process of getting a new location up and running.

“In all of the facilities, all of the restaurants have their own four-walled space,” says Collins. “There’s shared infrastructure outside of that.”

Some of that infrastructure is taking food deliveries and an ability to serve as a central hub for local supplier, according to Collins. “One of the things that we’re going to be launching relatively soon here in Pasadena, is actually in-service days where local supplier and purveyors can come in and meet with seven restaurants at once.”

It’s also possible that restaurants in the Kitchen United spaces could take advantage of restaurant technologies being developed by one of the startup’s sister companies through Cali Group, a holding company for a number of different e-sports, retail, and food technology startups.

The Pasadena-based kitchen company was founded by Harry Tsao, an investor in food technology (and a part owner of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Football Club) through his fund Avista Investments; and John Miller, a serial entrepreneur who founded the Cali Group.

In fact, Kitchen United operates as a Cali Group portfolio company alongside Miso Robotics, the developer of the burger flipping robot, Flippy; Caliburger, an In-n-Out clone first developed by Miller in Shanghai and brought back to the U.S.; and FunWall, a display technology for online gaming in retail settings.

“Kitchen United’s data-driven approach to flexible kitchen spaces unlocks critical value for national, regional, and local restaurant chains looking to expand into new markets,” said Adam Ghobarah, general partner at GV, and a new director on the Kitchen United board. “The founding team’s experience in scaling — in addition to diverse exposure to national chains, regional brands, regional franchises, and small upstart eateries — puts Kitchen United in a strong position to accelerate food innovation.”

GV’s Ghobarah actually sees the investment of a piece with other bets that Alphabet’s venture capital arm has made around the food industry.

The firm is a backer of the fully automated hamburger preparation company, Creator, which has raised roughly $28 million to develop its hamburger making robot (if Securities and Exchange Commission filings can be believed). And it has backed the containerized farming startup, Bowery Farming, with a $20 million investment.

Ghobarah sees an entirely new food distribution ecosystem built up around facilities where Bowery’s farms are colocated with Kitchen United’s restaurants to reduce logistical hurdles and create new hubs.

“As urban farming like Bowery scales up… that becomes more and more realistic,” Ghobarah said. “The other thing that really stands out when you have flexible locations … all of the thousands of people who want to own a restaurant now have access. It’s not really all regional chains and national chains… With a satellite location like this… [a restaurant]… can break even at one third of the order volume.”

 

The next big restaurant chain may not own any kitchens

If investors at some of the biggest technology companies are right, the next big restaurant chain could have no kitchens of its own.

These venture capitalists think the same forces that have transformed transportation, media, retail and logistics will also work their way through prepared food businesses.

Investors are pouring millions into the creation of a network of shared kitchens, storage facilities, and pickup counters that established chains and new food entrepreneurs can access to cut down on overhead and quickly spin up new concepts in fast food and casual dining.

Powering all of this is a food delivery market that could grow from $35 billion to a $365 billion industry by 2030, according to a report from UBS’s research group, the “Evidence Lab”.

“We’ve had conversations with the biggest and fastest growing restaurant brands in the country and even some of the casual brands,” said Jim Collins, a serial entrepreneur, restauranteur, and the chief executive of the food-service startup, Kitchen United. “In every board room for every major restaurant brand in the country… the number one conversation surrounds the topic of how are we going to address [off-premise diners].”

Collins’ company just raised $10 million in a funding round led by GV, the investment arm of Google parent company, Alphabet. But Alphabet’s investment team is far from the only group investing in the restaurant infrastructure as a service business.

Perhaps the best capitalized company focusing on distributed kitchens is CloudKitchens, one of two subsidiaries owned by the holding company City Storage Solutions.

Cloud Kitchens and its sister company Cloud Retail are the two arms of the new venture from Uber co-founder and former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, which was formed with a $150 million investment.

As we reported at the time, Travis announced that he would be starting a new fund with the riches he made from Uber shares sold in its most recent major secondary round. Kalanick said his 10100, or “ten one hundred”, fund would be geared toward “large-scale job creation,” with investments in real estate, e-commerce, and “emerging innovation in India and China.”

If anyone is aware of the massive market potential for leveraging on-demand services, it’s Kalanick. Especially since he was one of the architects of the infrastructure that has made it possible.

Other deep pocketed companies have also stepped into the fray. Late last year Acre Venture Partners, the investment arm formed by The Campbell Soup Co., participated in a $13 million investment for Pilotworks, another distributed kitchen operator based in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, Kitchen United has been busy putting together a deep bench of executive talent culled from some of the largest and most successful American fast food restaurant chains.

Former Taco Bell Chief Development Officer, Meredith Sandland, joined the company earlier this year as its chief operating officer, while former McDonald’s executive Atul Sood, who oversaw the burger giant’s relationship with online delivery services, has come aboard as Kitchen United’s Chief Business Officer.

The millions of dollars spicing up this new business model investors are serving up could be considered the second iteration of a food startup wave.

An earlier generation of prepared food startups crashed and burned while trying to spin up just this type of vision with investments in their own infrastructure. New York celebrity chef David Chang, the owner and creator of the city’s famous Momofuku restaurants (and Milk Bar, and Ma Peche), was an investor in Maple, a new delivery-only food startup that raised $25 million before it was shut down and its technology was absorbed into the European, delivery service, Deliveroo.

Ando, which Chang founded, was another attempt at creating a business with a single storefront for takeout and a massive reliance on delivery services to do the heavy lifting of entering new neighborhoods and markets. That company wound up getting acquired by UberEats after raising $7 million in venture funding.

Those losses are slight compared to the woes of investors in companies like Munchery, ($125.4 million) Sprig, ($56.7 million) and SpoonRocket ($13 million). Sprig and Spoonrocket are now defunct, and Munchery had to pull back from markets in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle as it fights for survival. The company also reportedly was looking at recapitalizing earlier in the year at a greatly reduced valuation.

What gives companies like Kitchen United, Pilotworks and Cloud Kitchens hope is that they’re not required to actually create the next big successful concept in fast food or casual dining. They just have to enable it.

Kitchen United just opened a 12,000 square foot facility in Pasadena for just that purpose — and has plans to open more locations in West Los Angeles; Jersey City, N.J.; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Seattle and Denver. Its competitor, Pilotworks, already has operations in Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, and Providence, R.I.

While the two companies have similar visions, they’re currently pursuing different initial customers. Pilotworks has pitched itself as a recipe for success for new food entrepreneurs. Kitchen United, by comparison is giving successful local, regional, and national brands a way to expand their footprint without investing in real estate.

“One of the directions that the company was thinking of going was toward the restaurant industry and the second was in the food service entrepreneurial sector,” said Collins. “Would it be a company that served restaurants with their expansions? Now, we’re in deep discussions with all kinds of restaurants.”

Smaller national fast food chains like Chick-Fil-A or Shake Shack, or fast casual chains like Dennys and Shoney’s could be customers, said Collins. So could local companies that are trying to expand their regional footprint. Los Angeles’ famous Canter’s Deli is a Kitchen United customer (and an early adopter of a number of new restaurant innovations) and so is The Lost Cuban Kitchen, an Iowa-based Cuban restaurant that’s expanding to Los Angeles.

Kitchen United is looking to create kitchen centers that can house between 10-20 restaurants in converted warehouses, big box retail and light industrial locations.

Using demographic data and “demand mapping” for specific cuisines, Kitchen United said that it can provide optimal locations and site the right restaurant to meet consumer demand. The company is also pitching labor management, menu management and delivery tools to help streamline the process of getting a new location up and running.

“In all of the facilities, all of the restaurants have their own four-walled space,” says Collins. “There’s shared infrastructure outside of that.”

Some of that infrastructure is taking food deliveries and an ability to serve as a central hub for local supplier, according to Collins. “One of the things that we’re going to be launching relatively soon here in Pasadena, is actually in-service days where local supplier and purveyors can come in and meet with seven restaurants at once.”

It’s also possible that restaurants in the Kitchen United spaces could take advantage of restaurant technologies being developed by one of the startup’s sister companies through Cali Group, a holding company for a number of different e-sports, retail, and food technology startups.

The Pasadena-based kitchen company was founded by Harry Tsao, an investor in food technology (and a part owner of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Football Club) through his fund Avista Investments; and John Miller, a serial entrepreneur who founded the Cali Group.

In fact, Kitchen United operates as a Cali Group portfolio company alongside Miso Robotics, the developer of the burger flipping robot, Flippy; Caliburger, an In-n-Out clone first developed by Miller in Shanghai and brought back to the U.S.; and FunWall, a display technology for online gaming in retail settings.

“Kitchen United’s data-driven approach to flexible kitchen spaces unlocks critical value for national, regional, and local restaurant chains looking to expand into new markets,” said Adam Ghobarah, general partner at GV, and a new director on the Kitchen United board. “The founding team’s experience in scaling — in addition to diverse exposure to national chains, regional brands, regional franchises, and small upstart eateries — puts Kitchen United in a strong position to accelerate food innovation.”

GV’s Ghobarah actually sees the investment of a piece with other bets that Alphabet’s venture capital arm has made around the food industry.

The firm is a backer of the fully automated hamburger preparation company, Creator, which has raised roughly $28 million to develop its hamburger making robot (if Securities and Exchange Commission filings can be believed). And it has backed the containerized farming startup, Bowery Farming, with a $20 million investment.

Ghobarah sees an entirely new food distribution ecosystem built up around facilities where Bowery’s farms are colocated with Kitchen United’s restaurants to reduce logistical hurdles and create new hubs.

“As urban farming like Bowery scales up… that becomes more and more realistic,” Ghobarah said. “The other thing that really stands out when you have flexible locations … all of the thousands of people who want to own a restaurant now have access. It’s not really all regional chains and national chains… With a satellite location like this… [a restaurant]… can break even at one third of the order volume.”

 

Housing market not headed for a major correction: Moody’s Analytics

Barrie, Ont., and Regina, Sask., may not leap to mind as the most likely locales for short-term house price corrections in Canada, but that’s what Moody’s Analytics is predicting in a new report being released Wednesday.

“The largest corrections will be in those metro areas that have a combination of recent house price declines, high overvaluation and slower projected income growth,” according to the report from the research arm of Moody’s Corp. “Barrie and Regina lead the list.”

Moody’s Analytics, which operates separately and independently from ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service, projected median single-family home price growth (or contraction) over the coming year based on year-to-date figures.

Overall, the report projects a fairly stable Canadian housing market with no major short-term correction over the next five years. In markets where there are house price increases, those are expected to continue to moderate, and could be offset by higher income.

“Median family income growth will have a good chance of keeping up with and even outpacing house prices in coming years, improving affordability,” the report says.

Moody’s Analytics predicts interest rates will rise through 2020, which could push mortgage rates back up to around 6 per cent from the current five-year rate of around 4.4 per cent. But the absence of “significant” house price declines should reduce the risk of mortgage debt “deteriorating” over the period, the report concludes.

Such credit quality is an important consideration for lenders and their regulators.

A downside risk highlighted in the report is the potential for higher mortgage rates to combine with policies and borrower “stress tests” aimed at tamping down demand in hot markets such as Toronto and Vancouver to “push down demand in the Atlantic and Prairie provinces.” The report says this could lead to “a full house-price correction and a perceptible drop in sales in these regions.”

The Moody’s Analytics report noted some regional differences that are already apparent in Canada’s housing market. For example, mortgage delinquency rates in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Atlantic provinces are “significantly” higher than the national average, with higher incomes in British Columbia and Ontario leading to substantially lower delinquency rates in those provinces.

Single-family homes in Toronto and Vancouver are still trending very high when it comes to valuation, according to the report. However, this has improved “perceptibly” since mid-2016” when the first restrictive buying policies were introduced.

Moody’s Analytics said a risk to its baseline outlook for the Canadian housing market is that stress tests for conventional borrowers with 20 per cent down payments — imposed this year by banking regulator the Office of the Superintendent of Banking Institutions — may be “too strong.”

The potential downside is reduced purchase demand that weighs not only on home values, but also on the balance sheets of real estate developers and residential construction businesses.

“(B)y trying to tamp down a housing bubble, OSFI could actually add perceptively to the drag on Canada’s GDP growth,” the report said.

“Conversely, the new stress tests could result in a serious reshuffling of mortgage lending as potential buyers shift from banks toward credit unions and other non-bank mortgage lenders that are not regulated by OSFI.”

The latter outcome could result in the stress test being less effective than hoped in reducing home purchases and prices, and set the stage for “a worsening of mortgage debt performance several years down the road,” the report said.

Cost of owning a home in Toronto, Vancouver ‘off the charts’ — and likely to get worse, warns RBC

The cost of owning a home in Canada is at the highest level in 28 years and likely to get only more onerous as interest rates continue to rise, according to a report from Royal Bank of Canada.

Carrying a home, including the cost of a mortgage, property taxes and utilities, took up 54 per cent of a typical household’s pre-tax income in the second quarter, the Toronto-based bank said in a report on Friday. That’s up from 43 per cent three years ago.

“From overheating to correction to the onset of recovery, we’ve seen pretty much everything in the past three years in Canada’s housing market,” economists at the Toronto-based bank said in the report. “Yet an eye-watering loss of affordability has been a constant.”

Unaffordability is “off the charts” in Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria, with RBC’s index at 88 per cent, 76 per cent and 65 per cent respectively — the highest in records going back to the mid-1980s. The measure uses an aggregate of all housing categories, including single-family detached homes and condos.

While rising prices had been the culprit behind the loss of affordability between 2015 and 2017, mortgage-rate increases accounted for the entire rise in carrying costs over the past year, the bank said. The country’s central bank has risen interest rates four times since July, 2017.

“We expect the Bank of Canada to proceed with further rate hikes that will raise its overnight rate from 1.50 per cent currently to 2.25 per cent in the first half of 2019,” the report said. “This will keep mortgage rates under upward pressure and boost ownership costs even more across Canada in the period ahead.”

Bloomberg.com

Our 3 favorite startups from Urban-X’s 4th demo day

Urban-X, the urban-tech startup accelerator backed by BMW MINI and early-stage urban-tech fund Urban.Us, hosted a demo day today for its fourth cohort of companies at its Brooklyn HQ.  The seven presenting companies offered solutions to issues plaguing modern cities, including toll-road pricing, energy and construction management, and even the inefficiencies of modern cycling helmets.

In a day that offered an impressive display of entrepreneurial talent, here are a few of the companies that really stood out to us:

Rentlogic

In hopes of improving landlord transparency, Rentlogic uses years of city government data to create objective algorithmic letter ratings for apartment buildings.  As CEO Yale Fox pointed out, despite city-dwellers spending half our paychecks on rent, urban housing hasn’t seen the same rating systems that we use to guide decisions on where we eat, what car we buy, or what shows we binge.  Rentlogic allows apartment hunters to screen buildings before signing a lease and avoid committing to unhealthy conditions or an absentee landlord.

Rentlogic partners with landlords looking to obtain a stamp of quality for potential renters, offering an added inspection feature that allows them to hang a letter rating outside their building. The company’s roster of customers already includes Blackstone and Phipps Houses, the largest for-profit and non-profit landlords in the world, respectively.   

What stands out with Rentlogic is its ability to scale. Though currently only in New York City, the same data used in New York presumably exists across all major US markets and Rentlogic has minimized the cost of entering new cities by building out the back-end infrastructure required to ingest and analyze the data.  From a demand perspective, as renters defer to Rentlogic for quality assurance and more competitors hang “A” ratings outside their buildings, landlords will face more pressure to maintain the same offering. 

The idea hit home for a born-and-bred New Yorker with my own set of landlord horror stories, and the first thing I did when I left was look up my building on Rentlogic.

Campsyte

Most companies wish they had mega-campuses or “motherships” where they could offer employees access to sprawling outdoor working areas. For companies based in urban areas, offering outdoor space can be tough, with many parks often privatized, far from city centers, or void of the amenities needed to be productive. 

Campsyte transforms underutilized urban outdoor spaces into productive and fun spaces that customers can book for co-working purposes, corporate off-sites, or events. Similar to WeWork’s approach with buildings, Campsyte takes a parking lot, and adds value by filling it with greenery, furniture, electricity, WiFi, and other services. With its services driving nearly 10x the annual revenue per square foot seen by traditional parking lots, the value proposition for lot owners is convincing.

Given the competition companies are facing when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, providing the same amenities as competitors based outside city centers seems invaluable, with Campsyte boasting an extremely impressive roster of partner companies, including LinkedIn, PayPal, Salesforce, and Airbnb. 

ODN (Open Data Nation)

As anyone who has driven in a city knows, car crashes or accidents can often be caused by the built environment around you. Yet insurers, who focus on personal characteristics like credit scores when underwriting a policy, lack the measurement tools to assess the risk of someone’s external environment.

Founded by an MIT-trained city planner, ODN builds risk models using machine learning and public data records to help insurers evaluate risk and mitigate accidents. The resulting analytics eases the selection process for insurers, allowing them to drive more sales with less cost and risk. ODN is already partnered up with some of the world’s largest insurers including Zurich, Travelers, and Hanover insurance.

The potential use cases for ODN’s technology go far beyond the massive existing insurance market, with the eventual rollout of autonomous cars forcing insurers to ask how they construct policies when human behavior plays no role in accidents. ODN is working with carriers to help answer this question while helping create a more efficient and fair underwriting process today. 

Other members of Urban-X Cohort 4 included:

Avvir:  “Avvir automates quality assurance for the construction industry, providing real-time insights into the progress and potential defects on a project.”

ClearRoad:  “ClearRoad helps government agencies automate toll road pricing for any section of road without the need for traditional proprietary hardware infrastructure.”

Park & Diamond:  “Park & Diamond makes biking better by reinventing the bike helmet, using next-generation materials to build a safer, more portable helmet that can roll up into the shape of a water bottle for easier carrying, while looking like a regular hat, cap, or beanie.”

Sapient Industries:  “Sapient Industries has developed an autonomous energy management system that senses and learns human behavior in order to eliminate wasted energy in buildings.”

How has Brexit vote affected UK economy? September verdict

Each month we look at key indicators to see what effect the Brexit process has on growth, prosperity and trade
•Growing disconnect between economic and political reality
•Experts debate the data

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