Taking place annually at NMHC’s OPTECH Conference and Exposition, Launch Pad highlights the best and the brightest from a growing field of technology entrepreneurs who are putting their considerable skills to work to improve the efficiency, productivity and professionalism of the multifamily industry through technological innovation.
This year’s competition was especially fierce, given the record number of applicants. A committee of 45 industry judges narrowed down the diverse field of 34 applicants to four finalists. These four companies competed live in Dallas at OPTECH in mid-November, presenting their business solutions to a panel of industry and technology experts. Audience voting was used to determine the winner.
Here’s a snapshot of the companies, their tech products and the compelling business case each is making for multifamily investors, owners and managers.
Living in the city of Boston, cofounders Lindsay and Meghan Reiss realized it was hard to find consistent, quality pet care. Having worked together before, the duo teamed up to figure out a way that would make it easy for urban pet owners to access high-quality pet care.
The Service: Baroo is a full-service pet concierge startup operating solely in urban, luxury multifamily properties throughout Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Baroo partners with multifamily owners and operators to deliver on-site pet services, including dog-walking, in-home pet sitting for dogs and cats, on-site grooming and micro retail.
The Benefit: “With pet ownership growing exponentially amongst millennials and boomers we know multifamily owners/operators are looking for ways to make pets and integral part of their communities,” notes cofounder and CEO Hyde.
The services that Baroo provides “differentiate properties from others in their vicinity. As pet owners are looking for communities that really welcome pets, Baroo is a way for owner/operators to say, ‘We are not only pet friendly, but we make pets an integral part of who we are’ and to create that ‘stickiness’ with their building.”
“One thing we know about pet owners is that they tend to rent larger apartments and stay longer in their apartments, so they’re an excellent demographic of individuals to bring into your buildings.”
“As a partner for multifamily operators we are able to help build community among residents (hosting happy hours, holiday-themed activities, dog Halloween costume contests) we find that that’s a way for residents to get to know each other and building that connection to their properties that makes them want to stay for much longer,” adds Hyde.
While working in acquisitions and asset management, cofounder Matt Falkin often looked for salvage value in the inventory his properties were discarding post renovation. “The appliances worked, the pool furniture worked, the fitness equipment worked; there was more use in them than just throwing them away. There ought to be a salvage value for this,” says Falkin.
Realizing there was no real facility to sell these goods, Falkin began purchasing used appliances from properties undergoing renovation. It was upon this initial strategy that he began to develop the idea for a centralized platform for industry-wide use.
With the mentorship of LoopNet founder Dennis DeAndre, the idea solidified. Preliminary industry feedback on the idea of a post-renovation online marketplace for multifamily inventory has been positive. Falkin and cofounder Trent Breithaupt launched the beta platform at OPTECH.
The Product: Capexed.com is a business-to-business online marketplace platform that enables users to buy and sell used or excess multifamily inventory in bulk at highly discounted prices. Open to multifamily professionals, Capexed allows owners to capitalize on both significant savings (as buyer) and untapped revenue opportunities (as seller) while simultaneously helping in the reduction of waste caused by the “ever-prolific, value-add strategy of investing,” says Falkin. Users can list inventory and reach possible buyers throughout the country in one centralized marketplace.
The Benefit: The benefits Capexed provides the apartment industry are “numerous and significant,” says Falkin. Capexed makes buying and selling of inventory easier, cheaper and more efficient, providing industry professionals with an online platform to do the same brokering currently being done by phone calls and word of mouth.
“There is no resale option for tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of functional inventory per property,” says Falkin. “The platform allows recently renovated properties to quickly sell off their excess inventory, making extra money and not paying for haul-away services, while buyers are able to purchase capital items at extreme discounts.”
“Making renovations this affordable leads to much more renovation, which leads to happier residents, which leads to higher retention rates, which leads to higher occupancy, which leads to rent growth and on and on—it continues with compounding profitability and overall better financial performance,” he says.
After participating in investments with multiple sponsors, multifamily owner Robert Finlay became disappointed with the lack of communication and reporting he was receiving. He realized not only that sponsors often lacked the staff to handle all of the investor requests they were receiving but that many of these back-office functions were outside of the sponsors’ core business focus. To help meet the needs of both investors and sponsors, Finlay grew the idea for Investor Management Services (IMS) software, developed specifically for commercial real estate (CRE) owners.
The Product: IMS software helps CRE operators better manage their investors and provides back-office efficiencies for items such as distributions and investor communications. IMS integrates with all accounting software, providing a comprehensive data management solution that allows for better visualization of operating trends and performance.
Investors have 24/7 individualized access to their current holdings, performance and return metrics, and historical documentation activities. On the back end, the software streamlines mundane, time- consuming tasks with features such as waterfall calculations, distribution automation, document management, organization chart creation and a snapshot of the firm’s net worth.
The Benefit: The platform offers a better investor experience. Not only does the platform showcase investments in one centralized place, but “investors get a sense of transparency and professionalism. In a market where everyone is competing for investable dollars, utilizing the IMS platform separates sponsors from the rest,” says Finlay.
For sponsors, utilizing IMS reduces expense in back-office operations. “By automating manual processes such as distribution, we have made the sponsors a very efficient operational machine by simply adding easy to use technology,” says Finlay. “As real estate owners ourselves, we really focus on making it simple, easy to use; because we understand the business process of how real estate works, how dealing with investors works, how dealing with distributions works, we understand those workflows.”
Born out of the frustrations of apartment hunting, cofounders Demetri Themelis and Tom Petry started Knock in 2015. Having leased in several different cities, the pair realized that there was this common refrain from people looking for apartments.
“Everyone hated looking for apartments,” says Themelis. “The thing that stood out for us was the communication between prospects and property managers is broken. It doesn’t matter where, or how they find your property online, the process in tedious.”
The apartment hunting process was inconsistent with the on-demand lifestyle and customer service expectations of today’s renters. As such, the company seeks to bring an on-demand service to the apartment industry by making scheduling apartment tours as easy as booking your next hair appointment.
The Product: Knock provides a 24/7 online, on-demand scheduling and messaging platform designed for faster, easier prospect conversion and communication. Integrating into all existing lead generating marketing channels (website, internet listing services (ILSes), Craigslist, signage, etc.), “every renter, every source has the opportunity to schedule,” notes Themelis. Knock replaces phone calls and emails with online service, successfully converting inquiries into qualified property tours, 24/7, no matter where renters find you.
Features such as marketing your property, scheduling tours, screening and messaging prospects are available from a single, comprehensive online dashboard. Knock messaging and notifications are all powered by text in addition to automated confirmations, reminders and follow-ups, making communication with prospects faster, easier and fun.
The Benefit: Knock aims to dramatically improve how quickly property managers convert search traffic into foot traffic while simultaneously providing every renter with a world-class customer experience. By seamlessly integrating marketing, scheduling and communication on a simple, multi-platform interface, Knock accelerates and simplifies transactions, saving apartment managers valuable time and money. Knock guarantees every prospect inquiry receives an immediate response 24 hours a day and enables them to book a tour in seconds—not hours or days.
Author: Racquel Madlala is a communications associate at NMHC with a focus on digital publishing, marketing and communications.