Multifamily start-up Knock, an online scheduling and communications platform, won the 2016 NMHC Launch Pad multifamily technology competition. Taking place annually at NMHC’s OPTECH Conference & Exposition, Launch Pad highlights the best and the brightest from a growing field of technology entrepreneurs who aim to improve the efficiency, productivity and professionalism of the multifamily industry through technological innovation.
Knock competed against four other multifamily tech start-ups, taking to the stage to deal their fast pitches to a panel of industry experts and the live audience. The expert panel included Tom Bumpass, executive director of property management support services at Greystar; Rick Graf, president and CEO of Pinnacle; Karen Hollinger, vice president of corporate initiatives at AvalonBay Communities; and Stephanie Williams, president of Bozzuto Management.
Knock took home the NMHC OPTECH Technology Innovation Award, a $5,000 prize, and one-year NMHC Advisory Committee membership.
Here’s a snapshot of the companies, their tech products and the compelling business case each made for multifamily investors, owners and managers.
Year Founded: 2015
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.”
Year founded: 2014
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 more eventually teamed up to figure out a way that would make it easy for urban pet owners to access high-quality pet care.
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.
“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 residence (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.
Year founded: 2016
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 an initial strategy to begin to build a centralized platform for industry-wide use.
With the mentorship of LoopNet founder Dennis DeAndre, the idea solidified. Initial industry feedback on the idea of a post-renovation online marketplace for multifamily inventory has been positive. Falkin and cofounder Trent Breithaupt plan to launch the beta platform at OPTECH.
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 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.
Year Founded: 2015
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.
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, 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 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.”