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Ex-AFL player’s real estate tech startup raises $1.8 million in Series A funding round

Joel Smith

An exciting digital start-up with first-to-market technology, Gavl, recently announced it has secured $1.8 million in its Series A funding from Harris Capital, the investment office of Flight Centre founder Geoff Harris.

Launched in December 2016, Gavl is the world leader in live-streamed auctions and the most exciting app in real estate, having already enabled 200 Australian real estate agencies to broadcast 3,500 auctions to reach 2.5 million views. The app has been downloaded in 44 countries.

Founded by AFL player-turned-businessman Joel Smith with Leith Donaldson and Michael Artup, Gavl was launched with a $300,000 bootstrap from Joel and his father-in-law. This was followed by a $2.5 million investment in June 2016 by Harris Capital, which enabled Gavl to live stream its first auction and release its iOS and Android apps.

What does this funding mean for Gavl?

The platform is expecting to raise its next $4.2m – of the $6m total raise of Series A funding kicked off by Harris Capital injecting a further $1.8m into the business – quickly. It will enable the launch of live auction bidding, which will permit property buyers to view and make bids at auction in real time from anywhere in the world, using eight of the world’s major currencies.

Joel Smith, CEO of Gavl, says, “We are currently piloting technology that allows a consumer to not only watch, but bid and ultimately buy at auction, and complete the transaction without having to be physically on site. We will be able to provide bidders with more ways to buy property and vendors a greater audience to increase their opportunity of selling. This funding will help us close the loop of buyers being able to participate in auctions via the live stream. It will completely revolutionise auctions as we know them.”

Gavl is already established as the clear market leader in auction live streaming across the globe. It was the first to market with significant growth in just a few months, and is the only such app dedicated to the real estate industry with a patent-pending technology that can broadcast live events with a one-second latency – this includes Facebook Live, which is commonly used by the industry.

Joel says, “When we tested Facebook Live for auction live streaming, we were measuring a 5-20 second latency. In an auction environment, this delay could be the difference between a property selling for $950,000 and $1.1 million. We spent 15 months developing the technology to live stream with a one-second latency as well as address another challenge for agents: network reliability with live streaming, and this technology is key for us in launching live auction bidding.”

Why has Harris Capital invested in Gavl?

Harris Capital is the investment office of Flight Centre founder Geoff Harris – who was an early investor in Boost Juice, Topdeck, Fonda Mexican and former Vice President of the Hawthorn Football Club – managed by his son, entrepreneur and philanthropist Brad Harris.

Brad Harris, Managing Director of Harris Capital, says, “Harris Capital is excited to expand its partnership with Gavl. In the start-up area, we see a lot of pitches, but very few truly have a world-first technology, with significant barriers to entry and a huge market size to capitalise on. Given this, we are not surprised that Gavl is experiencing exponential growth in its first full year of commercial operation. The management team has done a brilliant job of bringing this highly technical project to market and rolling it out across Australia and New Zealand.”

Further development and innovation resulting from the total raise includes digital contract signing, deposit transfer facilitation between buyer and seller via the agent and 360-degree camera and Artificial Intelligence integration. With 25 permanent staff, it will also permit Gavl to expand sales teams in new regions.

“We’ve seen exponential growth in real estate agent uptake and consumer usage this year. While we’re a tech start-up, we do rely on having people on the ground, and this second round of funding will enable us to invest in people, as well as improve our sales and marketing efforts,” says Joel.

Currently, the platform captures all bids made at its auctions, which – in addition to providing bidding analytics – allows Gavl to share auction results in real time.

To date, Gavl has enabled Australian real estate agents to broaden their auction audience by up to 300 per cent. Industry-leading agencies such as Ray White, McGrath, Belle Property, Harcourts and LJ Hooker are using the platform to live stream auctions.

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