Believe it or not, more than half the decision of starting Roomz is made up during my 2-week vacation in Malaysia. I absolutely loved this beautiful country. Lovely cities, friendly people, and just amazing food. By doing this startup in Malaysia, I’ll have a good chance of living here for the next couple of years, or maybe even longer.
One of my co-founder KH is very familiar with the rental market in Malaysia. As a real estate investor he manages dozens of rental properties with more than 30 to 40 tenants. He told me that by renting individual rooms vs. the entire property, he is able to achieve 30% more return on his investments. But managing and advertising for so many rooms isn’t easy and he wish there is a better website/APP he can use.
Our conversation went on and off for couple of month and we talked more and more about KH’s rental business, the websites that he frequently visits and the list of tools and features that he wish he has to make his life easier. Being a product guy who have built similar online marketplace before, I slowly starting to feel that maybe I could make a new and better product. Then there came my two week vacation in Malaysia which was an absolute blast. Soon, the question goes from IF to HOW we can build a better product that can be turned into a real business.
Start with a new rental platform
There were many things on KH’s wish list but we knew we must start with one product that has the highest probability of helping us gain market traction. After checking out number of competitions, we decided to go with a new rental marketplace which I already have similar experience building.
Website vs. APP
Our decision to build a website instead of an APP for our marketplace was mainly based on:
1. Website is better suited for less frequent usage of renting a room. I wouldn’t want to download and keep updating an APP that I will only use for few days in order to find a room.
2. We don’t have, and shouldn’t spend the technical resources to develop both iOS and Android version of the APP.
3. Our main traffic source will come from Google search and a website with plenty of content is much better in terms of SEO.
Modern Web Technology
What our major competitor lacks is the use of modern web technology. Now days, website isn’t only viewed on PCs. More and more people are using mobile phones to visit their favorite websites, and responsive web design is a must if you want to offer good user experience for both PC and mobile visitors. Other modern web technologies such push notification and instant chat can bring user interaction to a whole new level.
Newer technology is almost never enough to build a better product. You must really wear the shoes of your customers in order to understand what they truly need. KH can certainly offer tons of opinions from landlord’s perspective. We also talked to many tenants searching for rooms and asking them about the things that they cared about most:
* What are the top 3 things you care most when searching for a room
* How do you navigate a website in order to find the rooms of your interests
* What kind of information you wish landlords can provide to help you make a decision
* We believe you must truly understand your customers in order to craft a better product.
We know one of the big problem young people have when signing a rental agreement is coming up with 3 month of rent in order to cover security and utility deposits. What if we can offer rentals that requires zero deposit? And what if we can save the hassle of collecting the rent every month for the landlords. We believe we have an innovative solution to this problem that can make the rental process much smoother.
Saas solution for real estate investors
A new rental platform only solves half the problem for people like KH. There are still plenty of managerial work required to keep the rental business running and tenants happy. A Saas solution for the landlord can help them:
Better manage their rental properties
Keeping track of multiple tenants and lease terms
Easily generate and sign standardized E-rental agreement with new tenants
Order weekly cleaning services
Even a virtual concierge service to save time and efforts
The possibilities are limitless.
As I’m writing this post in our Shanghai office, and our tech team is busy developing our first MVP. My hope is that 6 month down the road. I’m in KL, running a real business helping thousands of people finding a perfect place to live. Fingers crossed. 🙂