Jeff Tan, Co-founder, and CEO at Rentguard tells us how they tackle long-stay rental market problems.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Rentguard
Jeff Tan: 10 years ago, Clement & I started a tenant management company to help high net worth investors, managing their property investment. We were a long-stay property operator back then. We exited those properties with multimillion profits in 2014 and in 2016, Chin Nam joined us to co-found RentGuard. He has more than 10 years of tech field experience and is extremely passionate about digital transformation.
How does Rentguard innovate?
Jeff Tan: Our customers are long-stay operators, such as student hostels, room operators, and rental management companies. Every day, they are struggling with rental & utility collection, heavy loads of payment reconciliation work, and messy documents keeping.
RentGuard is one of very few SAAS tech products that tackle long-stay rental market problems. Our business model is B2B and solving their pain points by
- Digitally signup tenants with eBooking
- Automated rental & utilities collection that significantly reduce delays and improves operator’s cashflow
- Automated eInvoicing that reduce at least 70% of their rental processing time
More importantly, we enable its data-driven way of running the business. Operators can now know more about its tenant payment trend and demographics before making business decisions.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Jeff Tan: Covid-19 recession is slowing down properties transaction which impacted our property agencies’ customers badly. Therefore, we are offering the Ebooking system to customers with zero fees till 30th June 2021, assisting them to get back on their feet. This not only revives those discontinued clients, but it also helps us to capture market share at a much faster pace. Please refer to our zero fees relief for property agencies :
However, there are more people renting properties or rooms as essential staying place. Rental cases are growing in strong demand. We decided to shift our focus onto rental cases.
Pandemic is not only adversely affected our business but boosting strong demands in renter’s market. During the past 6 months, we have double B2B new customers & revenue as well. Our rental collection has grown more than 3 times.
For sure, the rental market is booming.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Jeff Tan: RentGuard always prioritizes attitude before ability. We believe ability can be trained and improved over time, but not easy to cultivate a good attitude. Because of that, we practice hiring slowly in order to access someone’s attitude, fire fast if we discover someone is not fit for our team culture. RentGuard values interns very much and is always ready to offer a full-time position for high performers.
Startups always struggle with funding and runway. Therefore, it is critical to decide on hiring those talents who can bring in impacts on revenue, rather than focus on improving the efficiency of the organization in starting phase.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Jeff Tan: We were fortunate that always keep our team lean and practice working remotely. Our last physical office was in June 2019. Since then, we have been working in a café and meeting in our investor office. Pandemic did not really impact us very much in terms of daily operation.
However, it had a huge impact on our customers. Before the pandemic, many of them required physical meetings for system demo and system training. After lockdown, they have accepted the ZOOM meeting. Our meeting efficiencies have then improved with spending no time on the road and easier to get appointments as most of them are working from home. Moreover, we manage to sign up customers from different cities without visiting them.
For the sales team to monitor customer leads, we are using Hubspot. The tech team is using Trello for development management.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Jeff Tan: Last April, RentGuard has raised RM 644, 600 from Equity Crowd Funding (ECF) by PithcIn. The majority of investments come from customers, users, and close networks. Malaysia Securities Commission (SC) invested RM 165, 600 through MyCIF.
RentGuard has been elected to participate Cradle Funded Coach & Growth Program (CGP05) for 1+1 year since April 2020. And we also have been selected as top 20 from 108 companies (CGP05 participants), to join Investor Readiness Program (IRP). IRP is a program for High Growth Companies preparing to raise funds to fuel future growth. It is an intensive preparatory program with customized content and coaching geared specifically for Fund Raising activities.
Last October, RentGuard was selected as one of 5 startups to participate in Global Market Fit Program (GMP) Taiwan by MAGIC. It is an initiative from MAGIC to cultivate local startups building business to foreign regional countries. RentGuard has won the first prize in this program. It has been reported on Taiwan Media News:
Besides that, our application of Technology Startups Funding Relief Facility from MDV, a few hundred thousand loans with 3.5% interest rate has been approved on 4th January 2021.
Your final thoughts?
Jeff Tan: We target to raise RM 1M by this year. 70% of the fund will be used for market expansion. Our cash on hand is RM 500K that can last for more than 12 months runway. With this new funding, we are targeting the next growth to 10,000 rental cases per month.
While we focus on growing the existing B2B segment, we are planning to target individual landlords from the mass market which has a much larger market share. By doing that, we are confident to be the leader of the rental market in 3 years.
Pandemic is a booster to digital transformation in any business.
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