When something breaks in a rental home, it can be frustrating for both the renter and property manager. Long turn-around times often lead to tension between the two parties.
Seattle startup Keepe sees this problem as an opportunity for innovation.
Keepe, currently apart of the Techstars Seattle cohort, provides a network of vetted contractors that property managers can request for same-day turnaround. While the home services space is already crowded — particularly in the Seattle area, with large corporations and startups competing for their share of the market — Keepe hopes to distinguish itself by serving property managers directly and providing same-day service.
“Rental property repair for professionally-managed rental homes is a $10 billion market and tenant dissatisfaction with slow response times is one of the top reasons for churn in rental property management,” said Keepe co-founder Rishi Mathew. “This is a real problem that Keepe is in a unique position to solve. And yes, while there are many good companies marketing to homeowners, Keepe’s unique focus on the 43 million rental households in the U.S. sets it apart.”
Mathew and fellow co-founder Vishal Srivastava met when they were working for RealNetworks in Seattle. Mathew, Keepe’s CEO, has a background in product and marketing while CTO Srivastava brings his engineering experience to the table.
We caught up with Mathew for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Keepe is building a home repair marketplace that connects residential property managers to a vetted network of contractors for a same-day response.”
Inspiration hit us when: “Our first customer came to us and asked for a modification to our then-current product. We were initially targeting homeowners and trying to solve their need for a validated handyman. The customer call changed our world view and pushed us into the universe of property management.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We were bootstrapped for a long time until we perfected our product. There will come a time when we accept angel and/or VC investment in order to accelerate our growth and to expand the market in other cities (we are currently live in Seattle).”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We put our values on a pedestal. We strongly believe in efficiency, transparency and trust, both on the inside and on the outside. We have driven those values into our product, as well in our interactions with our customers, contractors, and the ecosystem.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We made a decision to focus on a business segment instead of the consumer. This was not an easy decision for us because our background and our passion were in solving this problem for homeowners like ourselves. But, in our now-modified opinion, the bigger entrepreneurial opportunity was in the property management space.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We have made many mistakes as entrepreneurs, but nothing fatal yet. Our biggest mistake was spending too much time in private beta instead of getting the product out and getting real-world feedback from actual customers. We lost many weeks because of this.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “These are all visionary and inspirational leaders. But, I would rather have Howard Schultz in our corner. Starbucks is an inspiration to us because of the ability to instill its cultural values in its workforce and doing so across cities and stores.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “We are still figuring this out. We haven’t settled on a tradition yet, but the team is deciding between paintball, Friday evening happy hour, ping pong tournaments and group power naps (yes, that’s a thing!)”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “The ability to fit into our culture and align with our values in addition to having exemplary skills and experience. We have recently rejected some highly-skilled candidates that don’t seem to fit with our culture. They will probably do great in a culture that is suitable for them.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Find the balance between a Minimum Viable Product and a Minimum Desirable Product. Optimize for live product in the hands of customers that you don’t know personally.”
Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the companies participating in Techstars Seattle’s class of 2016 in the lead up to Demo Day on May 18.