Rentberry: to make rental application process seamless and transparent for everyone involved.
Name: Rentberry, Inc.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Product / Service Offering: Platform for Seamless, Transparent Rental Experience
Co-founder Interviewed: Alex Lubinsky (CEO)
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
For as long as I can remember, people have been telling me I have an entrepreneurial mindset. I’m not sure what it means, but maybe it’s all about my passion for so-called “aha” moments, when all of a sudden it becomes apparent the root cause of a certain problem and a particular idea that might help address it.
Speaking of motivation, there are two things that come to my mind. First of all, I understand how fast things can be improved with the right idea and technology. We have got so many global problems that can now be solved. Second of all, it is my personal goal of finding the balance between successful entrepreneurship, social responsibility, and my personal life.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
We founded Rentberry back in 2015 and launched in May 2016. Initially, it covered the San Francisco Bay Area and New York only. We have already expanded nationwide and are now considering expansion to major English-speaking countries.
Speaking of the idea, it was my first hand experience of managing properties and being a tenant that helped me realize the entire rental industry was broken. As a tenant, I could see how huge the problem of hefty fees and rental bidding wars was. As a property manager, however, I was overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork I had to deal with. What’s more, I could see people trying to secretly outbid one another just to get a desired rental property.
These all helped me realize that bringing transparency to the rental application process might improve the situation tremendously. This is how the idea of Rentberry was born. We decided to build a platform where tenants would be able to see the current demand for properties they are interested in and make educated, custom offers to the landlord based on this information.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Before Rentberry, the entire rental industry was not transparent. It reminded me of a stage for second-guessing and riding blind for tenants and of a room for manipulation for landlords. When your prospective landlord tells you there is some other guy interested in the same property, you are rushing around to offer a little more money because you need this apartment. As a result, prices go up and the worst part is that you don’t even know if that “some other guy” even exists.
With Rentberry, the problem is solved for good. People can see the demand for each property listed on the platform. And they can offer landlords slightly less or slightly more depending on the situation.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
There are two things. First and foremost, we are the only rental platform offering a one-stop shop experience for landlords and tenants. In other words, you can complete absolutely all rental tasks online and at one place. Second of all, no other rental company fosters transparency and ensures that all properties are rented at their fair market prices.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
One of the hardest things to do was to make people see what the idea of transparent custom offers is actually about. Media outlets got it wrong and blamed us for creating upheaval in the rental market. It took us time and effort to make people understand the true mission of Rentberry: to make the rental application process seamless and transparent for everyone involved. Almost one year since our launch, we revealed the statistics proving that Rentberry saved tenants on average 5.1%. Let’s use examples to see how our platform helps people save money.
Example 1: Anna is planning to move to New York City. She starts to look for rental properties well in advance and saves some listings for further consideration. Anna especially likes a studio on Greene Street, but it costs $3,800 per month, which is beyond her budget. When Anna is ready to sign a lease, she returns to her search and sees that her top choice apartment is still available. She realizes that the property has been vacant for too long and assumes that a landlord might agree for a lower price under the circumstances. She offers $3,650 instead of $3,800 and the landlord accepts it.
Example 2: Bob, a successful businessman in his 30’s, is looking for a new home. He has a stable income, perfect recommendations from his former landlord, and spotless credit history. His credit score is almost perfect (810 out of 850). Most importantly, he is looking for a very long-term rental, more than three years. Bob understands that his application is strong and offers to pay $2,900 per month instead of $3,100. The landlord understands the pros of renting out to Bob and accepts the offer. This way, Bob saves as much as $2,600 per year.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
What I think will be useful for any founder managing a new team is some great apps to keep things under control. Here at Rentberry, we use Harvest to provide employees with a flexibility of working hours. And we use Slack to keep communication active.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
At the moment, we’ve closed the seed round of funding and raised $1.17 million. I don’t think there was some unique approach we followed to make people invest in Rentberry. I believe that when you have a worthy idea as well as proven experience and skills to turn it into reality, there is no need for special techniques and approaches to get financial support.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
As soon as it became clear that I had an idea of how to bring transparency to the rental industry, I started to think of gathering a good team, raising money, and thinking over the right logic for our website. What I missed, however, was that the idea is only worth being implemented if there are people willing to use your end product.
The biggest question was this one “What should we do to attract users?” Fortunately, it turned out that our product caught the interest of many small and medium companies from the rental business. We have agreed upon a mutually beneficial partnership. That is how we have got the very first users.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
One challenge is that our product grows faster than our team. It takes time to find the right candidate for each position we have. As soon as it feels like our team is finally complete, it turns out there are new partnership and collaboration opportunities that we are pitched. It means that we need more people to join us. It sometimes feels like an endless process of getting bigger. I know it’s a natural process, but it feels like a challenge sometimes.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
At the very beginning, it was giving me hard times seeing controversial remarks about Rentberry. It took me time to learn one important lesson. I should not let the minority define the worth of my company and my team. There is no one-size-fits-all solution in the rental business or any other businesses. Take any great company you know and you will realize it has both haters and lovers. The key is to focus on the latter, define them as your target audience, and give them the best product you can.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
For some reasons, the media choose to focus on Rentberry’s feature of custom offers and completely ignore the fact that we are the only platform offering a 100% paperless rental experience for both landlords and tenants. I would like to highlight what particular benefits our users receive:
- List and syndicate property listings to nine partner platforms.
- Screen prospective tenant (credit score and background check).
- Select most quality applicants based on their custom offers and application.
- E-sign rental agreements.
- Collect rent and deal with maintenance requests online.
- Search for properties and filter them by location, price, and more than twenty other amenities.
- See the demand for properties you like and make educated offers to landlords.
- E-sign rental agreements.
- Pay rent and split payments with your roommates.
- Make maintenance requests online.
And these all are available at one place.
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