BLCK founder and CEO, Samella Watson

Turnkey investment marketplace BLCK closes pre-seed round

US: Miami-based turnkey investment marketplace BLCK [pronounced ‘block’] has completed a pre-seed round funded by Microsoft Black Partners Growth Initiative, ahead of a planned launch in Q1 2023.

Described as the first marketplace of its kind to tap into the rental arbitrage sector via technology, BLCK seeks to enable people to unlock passive income by bidding on long-term leases for pre-approved short-term rental properties so that they can launch and scale their own rental businesses.

Rental arbitrage – the practice of managing short-term rental properties or buildings but not owning them – has become increasingly popular for hosts to make money and rent out units as so-called ‘rentalpreneurs’. The team behind BLCK say that their marketplace will not only help to streamline the rental arbitrage process but also offer the model to the general public, making it possible for anyone to become a short-term rental host in their own right and earn revenue.

Scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2023, BLCK will soon allow prospective hosts to browse and bid on properties that the marketplace has already secured from landlords, as well as enabling them to calculate potential profits during peak and off-season periods. Users who are successful with their bids will be able to start operating units that can be listed on platforms such as Airbnb as soon as they have created their host page.

With Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky recently revealing that Airbnb would need to recruit “millions” of new hosts to meet the accelerating demand for short-term / flexible housing, BLCK is well placed to launch more hosting opportunities, according to its founder and CEO, Samella Watson, who also founded guest experience startup Sebiya.

Last week, Airbnb announced that it was introducing ‘Airbnb-friendly’ apartments, a listing service exclusively for assets that allow short-term rentals in the United States. As part of its bid to make hosting more “accessible” to more people, the home-sharing platform will enable renters to find a place to live and sublet it on Airbnb part time when they are staying away from home, while it is partnering with major landlords including Equity Residential and Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC to further build its presence in the multifamily space.

BLCK also operates in the fintech space, as Watson explains: “We are using blockchain smart contracts, which will allow BLCK to focus on innovation and efficiency while removing the traditional intermediaries such as banks, brokers and lawyers for the entire leasing process. We’re doing something new in 2022, so why not make it the most cost efficient, the most innovative?”

Daniel Ikem, partner development manager at Microsoft Black Partner Growth Initiative, said that BLCK shows promise in the professional services industry: “I think BLCK represents the generation of innovative solutions providing housing-as-a-service and is definitely going to make waves in major vacation destinations across the country. I believe that BLCK will be successful as Samella showcases the tenacity and creativity needed to succeed in the tech industry as a black female founder.”

Looking ahead, Watson is now aiming to raise a seed funding round for BLCK and is putting her work at Sebiya on hold to focus fully on her new project.

Now operating as a team of four [Watson as CEO, a chief technology officer [CTO], blockchain architect and senior data analyst], BLCK has secured AirDNA as its data partner, Sebiya as its guest experience partner, and ResidentScore by TransUnion as its preferred vendor for tenant screening. It is also currently in discussions with a potential furnishing partner, renters insurance partner and cleaning partner as it seeks to make the guest experience more turnkey in its properties.

BLCK is targeting launching initially with 30 units in West Palm Beach, Chicago and the US Virgin Islands. Property owners and potential hosts are invited to join the company’s waitlist at this link.

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