After unwittingly renting his home to a drug dealer, this ex-Freshworks exec started a property management startup
When Andrews Moses unwittingly rented his first property in Canada to an armed robber and drug dealer, he realised the problem was vetting the tenant. Digging deeper, he realised he wasn’t the only one; every landlord in the region had some horror story.
Andrews realised that none of the enterprise property management solutions wanted to help individual property landowners as they were “too small for them”.
“Their chatbots would tell me to come back when I had 200 properties. Landlords and small property managers do not have the right tools to attract and screen tenants,” he says.
Andrews decided to use his experience from Zoho and Freshworks to build a solution catering to the needs of under-200 units landlord/property managers. This led to the birth of Tenantcube, a property management startup based out of the US and Chennai.
The Tenant Cube team
Andrews says he was always passionate about the real estate industry. The idea of having an uninterrupted and consistent stream of income appealed to him, and led him to become a landlord after spending 10 years in Canada.
As someone who values face-to-face interaction, initially he personally met a few people to narrow in on the right tenant.
“While this approach usually works in workplace scenarios, it backfired spectacularly when it came to choosing a good tenant. A few months later, the perfect tenant I had welcomed into my home turned out to be a former convict and drug dealer; he was cultivating marijuana right inside my house. I went through hell and back in the process of eviction, losing a lot of sleep and money in the process,” he recalls.
Andrews’ 10+ years of experience in technology at Zoho and Freshworks got him thinking. Why not build a secure platform that would empower landlords and property managers to reach only safe, trust-worthy tenants and digitalise the process of onboarding them? It would be a win-win solution for both parties, landlords and tenants.
The market gap and the solution
“We identified a $2.6 billion gap in the North American market, which remains untapped and largely ignored by bigger tech companies. This comprises landlords and property managers who own/manage less than 200 properties,” Andrews says.
He explains being in the rental industry in North America is a full-time job that carries a lot of administrative burden and legal responsibilities, not to mention the difficulties of letting properties in a region where tenants have more rights than landlords.
Finding the right tenant and onboarding them smoothly is crucial, especially when the landlord owns a single family home and depends on rental payments to pay off the mortgage.
Tenantcube aims to ease this burden by being a single platform that carries out all of administrative needs - right from listing their property to finding and screening the perfect tenant, and onboarding them too.
"Our tenant-focused app can be used as a repository of valuable personal information, and to create applications and submit them to properties they are interested in,” Andrews says.
Tenantcube, which was incorporated in 2019, aims at providing a complete end-to-end renting experience for landlords, property managers, and tenants with a simple four-step approach to renting: attract → verify → onboard → retain.
“We help landlords and managers easily market their properties on multiple sites, collect online rental applications, and verify before digitally onboarding the tenant and providing a great experience for paying rent and communicating. Our HQ is in St Catharines, Canada, but our development team is completely based in Chennai,” Andrews says.
Challenges amid the pandemic
The initial challenges they faced were mainly overcoming the geographical hurdles of being headquartered in Canada with the core developmental team in South India. Scaling an existing team remotely is hard enough, but TentantCube had to build a whole new team amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some of us have never met in person till date. We had to figure out how we would be recruiting, and from where. A visit to the annual SaaSBOOMi conference in 2019 helped us a lot in making these crucial decisions. We realised it made more sense, both practically and economically, to hire talent from South India, where our founding team had more connections,” Andrews says.
With the right team in place, the everyday challenge of coordinating with a remote team during a pandemic was easily overcome with quick, everyday online meetings.
“We maintain a totally transparent culture within the company; everyone is aware of what is happening and can easily speak about more efficient ways of doing things. The team clearly understands why we do what we do and where we need to be in the next few months/years. We let our team take ownership and execute at various levels and it has been amazing to watch our growth. We are only getting started,” Andrews says.
The current team size is 14.
Market and the future
While building the software, the team envisioned it as the end of all paper-based transactions between landlords and tenants. It would be the future of the rental industry, but they still had a job on their hands: to convince people to stop relying on old-school practices of communication.
“The COVID situation has actually done this job for us. People are now demanding technology that helps them do their work from home. We are thrilled to be assisting customers in overcoming the challenges of being in the heavily paper-based rental industry at a time when staying home is the safest,” Andrews says.
According to IBEF, the real estate sector in India is expected to reach $650 billion by 2025. In the top seven cities, housing sales increased by 29 percent and new launches by 51 percent in the fourth quarter of FY21.
Andrews says Tenantcube serves a neglected market as their “solution is end to end unlike other point products that serve a specific need”. Other players operating in the residential rental management space include NestAway, Homigo, CoHo, Zenify, and others.
“Our why is stronger and we provide support that is hard to find in this market segment. DIY landlords and small property managers in North America with under 200 units are our target market. This market is neglected by a lot of enterprise players. We start with a freemium for landlords; our business model is based on a flat base price monthly and a per unit (door) price,” Andrews says.
TentantCube raised around $250,000 from strategic angel investors in Canada – mostly landlords and property managers. The investors manage around 15,000 units/doors. The startup also added some strategic investors in the SaaS space, including Girish Mathrubootham (Freshworks) and Arvind Parthiban (SuperOps.ai)
“We recently launched our beta version with over 50 free customers, five paying customers, and a solid pipeline of customers. We intend to grow our development team and complete the development of our platform. The plan is to accelerate our growth in terms of customers adoption and add services to help landlords passively generate revenue,” Andrews says.