‘Easy button for co-owning vacation homes’ debuts: Plum CEO unveils vision at open house

DURHAM – Triangle startup plum has made headlines recently for opening a $1.5 million pre-seed funding round. Described as “the easy button for co-owning vacation homes,” Plum is a software platform that helps potential property co-owners to find one another and then buy and own properties together.

Thursday, the startup hosted an open-house event, answering questions from the community about co-ownership.

Plum CEO Matt Williamson was on hand to talk with community members about the platform.

Plum hopefuls attended as well. Durham couple Jenn Summe and Jeff Gula have started their own “Plum” marketplace post—they are seeking three other co-owners who are interested in purchasing a property near Carolina Beach.

Triangle serial entrepreneur launches Plum, raising $1.5M, to help groups buy vacation homes

“We want to try and close before the high-season starts this year,” Summe said. “We’re looking for people to go in.”

They have not identified a property, but through the Plum process, they identified their budget and rental preferences.

“For our needs, what we’re trying to do is have everything rented out during the high-season, and then everyone sets their own weeks in the off-season,” said Gula. “Which is a little different than the traditional Plum.”

Jeff Gula and Jenn Summe talk about a vacation home at Plum open house. (Photo by Sarah Glova)

The couple said that Williamson worked with them to help them figure out their goals for a modest weekend property.

According to Williamson, Plum will help more people consider vacation home ownership.

“The crux of why we’re starting the company is that we want to make vacation home ownership available to tens of millions of Americans who couldn’t otherwise get to it,” Williamson said. “What’s starting to happen is, when we get people into the calculator, and they start, kind of, doing the math, there’s almost always this audible like, ‘Oh my god, I had no idea was so affordable.’”

Both Summe and her husband are familiar with software startups. Summe is the Co-Founder & COO at realms, an educational technology software startup company, and is an MBA Candidate in Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Gula was a Co-Founder of Warpwire, a Durham-based educational video management company, that was acquired by Symphony Technology Group (STG) in 2020, and he is in the early stages of launching another company.

Plum partnership with Justin Queen, Monarch Realty Co.

Thursday’s open-house event was hosted at Transfer Food Co., which is owned by Justin Queen, who also owns Monarch Realty Co.

Monarch Realty Co. is a new partner with Plum.

“Just a couple of weeks ago, we found out that he had started a company, and we reached out and wanted to be one of the main partners,” said Queen. “We thought what he’d started was really cool.”

Queen said he was attracted to supporting individuals who might not otherwise consider owning a second property.

“I think it’s a really cool way to get more people into ownership in a second home that have always wanted to and just couldn’t afford it or figure out how to do it,” said Queen. “I think this is a very cool, seamless way to be able to do that.”

Plum CEO Matt Williamson chats with Jeff Gula and Jenn Summe at open house. (Photo by Sarah Glova)

For Plum users like Summe and Gula, the first part of the Plum process is identifying compatible co-owners, then they have the option to find a property.

“Most of the Plums are actually centered around the owners first,” Williamson said.

Once a Plum group is full, the next step could be to work with Queen and his team at Monarch Realty Co.

“Once they have been qualified and connected, and their group has been formed,” said Queen, “[the platform] then sends that over to us, as a brokerage, and we help provide them with the broker service component of finding a house, going through the transaction, closing, all that stuff.”

Monarch is based in Raleigh but has listings across North Carolina.

“We have MLS across the state, in both the northern and southern parts of the coast and the northern and southern parts of the mountains,” said Queen. “Also, a lot of our team either have second homes, or their families have homes, or they grew up there—they have some kind of connection to those areas.”

1.5 million pre-seed round in progress

The online co-ownership platform has attracted attention from local and outside investors.

The current pre-seed round is led by New York-based Studio VC. The local Triangle Tweener Fund has also added funding.

WRAL TechWire’s Jason Parker spoke exclusively with Scot Wingo, the general partner of the Triangle Tweener Fund, and Williamson back in February. Wingo, who was one of Plum’s first founders, told Parker, “In my experience, second-time founders are a great investment.”

Williamson said at Thursday’s event that he learned a lot of lessons from his first startup that he’s applying to Plum.

“A lot of what I learned on the first ride is now manifesting itself here,” Williamson said.

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