An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Jonathan Kite (co-founder and CEO) of Rent Ready, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Rent Ready – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
More than half of multifamily units turn every year. The process of getting these units ready for the next resident is a nightmare for onsite staff, and the process of using multiple contractors is hard to manage. Plus, the market is highly inefficient and fragmented, and the vast majority of services are performed by local mom and pop vendors or individual contractors. Lastly, the apartment industry lags the overall technology adoption curve and the turn problem represents a large niche application of the same technology that has made consumer-facing technology platforms (e.g., DoorDash, Uber) successful.
So, three co-founders with diverse backgrounds (property management, technology and finance) saw a tremendous opportunity to eliminate the frustration of typical apartment turns. We came together to form Rent Ready, with a technology-first mindset. We knew that Rent Ready could disrupt the multifamily industry by applying similar technology-driven marketplace strategies appearing in the consumer space, allowing us to streamline the process into a single vendor contact, match work requirements against a network of pre-vetted service professionals (pros), and provide a differentiated experience to an antiquated process.
In short, we are now a full-service partner for onsite apartment staff, serving as a single-source for all turn (i.e. make-ready) services: paint, clean, carpet, wall repair, punch, and counter/tub resurfacing.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
First, in general, we were trying to solve a complicated problem, with a business model that wasn’t straightforward. We aren’t a services-only or technology-only company. We have to be masters at both.
Secondly, we took the harder, more conservative path when embarking on our journey. To solve the complexities, we were iterative and deliberate in our approach to building out the technology platform. The bootstrap approach was hard. It was a grind. But no experience could replicate all the valuable lessons we learned and the deeper understanding we gained, from which processes worked best to what resonated most with our customers.
We also had to figure out the chicken/egg debacle when launching a market. Did we anchor relationships first or build a network of qualified service pros? That took some time to figure out (with a little trial/error along the way), but we landed in a great place and even launched two markets in one year in 2021.
What does the future hold for Rent Ready?
With the launch of our customer portal at the end of 2021, we now have technology that not only elevates the customer experience and fulfills our mission of completely changing the way the
industry turns units, but also allows us to scale much more rapidly. We are now five markets strong. Greenville, S.C., and Tampa, Fla., our 2021 launches, were just the beginning of our aggressive market expansion plan.
We will also continue to add to our extremely talented team and invest in further advancing our technologies for our apartment community customers and our service pros with the ultimate goal of providing a completely frictionless make ready process.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Charlotte ?
It’s a super inclusive and welcoming environment, which I feel is a bit rare, but makes me very proud for Rent Ready to be part of it. Every founder I’ve ever interacted with is incredibly receptive to sharing experiences and providing advice. Plus, in my eyes, the visibility has changed dramatically. I can’t look at LinkedIn, business journals, or elsewhere without seeing some amazing news about the Charlotte startup scene. That wasn’t the case 4-5 years ago.
There is also tremendous value in our local ecosystem. You can watch the different companies at their various stages and the path they go down, and then ask questions about how they approached it and what lessons they learned.
We do our best to stay connected, participate in events, and are always open to helping fellow startups or aspiring entrepreneurs.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Learn how to hire well as your success will be 1,000% tied to having the right people on your team. Look for individuals who are not only qualified, but also very ambitious. The startup world is certainly a grind, so you will need a team who is focused on success, even in challenging circumstances.
And reiterating again the welcoming local startup scene, reach out to founders – even those that haven’t been successful. Ask questions. Listen and learn.
Lastly, when it comes to specifically technology-based startups, problem-solve first and then automate/incorporate technology. Putting expensive technology on a bad idea or process will be a sure waste of time, money, and energy.