We’ve signed our first paid customer!

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Following a successful 7 store pilot (in May), we are now delighted to commence rolling out to all 200 retail stores at Stockland’s Wetherill Park shopping centre. Our contract with Wetherill Park is initially for a 6-week trial period. 

This opportunity is very exciting for Rental Heroes as it’s the first time that we deploy our AI-driven chatbot at scale. We’ve completed loads of user and product testing and we are confident that we will impress the Stockland team!

Key milestones to get to this point:

  • Collaborated extensively with the Stockland team to design a simple and intuitive way to for stores to log and resolve facility and maintenance requests via our chatbot.

  • Successfully completed a 7-store pilot:

    • Automated 91% of interactions.

    • Achieved a 75% “excellent rating” from store tenant users.

    • Really positive feedback from Stockland’s Facility Management team.

  • Continuously optimised our Smart Assistant product throughout the 7-store pilot.

  • Signed our first contract! Legal reviews, risk reviews, insurance, etc.

A big thank you to the very innovative Stockland Wetherill Park team for all your support.

Rental Heroes is open for business!

We are looking for introductions (for a product demo) to either National Asset Management functions or Digital teams within property management and real-estate groups.

Rental Heroes recap

Time has flown by…

It all started when Ben and Dom worked together in the telecommunications sector. They are passionate about using technology to help humans connect better. As landlords and tenants, they saw an opportunity - which led to Rental Heroes!

Tenants and landlords cite communication issues as their number one frustration with their property or facility manager. This challenge exists across both residential and commercial property management.

What may surprise you is that when a tenant submits a maintenance request, there are on average 16 manual interactions involved to get the job done. Our solution automates 91% of the interactions related to maintenance requests saving Property Managers on average 14 hours per week manually liaising between parties.

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Rental Heroes is an AI driven chatbot that automates communication processes. Users can interact via their channel of choice (including Messenger, SMS, voice) removing the need to download an app.

Tenants enjoy a simple natural language interface for logging jobs – taking on average only 90 seconds. They are kept informed via notifications, in their preferred channel, as resolution progresses. Property Managers receive fewer requests due to tenants being provided with self-help options.

Our solution also helps reduce tenant churn and provides real-time analytics to support asset owners with capital optimisation.

We’re building Rental Heroes as part of the current cohort of the Stockland BlueChilli Accelerator.

4-month reflections…

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So much has happened in 4 short months. Both Ben and Dom have left their corporate leadership roles and are focussed on growing Rental Heroes. In 4 months, we’ve:

  • Researched and validated our product-market fit (and pivoted many times!)

  • Built and iterated our MVP

  • Successfully completed our first pilot in a Stockland Shopping Centre

  • Engaged with over 100 advisors, investors and potential customers across the property sector

And we are optimistic that we will sign our first paid customer this month!

After years in corporate leadership roles, both of us thought we were well-seasoned and ready for the ups and downs that go with a hectic and ambitious project schedule. But nothing prepares you for how real it all feels when it is all comes down to you - your business, your leap of faith.

Thankfully, we are part of a fabulous cohort of fellow tech startup founders and have been able to share the journey together.  You can read about the other fabulous tech startups in our Stockland BlueChilli Accelerator cohort here.

Our first pilot customer

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Is a retail shopping centre!

It turns out that the facility and maintenance issues that store tenants lodge in shopping centres can be as much of a communication bottleneck as in the residential sector.

Rental Heroes partnered with Stockland’s Wetherill Park shopping centre in Sydney to pilot our new Facility and Maintenance chatbot to a small number of stores.

We had a lot of fun working with the Stockland team to design a simple and intuitive way for stores to log and resolve facility and maintenance requests. There were nice challenges to solve for:

  • Triaging requests into tenant vs lessor “responsibility”,

  • Efficiently on-boarding store staff in new engagement approach,

  • Providing helpful self-serve tips to tenants - without “owning the issue” when it’s a tenant responsibility, and

  • Optimising communications. 

We are pleased to report that stores were actively engaging in this new way of communicating and over 90% of stores rate their experience as “excellent”.

What was our biggest learning?

Chatbots are clearly no longer just the domain of millennials! We found that demographics of all ages were just as willing to engage via the chatbot channel compared to their younger counterparts.

Facilities Management staff reported productivity benefits and also liked how simple it was to keep stores informed on job status.

We are now going to extend the pilot at Wetherill park and trial some new features and channels. Oh, importantly our natural language AI engine is already growing :)

Customer Immersion Days

Walking in their shoes

We think that living and breathing the day-to-day routine of our future customers is key to designing relevant products that humans love to use. We’d like to thank Stockland Wetherill Park (Retail) and McDonald Upton Moonee Ponds (Residential) for showing us your world.

During April we got a taste for what life as a Property Manager and Facility Manager is like. In both Retail and Residential, we came across dedicated hardworking professionals who are achieving great outcomes for their tenants and landlords.

It’s a tough job; your time to shine is when things go wrong. You’re often handling emotional customers, coordinating between multiple stakeholders and working with imperfect information. 

We had the opportunity to view many systems, tools and processes that Property and Facility Managers use on a day-to-day basis. In terms of systems and processes, we found:

  • Paper forms and folders

  • Excel being used to capture jobs and data

  • Multiple disconnected legacy “on-prem” systems

  • No end-to-end tracking of workflows

  • Very little formal customer feedback

  • No formal “continuous improvement” tracking

Property Managers know there is a better way of working

Everyone we spoke to had innovative ideas to improve their ways of working; migration to the Cloud, app-based notification systems, reports to track workflows and prioritisation tools. We think that a key challenge is that everyone is so busy in “the business of today”, there is little time remaining to work on innovation.

Our key learning is that our solutions need to seamlessly integrate and be intuitive to use. Property Managers don’t need, or want, another clunky system.

Defining our Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

As start-up founders, we are perhaps naturally wired to ‘think big’.  We’ve had numerous ideation sessions where we’ve imagined the possibilities of how big data and AI will transform the Property Management sector. Narrowing down our product roadmap to a small first step has been our hardest challenge. 

Through our customer research we have identified many problems worth solving. But the opportunity we are starting with is maintenance requests. Our aim is to streamline communications, seamlessly in the background, so that:

  • Tenants know their issue is being dealt with and how long it’s going to take

  • Property managers have more time to focus on building relationships and business

  • Trades can quote a job and do a job in the one go

  • Landlords can see that their property manager is giving them the best deal

Over the next few weeks we will be completing a couple of “concierge pilots” with Stockland and a residential real estate branch.  We want to test if we really can make a difference.

We’re by no-means the only business trying to get maintenance jobs done seamlessly. It’s early days, but we’ll be testing a fresh new way of solving an age-old problem. 

We’ll let you know how it all goes next month!

Getting to know our industry…

This has been our #1 priority as co-founders who are trying to simplify and add value to the property industry. The Stockland BlueChilli Accelerator program has helped with introductions to commercial real estate experts, developers, investors and advisors. 

We have been overwhelmed at the goodwill of so many folk who have spent time with us – sharing their pain-points and experiences, providing feedback on our ideas and providing relevant introductions. There is a genuine excitement within the industry to innovate and improve.

Our first couple of months have been focused on understanding our customer segments.  For us, this represents Property Managers, Landlords, Tenants and Trades.

As a tenant and a landlord, over the years, I have at times experienced frustration with my property managers. Many of my friends have also told us about their horror stories – broken dishwashers, smelly drains – and property managers who seem disinterested at best.

But our biggest surprise has been how hard property managers work

Most property managers manage between 150-180 properties. And most landlords expect a response time within three hours. It’s impossible for property managers to make everyone happy.

When questioned on what matters most – all property managers had the same answer – they want more time to build trusted relationships with their landlords and tenants.

We would like to thank everyone for their time and continued support. Our customer research will never end – so we would be most grateful for any further introductions that you can think of.