Introducing Rentree –

For my interview of an entrepreneur this quarter, I decided to interview a software engineer, David Lin, from Amazon AWS who, had years of experience in the tech industry and owned rental properties, is working to build his rental app from scratch. His team consists of two other engineers from Microsoft and ex-Trulia.  Today, it is so hard for working professionals to keep up with their work and also manage rental properties.  A lot of people simply hire agents to manage for them.  However, the total value of the quality of service and the amount of the fee charged, a lot of people are not happy with their agents.   David Lin has some really bad experiences; therefore, he determined to start Rentree and its mobile platform to address the pain point.  Although the prototype is under development, the value proposition that Rentree has gained strong interests among the Taiwanese community in Bellevue.

Introduction

Rentree simplifies the relationship between independent landlords and tenants, as well as providing tools for landlords and tenants to virtually manage the properties and payment transfers. It also has the ability to create rollup for multiple properties or units so that the landlords can view all the important financial information under one roof.   Rentree enables independent landlords to: 1. Setup viewing appointments 2. Manage viewers 3. Create standard lease contract and sign via Docusign 4. Setup payment system virtually and also Union Pay from Asia.  5. Track (rollup) rent income and expenses.  6. Housecleaners, landscaper, and handymen for hire at a lower group rate.  Finally, it would be a portal to document all the messages and correspondents in a single place per renter.  The mission is to be the one stop shop to help independent landlords on their rental properties.

Target Market & Position

Its target market is similar to David himself.  An independent landlord that has decision-making ability to obtain tools and services to optimize his/her rental properties.  They are disrupting an existing market that was dominated by real estate companies, agents, who charge a steep fix fee for rentals (first month rent), and a high expense ratio on ongoing property management (5-10%).  The goal of Rentree is to develop a scalable platform to effectively increase landlord’s overall investment return and save time for other important things without the need to hire a person to manage the properties.

David gave me two examples: By renting out one property to a family, the lease and on-going management should be relatively simple; therefore, the point is that there is no point of hiring someone to manage it for you.  Rentree becomes a place where you keep track of all the information.  As time goes on, this landlord may have more properties in the future and still have a day-time job.  This landlord may need some help to scale, and rentree would be the Saas solution for the person.  The second landlord may just have one properties, but it has multiple rooms in the house for rent.  The management of the properties would be complicated.  Rentree creates a system to help this type of the landlords as well to keep track of multiple contracts, financials, and payments.

Since it is a SaaS model, the value communication would start from the direct communication with the property owners for the first set of the clients.  The model would be through the word of mouth through independent landlords and the monthly meeting of both chamber of commerce and independent investor meeting that David has been involved over the past 15 years.  He had tried to email some groups without introduction and he stopped because it did not work well.  David is considering social media to promote his startup and especially to attract the growing population of investors from Mainland China.  He is actively partnering up with some investment groups in order to gain more momentum for the people that’s investing in the Puget Sound region.

Blog #4 – Tracking

I was looking into GoPro and Indochino earlier and these related ad just show up on the website and my social media.  I believe in some way, it is an effective way to show me similar-to products and services.  However, it becomes annoying if the particular website is cluttered with ads.  Below is an illustration of the targeted ad when I was on CNBC, Seattletimes.com, and facebook.  I would say.  It wouldn’t affect my purchase behavior for the most time, but if it is a major sales, it is reasonable to assume that the conversion rate will be higher due to the incentives and awareness.

CNBC -

Blog #3 – PickCrew (How Much to Make an App)

You are a non-tech MBA student and have this great startup idea that needs a mobile app.  Howmuchtomakeanapp.com (by PickCrew) can create an app for you and your business.  This website is a platform to bring the web and app designers with the business.  The simplified pricing estimator helps the potential customers select their requirements.  Then, the quote will be based on the complexity with the price range of $60 – $80 an hour.  The website is especially friendly to business community due to its simplicity.

As the company’s CEO, I would follow Alexis Ohanian, @alexisohanian, founder of reddit and partner at Y-combinator. Eric Ries (@ericries), Blair Hanley Frank (@belril).  Both Alexis and Eric are so well known in the startup world and their twitter accounts have massive quality followers.  Blair is the geekwire correspondent and it would be beneficial to get to know him for any PR activities.

How to Create an Effective Online Presence

On January 26th, we had a great panel discussion centered on online marketing and user experience for mostly small businesses. The panel featured 3 professionals representing a pretty diverse range of industries, expertise and professional backgrounds which made for a great discussion on a rich topic. The panel featured Thyra McKelvie, the founder and CEO of Rendezvous Strategies. Thyra specialized in developing web strategies, positioning, and marking communication strategies.  Charlie Claxton is the Chief Creative Strategist at Up Top Design and Development and the firm was recently merged with another company in order to increase overall web and mobile platform solution.  Shannon Evans McDonald is a Community Manager at Crown Social.  Her experience includes social media and tactics. To recap, we’ll share some of the questions that were posed (in italics below) followed by a summary of anecdotes and takeaways from the panel’s responses.

The tips for startups of how to create an effective online presence:

The landing page has to be clean and the customer has to understand what the company is selling right away.  The website needs to persuade both types of the audience: analytical through quantitative, and emotional through pictures and qualitative.  For startups, it has to be very straight forward and clean.

Then, it would be the content in order to create an effective online strategy.  For startups, the marketing budget is normally so tiny that there is only one shot.  By being your own creator and the brand image, it would significantly increase the company’s credibility in the long run.  Thyra suggested the four steps to create contents: Be your own publisher, create your community, break into other communities, and integrate social media tools.  As Shannon pointed out afterward, the content becomes the king and she recommended that it is more important to provide fewer great articles than a lot of average ones.  From the website perspective, Charlie stressed the core benefit of creating a well optimized website and integrated contents will significantly increase the brand presence comparing to spending a lot of money in SEO.  From a strategy perspective, both Thyra and Charlie touched on leveraging not only online, but offline, to increase awareness through interesting people around the network.  Leverage the traditional methods to interact with people such as phone calls, drop in visits, meeting over a coffee, etc. Finally, pair up with partners in a faster growth area will also help the business out.

Pet Wearables – Owen Ho, Deepak Batra, Vivian Sun, Nini Wu, Nicky Yi.

Related Links:

Rendezvous Strategies (http://www.rendezvousstrategies.com)

Up Top Design and Development (www.uptopcorp.com (Links to an external site.))

Crown Social (www.crownsocial.com (Links to an external site.))

Blog 2 – Pet Tracker (Tagg)

Tagg GPS Plus is a GPS pet tracker that monitors your dog’s location and immediately notifies you if they are not where they are supposed to be.

Tagg attached to your dog’s collar and it will allow you to set a geographical zone (eg. your home) with the ability to alert you when the pets leave the defined zone.  It has a mobile app that you can track your pet live, and adjust the settings to the configuration.   This device also tracks the physical activities data and temperature (eg. fitbit) so that you can obtain data for your pet’s health.  The monitoring system is not only for the pet owners but also it can help the veterinarian to identify any potential problem.

Pet-Activty-tracking-Snapshots_0Tagg-GPS-Plus-Tracker-thumb

The positioning in the market is clear that they want to be part of the premier product provider for the pet industry, and the revenue model is the subscription (services) plus the initial hardware.   Pettracker utilized social channel heavily to increase product awareness:  Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, blogging, and Youtube.  The company focused strongly encourage people who owns the product(s) to share their stores on their social channel and to increase the awareness across the board.

Youtube: over 2000 videos from all various channels: company, personal, retail channels.

Instagram: approx 300 posts and over 1000 followers.

Facebook: +100K Likes

It looks like the company has a dedicated team to do the posting primarily through facebook and all online media channels are pointing toward facebook as the primary page.

This product is not the most inexpensive solution out there for $99.99. However, most pet owners would probably value the ability to keep tabs on their companions far more than this here in the state. It is not only company trying to crack this market open, but it seems to provide an integrated solution to most of the pet owners.