Home-Financing Startup Knock Names First CFO

Home-financing startup Knockaway Inc. hired its first finance chief to set its house in order as it looks to expand into dozens of markets amid strong demand for housing in the U.S.

Michelle DeBella

started as chief financial officer of New York-based Knockaway, which does business as Knock, on Dec. 28. Previously, she served as a vice president at

Lyft Inc.,

overseeing its financial transformation and governance. Before Lyft, Ms. DeBella served as the global head of internal audit at

Uber Technologies Inc.

and as vice president of internal audit at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co.

Founded in 2015, Knock says it wants to make it easier for people to buy a new home before selling their old one. The company offers financing to home buyers as a licensed mortgage lender and offers an interest-free bridge loan to cover the mortgage on the old home for up to six months. The bridge loan can also be used for up to $25,000 in repairs to the old home or toward the down payment on the new home.

Ms. DeBella said one of her main focuses will be building out Knock’s processes and systems. “Uber and Lyft gave me hands-on experience and taught me three valuable principles to help a company and finance team scale: simplicity, standardization and automation,” Ms. DeBella said.

The company said it currently has eight people in its finance function.

Jamie Glenn,

Knock’s chief operating officer, who previously handled finance, will focus on products and other company initiatives.

Knock CFO Michelle DeBella.



Photo:

Kelley L Cox/KLC fotos

Ms. DeBella’s experience with scaling up technology-focused companies is expected to help Knock meet its goal of expanding from 15 markets to 75 by 2023, Chief Executive Officer

Sean Black

said.

“Technology and data really do enable that scale. It takes being fierce and disciplined about the metrics that drive growth,” Ms. DeBella said.

Knock has roughly 6,000 clients in the U.S. and employs roughly 100 people. It declined to disclose revenue and other financial metrics.

Knock partners with real-estate brokerage firms and agents, who promote the company’s online home-financing platform. Knock customers usually get a 30-year mortgage and the interest-free bridge loan. The company charges a 1.25% fee that is similar to a mortgage origination fee, according to the company’s website. It says its mortgage interest rates are competitive. Knock doesn’t hold or service the mortgages.

The startup shifted to this financing strategy in July. Its original strategy, which involved buying the client’s new home before repairing and putting the old home on the market, was more capital-intensive, Mr. Black said.

Knock is among the companies benefiting from strong demand for mortgages and housing as millions of Americans continue to work from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. The firm expanded its reach to 15 cities in July, up from five, and currently is in partnership with about 100 real-estate brokerage firms, which offer Knock’s services to their clients.

Knock has raised $600 million from investors, including RRE Ventures, Foundry Group, Redpoint, Greycroft, Corazon Capital, Correlation Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital and FJ Labs. In January 2019, the startup raised $400 million in a series B round. “We’re going to keep building our war chest to keep our lead,” Mr. Black said. He said the company might consider an initial public offering at a later point.

“Having a CFO at this stage of the game is a pretty natural next step for the firm as they look to continue to grow and eventually pursue a public offering or some sort of event of that nature,” said

Paul Habibi,

who owns a stake in Knock.

There is room for startups such as Knock to broaden their reach in residential real-estate markets, analysts said, adding that the company’s platform offers value for consumers.

“Real estate [is] an industry [that has] left a pretty big playing field for many companies to embark on innovation and disruption in ways that haven’t happened in the past,” said

Ryan McKeveny,

a director at Zelman & Associates, a housing-research firm.

Corrections & Amplifications
Habibi Properties LLC does not own a stake in Knock, while Paul Habibi does. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Habibi Properties owns a stake in Knock.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Sam Son

Next Post

New Brunswick boys basketball records dramatic win

Mon Feb 8 , 2021
The frenetic final seconds of the New Brunswick High School boys basketball team’s 58-57 victory over Piscataway served as a microcosm of the wild days that preceded the dramatic season-opening win. Due to coronavirus-related restrictions within the school district, New Brunswick commenced practice outdoors while the vast majority of Greater […]