We Launched A $12M/Year Property Management SaaS For Landlords & Tenants

Joe Edgar
Founder, TenantCloud
$1M
revenue/mo
1
Founders
130
Employees
TenantCloud
from Austin, TX, USA
started November 2014
$1,000,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
130
Employees
51.4K
alexa rank
2.02K
followers
15.3K
followers
market size
$79.3B
avg revenue (monthly)
$640K
starting costs
$30.5K
gross margin
37%
time to build
300 months
average product price
$1
growth channels
Word of mouth
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Twitter, YouTube, Instagram
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
38 Pros & Cons
tips
8 Tips
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Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?

I founded TenantCloud as a way to help landlords manage their rental properties and assist with finding tenants. There are over 15 million DIY landlords in the U.S. and they own 21 million rentals and house 60 million tenants.

Landlords can collect rent online, list properties, screen applicants, manage their accounting, schedule maintenance, and even find service professionals.

Our first revenue was in 2018 and currently, we are on track to do near $15 million at the end of 2021.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I grew up in a small reservation town in southern Oregon. My father was a contractor and my mother was a janitor and I was one of 13 children. We assisted with the construction and then helped my mother clean a church on Saturdays. That experience working in and around construction gave me the initiative to buy my first investment property at 14 and never stopped. Buying investment properties is what exposed a problem in the market as I was not just an investor but also a landlord.

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Owning a rental property is an exciting and daunting process. There are just too many things landlords have on their list: find reliable tenants, do a credit and background check, manage lease agreement, get signatures from them, collect rent, do maintenance inspections, communicate with your tenants at the most inconvenient times, record data to file taxes when the season comes, handle the move out process and many other pitfalls on your rental lifecycle.

Being a landlord and trying to manage so many things at once is where I landed on the problem that exists in the market. Knowing first the problem that the customer faces is the only way to build a product and I knew the problem well.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

One big mistake many entrepreneurs make when designing and laying the first product is they look at all the competitors and have to see how they define their product. I advise against that. When looking at creating something new and solving a problem we took a step back and defined it specifically and then built a product around solving that issue. It allowed us to create something that the market didn’t have and it allowed us to solve the problem in a whole new way.

Doing this wasn't easy and we had to experiment. I wish I could say it was easy to know exactly what the market wants in the future, but it's not. We had to dig deep into the industry and understand the pain points and bottlenecks to see places we should focus on improving over others.

For example, we say that data entry for accounting took a lot of staff and time. So we created 4 unique users that can send money to each other and therefore the accounting was automated and no longer required any entry.

Once team members realize you embrace mistakes then they too are willing to experiment and create great solutions to the ongoing problems they come across.

An additional benefit from creating a product that was so different from what the market had is it gave us new channels to market the product. One example of this is we built maintenance management around the accounting instead of how the industry did this with separate tools.

Typical property management software is accounting software and tools used for tenants that need maintenance on their rental unit as a separate product all together. So for us to build a maintenance reporting and management tool that fed into the accounting means that a tenant can report an issue, the property manager can review it and schedule the maintenance team to repair it.

All this while the accounting software is tracking the expenses, so data entry is automatic. This saves property managers a tremendous amount of time but also gives us a new channel for marketing a product that no other competitors were able to until they too built a solution. This allowed us to market the product within two separate customer pools as a single product that none of our competitors were able to go after.

To express how important it is to not look at what your competitors are doing and instead just focus on solving the problem I’ll share this. We once hired a new product design and they brought forward some ideas and showed how they got this from looking at our competitors and how they are doing it. Immediately I grabbed all the drawings and covered them with a cardboard box that was near me and explained to them to never show anything from our competitors as it will cloud our focus on solving the problem. I then explained we need to be innovative in the market and if we are looking at what competitors are doing then we are no longer innovating, but just copying.

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Describe the process of launching the business.

Launching a business starts long before the launch. It is key to prepare yourself financially for the success of the business. I made many life adjustments to be able to go without pay for at least 3 years. This required lots of planning long before starting the business.

To get the marketing up and running we started with all my contacts. I send old schools I attended, local newspapers of places I lived, clubs I was part of - anyone we thought would publish something about me starting a company. Then we took that posting and promoted them through every social media and related channel we could. Then we built on top of there and went to larger local news media sources to write about us. It took about 3 years and we were published often by many national news sources.

The key here was we had to produce a tremendous amount of content. For every piece we got published we wrote about 5 pieces. The good news is many of those excess articles we wrote would later get used in our blog, which we started to promote and grew to be a media source of its own.

Over the years we only raised $2.5 million from investors and now claim a valuation of over $100M. It also made us very sensitive about costs, so we became profitable as soon as we could to survive.

I heard a saying once that I love and that a paycheck is the worst thing for an entrepreneur. I love that saying as it says don’t get comfortable. An entrepreneur needs to be hungry for survival. It makes losing not an option.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Keeping and attracting customers is not easy and listening to customers is even harder. The reason listening to a user is hard is like listening to a child and asking them what they want for dinner. You will always get ice cream as the answer, so how does a company listen, but also filter through what they are hearing to create a solution that will make their life easier.

Solving a problem you truly understand makes you the subject expert and it will lead to lower building costs, faster to market, and a better fit than competitors.

To do this is to understand the bigger picture and the problem that is in the market. Listening to customers about what they want built means digging deeper as to why they want something built and what they are trying to solve. We call it the “job”. What is the job a feature or a product is trying to solve? Once you have this frame of mind than listening to the user is helpful in that you are trying to find the problem they are explaining. Sometimes it is like being a psychotherapist for products.

We also helped create some environments for the user to help their business, but keeps us as the center. For example, we create FB groups about being a landlord and sharing tips. That group has grown into a thing of its own and it is based on TC users sharing how they grow their business using us.

We also maintain a constant awareness of content going to our users, so if they don't read any of the blogs we might send them an email with a recap, so they don't miss out on relevant information for the industry or the latest news.

We also create an incentive program for referring a friend which involves paying users a good portion for any leads. This gives the users a new source of revenue but also gets them selling our product for us.

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How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today we are profitable and growing 100% a year with plans of making more acquisitions in the space to help combine more products to make life easier for landlords.

we-launched-a-12m-year-property-management-saas-for-landlords-tenants

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I am constantly making mistakes and failing at many things I try to do. One lesson I have learned is to embrace mistakes and errors. This is important for an innovative company that is trying to be a market leader. Big companies can’t afford any errors so aren’t agile enough to make quick changes.

Embracing mistakes and failures are also very important for your team. Once team members realize you embrace mistakes then they too are willing to experiment and create great solutions to the ongoing problems they come across.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The most influential book is Holocaust Survivor by Viktor Frankl. In his book, he expresses some of our human basic needs and desires. He also exposes how horrible humankind can be with each other. Between these two principles, we learn that we shouldn’t stress the day-to-day drama that sucks us in so often.

We should focus on how we can be better human beings to the world around us and realize how amazing it is to wake up every morning in this amazing world where we can eat and taste so many different foods, and see so many different sceneries.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

The best advice I can give an entrepreneur is don’t solve other people’s problems. Solve your own. There are so many problems in everyone’s daily life that you don’t need to try and solve something if you don’t understand the pain.

Solving a problem you truly understand makes you the subject expert and it will lead to lower building costs, faster to market, and a better fit than competitors.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always hiring and welcoming many new team members all the time.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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Joe Edgar   Founder of TenantCloud
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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