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Former Zillow execs raise $70M seed round for Tomo, which wants to simplify the mortgage process

There are so many startups pledging to reinvent the mortgage process that it’s hard to keep up. But for anyone who has had to go through the process of applying for one, it’s clear that there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The latest startup to raise venture money with the goal of making the process “smarter and faster” is one that was founded by a pair of executives that spent years at real estate giant Zillow. Tomo is very early stage — so early stage that it is only launching operations in conjunction with announcing it has just raised $70 million in seed funding. That’s a massive seed round by any standards (the third-largest in the U.S., according to Crunchbase), but especially for the real estate tech space (perhaps the largest ever).

Ribbit Capital led the financing, which also included participation from DST Global, NFX and Zigg Capital.

Former Zillow executives Greg Schwartz and Carey Armstrong founded Stamford, CT-based Tomo in the fall of 2020 to take on big banks when it comes to providing mortgages to consumers. CEO Schwartz first joined Zillow in 2007, where he says he “built the sales and revenue operations from the ground up.” Armstrong, who serves as Tomo’s chief revenue officer, previously led business strategy, product strategy and core operations for Zillow’s $1 billion buyer services business. 

Launching today in Seattle, Dallas and Houston, Tomo says it will do things like issue fully underwritten pre-approvals “within hours, not days” and guarantee on-time closing. This is particularly important in competitive markets with multiple buyers making offers on homes.

It plans to use data to get homebuyers to closing in as little as 21 days, which they say is less than half of the industry average of 47 days. And, on top of all that, it claims it will offer “the lowest rates in the industry” with “customer-obsessed service.”

The company claims that besides having founders that have years of experience at a company with a reach like Zillow’s, they also aim to be different from other competitors in the space in that they are strictly focused on the buyer. For example, it won’t do any refinancing for existing homeowners but focus strictly on helping buyers secure new mortgage loans.

“The big banks have never made more money, yet an experience with their mortgage business has never been worse,” Schwartz told TechCrunch. “And it’s because the incumbents have no reason to fundamentally change.”

While it’s early days yet, only time will tell if Tomo can live up to its lofty goals. No doubt it has plenty of competition. In the past week alone, we’ve reported on two other digital mortgage startups raising significant funding rounds, including Lower and Accept.

Tomo’s investors are clearly confident about its potential.

Ribbit Capital’s Nick Huber said his firm had been connected to Schwartz and Armstrong prior to their even starting Tomo.

“When we learned that the two of them were working together, we immediately knew that we had to be a part of the journey,” he said. “We gained the conviction to lead the seed round as the team shared more of their vision for the future of home buying, which is a broken experience that they deeply understand and have the insight and relationships to fix.”

NFX founder and general partner Pete Flint has known Schwartz and Armstrong under a different capacity. They were once rivals. Flint co-founded another online real estate giant, Trulia and was its CEO and chairman from its 2005 inception until it was acquired by Zillow for $2.5 billion in 2015.

“We were initially competitors and then deep collaborators after the Trulia/Zillow merger,” Flint said. Once the pair formed Tomo, Flint says NFX “had not seen a team that was so experienced and thoughtful about the entire real estate experience that was going after the mortgage and home buying opportunity.”

In fact, the investment represents NFX’s largest initial investment to date.

“They are rethinking the entire software stack and building a modern fintech company, free of legacy constraints,” he added.

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