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.
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.