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Real Estate Startup Knock, Eyeing IPO, Hires First Legal Chief

May 18, 2021, 2:01 PM

Knockaway Inc., a home financier doing business as Knock, has named Jennifer Miller its first chief legal officer as it competes with other startups looking to shake up the U.S. housing market.

Knock on Tuesday confirmed its hire of Miller and promotion of talent and culture head Terra Soloski to vice president of people. The property technology company has also tapped The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to advise it on a potential initial public offering at a $2 billion valuation, Bloomberg News reported in March.

Miller was most recently general counsel and head of regulatory and government affairs at Loon LLC, a startup backed by Alphabet Inc. Google LLC’s parent company scuttled the project to beam internet from high-altitude balloons in January, citing its failure to develop a viable business model.

She said in an email exchange with Bloomberg Law that she’s always been drawn to companies looking to redefine established industries.

Knock, whose co-founder and CEO is veteran real estate executive Sean Black, like Loon operates in a heavily regulated industry that “is ripe for streamlining and modernization,” Miller said.

While Alphabet’s Project Loon—nicknamed the “moonshot company”—was ultimately unsuccessful in its bid to bring change to the telecommunications industry, Knock hopes to revolutionize real estate by simplifying the home-buying process into something akin to purchasing a car.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a broad impact in leading that modernization, streamlining, and disruption,” said Miller, who admitted that after Loon’s demise she wasn’t immediately focused on the proptech space.

What swayed Miller was the promise she saw for technology and finance in real estate and how it met her “professional criteria” to be “disruptive, impactful, and mission-driven” in her next in-house job.

In recent months other real estate startups like Offerpad LLC, Pacaso Inc., Porch.com Inc., and Industrious LLC have also been busy hiring lawyers to run their in-house legal operations.

Knock, founded in 2014, has relationships with several law firms—such as Lowenstein Sandler, Latham & Watkins, and Davis & Gilbert—who are advising the company as its scales up its business, Miller said.

Davis & Gilbert is handling trademark litigation for Knock in a New York federal court with EasyKnock Inc., a rival real estate startup that’s being represented in the dispute by Harris Beach.

Miller also cited Knock’s commitment to creating a diverse executive team as something that drew her to the company. “As a longtime advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, it’s refreshing to be joining a company that takes these issues seriously and works on them every day,” Miller said.

Miller is a former director for Leading Women in Technology, a nonprofit that helps women advance in the technology industry, and she’s been a founding member of the Full Circle Women’s Giving Circle, a group that makes grants to charitable organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Prior to joining Mountain View, Calif.-based Loon as legal chief in January 2018, Miller spent more than five years at Gigamon LLC, a computer networking company where she served as deputy general counsel and helped take public before it agreed to be taken private in 2017 by Elliott Management Corp.

She previously worked in-house at Cisco Systems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. after beginning her legal career as an associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Lerman Senter, a Washington-based firm specializing in communications law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com