A few years ago I wrote a post here on Econsultancy detailing my escalating frustration with property websites and agents when looking for a place to live.
So I was particularly pleased to hear about RentalRoost, a US company aiming to disrupt the property market and place more power in the hands of the buyer.
We spoke to CEO and founder Nitin Shingate about the company’s plans.
In one sentence, what is your product/service?
We aspire to be the eHarmony/Match.com of real estate. We want to help tenants find the perfect home with all the attributes that match their lifestyle, so that they can envision themselves in that home for a long period of time (or until their lifestyle changes).
What problem(s) does it solve?
Tenants usually take a huge bet when they move into a new neighborhood or city. Usually, unless they have friends in that neighborhood to give them actual feedback on the local attributes, they never know what they’re going to get.
This is a problem because after moving into a property, tenants sometimes discover that the neighborhood is not as pet-friendly as they thought or that it doesn’t have as much night life as they envisioned.
We created algorithms that map properties and neighborhoods according to lifestyle attributes, like kid-friendliness, pet-friendliness, great nightlife and restaurant scene, a vibrant art community, great shopping, etc.
This allows tenants to make a fully informed decision, which could save them the huge hassle of moving after the lease is up to find a better suited home!
What are your immediate goals?
Now that we are available nationally, we aim to grow our user base so that we can help people find the rental of their dreams and save them the hassle of constantly moving.
What were the biggest challenges involved in building the tech or your team?
The toughest part was trying to take it one step at a time.
We had a grand vision of how we were going to simplify the home search and rental process. But of course, it is a huge undertaking, and it was an industry that none of us had built from the ground up.
So in addition to learning everything we could about real estate, we also had to figure out how to build the product, when to make releases, and how to market it effectively.
How will the company make money?
We have a few different monetization avenues. Firstly, we are building a pro version of RentalRoost, where landlords can post their properties, screen tenants, create lease applications, collect payments, and manage their properties.
On the tenant side, we also offer incentives such as a ‘roommate finder’ tool, rental insurance, payment processing, and the ability to submit any maintenance requests.
Who is in your team?
RentalRoost was founded by Nitin Shingate, Vikram Raghavan, and Harini Venkatesan.
Nitin is a technologist with experience building scalable platforms that leverage open source systems at Xerox and United Online. He is a Software Product and Engineering Leader with 20 years of experience directing cross-functional teams of technical experts to build and deliver enterprise and consumer software.
Vik Raghavan is an experienced e-commerce marketing veteran and has worked at CafePress.com, Overstock.com, Amazon, Capital One, and Lealta Media.
Vik oversaw marketing, new product innovation, and business strategy at Overstock and is credited with conceiving several initiatives, including the creation of the new loyalty program, building an ad platform, and launching new payment instruments for use on and off Overstock.com.
Harini Venkatesan is an experienced journalist and a practicing attorney. She had previously practiced law at a boutique law firm before starting her own law practice in Utah.
Where would you like to be in one, three and five years’ time?
We hope to grow our user base substantially in the next year, especially as we introduce new products that make house hunting faster and easier.
In three years, we hope that our recommendation engine and search criteria became the industry standard, which again is in line with our mission to make this daunting home search process much faster and easier. In five years, we hope that our innovations continue, making us the industry leading in home searches and housings recommendations.
Other than your own, what are your favourite websites / apps / tools?
Nitin: Amazon.com because of their search recommendations. Since we’re building a recommendation engine of rental properties and neighborhoods, we can learn a lot from Amazon.
Vik: Audible – it makes even the worst traffic bearable (even fun!). Dribble is also one of my favorite websites – it inspires us to come up with better design and UI.
Harini: My two go-to apps are Clear (because it helps me stay organized) and Stop, Breathe & Think (because it gives us short chunks of meditation practice so that we can stay centered even when startup life keeps us busy 24/7).