By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
ReTenant, a startup that graduated from i2E’s inaugural Immersion Program group this summer, is using mobile technology to help improve communications between property managers and tenants.
ReTenant was just a concept when it entered the Immersion Program with i2E.
The company has progressed from concept to providing a viable application, serving paying customers, and having a market-based plan for expanding functionality.
Now ReTenant is in serious discussions with potential investors.
From the beginning, ReTenant’s solution has been based on feedback from potential customers.
Scott Ayres, a co-founder, was having a casual conversation with a property manager — a friend of a friend — who mentioned that resident retention was his single biggest business challenge, that tenant turnover could reach 50 percent a year.
Ayres investigated and found out that even though ours is a society that increasingly favors texting and depends on mobile devices, many apartment complexes and other residential properties continue to rely on fliers or emails to get information to residents.
He came up with an idea for instantaneous mobile communication with residents to improve service and increase the sense of tenant community, an added value that could help make residents less likely to move.
During the Immersion Program, by talking to dozens of property companies and tenants, the co-founders developed ReTenant’s unique solution — a “white label” mobile application that is easy for a property management company to brand and distribute through an apps store and that is easily accepted by residents.
“Immersion made us do a lot of things we didn’t necessarily want to do,” Ayres said. “The process was helpful and painful. It pushed us to test our proof of concept and was extremely useful in shaping the company. It caused us to come up with features we wouldn’t have known that we needed.”
ReTenant recognized its first revenue while still in the Immersion Program.
Not every company will have this result. It’s often more likely that a new concept won’t work than that it will.
But whether an Immersion company is deemed viable or not, Immersion entrepreneurs learn firsthand the importance of understanding their customers.
They internalize the value of finding out quickly what is and isn’t going to work. They leave the Immersion Program knowing that basing strategy and product development on features that customers will actually pay for rather than on assumptions based on technology leads to greater success.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at [email protected].