Interviewer: Do you want to tell people a little bit more about what RentPrep is? I know we’ve talked about it before. Do you jump into a project that does not seem to cater to your original market? You and I have both talked about the fact that we’ve found a market connection here through landlords of all things. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you serve and what you do so that people out there listening can say,
“Oh my God. My sister’s cousin’s nephew is that.”
Stephen: We definitely serve the landlord community. Our RentPrep product is a brand that’s specific to the landlords. We have a background check company. It’s called Fidelis screening. We work with municipalities, housing authorities, large property management companies, utility companies doing employment screenings, background checks, drug testing, things like that. Our favorite brand is the RentPrep brand. That’s our landlord product.
I think the reason that I love it so much is that landlords are really entrepreneurs at heart. I have such a connection with them in talking with them and feeling that genuine satisfaction of being able to help them. It’s an instant gratification. They’ll call in and we’ll talk phone calls. They’ll say, “I’m having these problems,” or “I’m having this problem with a tenant,” or “I’m really concerned about my investment.”
We’re literally able to give them a solution right then and there or be able to avoid a potential disaster for them. For us, it’s great to be able to have that instant gratification of being able to help someone and serve someone.
Again, as an entrepreneur, any time you can step outside of serving yourself, you begin to add value to your market and look at it like that. I think that’s when you become successful. When you have something that’s really truly of value. For us, the RentPrep project is the opportunity for us to serve our landlord community. The landlords who are out there, we call them onesies or twosies, who may own a double or rent their upstairs. Maybe they’re just getting started as a real estate investor. They have a couple properties. They want to make sure that they’re renting to the right people. They’re not lending to somebody who’s got a long history of eviction or getting thrown out, or noise complaints. We’ve all had those kind of neighbors that we wish we didn’t have to live next to.
Interviewer: Oh my God. Tell me about it.
Stephen: That’s our job. We have to find those people. We really take it personal. We really try and deliver the best possible solution out there. We do it differently that any other company that I know of. We use the technology to our advantage, but take the anti-technology approach. We’re not just a database blindly giving away information that may be wrong or inaccurate, or not be the whole story. We add human intelligence behind our data. There’s not a lot of companies doing that right now. We were able to kind of merge and blend the idea of using this great technology that’s at our fingertips now and information that’s out there, but also using certified screeners who know the business, know the laws and can protect landlords from making bad decisions.
Interviewer: I love this trend that I’m seeing. Rent prep included that is the revenge against the automaton and the canned, digital customer service. I had this really interesting talk the other day. I’m taking an Amtrek train to St. Louis tomorrow to see my parents. I needed to make separate reservations for my boyfriend and I, because we’re travelling on different days. I couldn’t figure out how to do that online. I called and this automated voice comes on and it’s like, “Hi. I’m Julie. If you want to make a reservation, press 1,” and I’m just going, “Agent. Agent! AGENT!”
Until finally, I talked to this woman.
She was perfectly lovely. I got her whole life story. I feel like I made a new friend. I got a better rate than I would have going through the automated system. I really felt like my needs were met. It’s this return to good customer service and the human brain. In Chicago, we have a dating start up that does that exact same thing called Project Fix Up. It was founded by a friend of mine, Sarah Press. Project Fix Up is all of the bells and whistles of online dating, but it’s match making made by a human. Which I think is so interesting. It’s like the offline and the online. RentPrep will say, “Hey, this person has three evictions,” but also, “Hey. How can I help you. What do you need as a landlord? What do you need about this tenant?” because then it’s not mindless, faceless apocalyptic machines.
Stephen: Right. Probably the best example that I can give is one of the services that we provide is verification’s. There’s not a database in the world that can sniff out when somebody gives you their friend’s phone number instead of their landlord. We’ve found our niche very quickly in realizing that we can do that well. When somebody gives us a phone number that doesn’t match the landlord’s name in the database, or when you have that conversation with the “landlord” and you realize they can’t answer any questions. They can’t tell us how much the rent is, how long they’ve been there. We’re very candid with the notes that we include in the report and say this call sounded fishy. It sounded very scripted. We give the landlords our voice and our opinion just as it happened on the phone call. Again, that’s something that a database, that technology just cannot do.
Interviewer: Side business for you, do that for job screening.
Stephen: We do. We do. We do employment screening. Again, it’s another thing that we do.
Interviewer: I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of people that are like, “I wanted to say that I worked for Google, so I put my friend’s phone number in and said if anybody calls, I work for Google.”
Then you’re going to get there and they’re going to ask you about Google cooperate culture and you’re going to be screwed you liar. Whatever. I knew a guy who would call himself and refer himself. I’m like, “Huh, how do you do that?” Everybody out there, technology is catching up with you, you liars.
Stephen: Yep. For sure.
Interviewer: Be honest. Actually have it be your landlord. If you were a crappy tenant, stop being a crappy tenant.
Stephen: Yeah. Just pay your rent. Everything will be fine.
Interviewer: Pay your rent, and I know we have a lot of guests that we have to go, but yes. Be a good tenant. I am actually at my boyfriend’s house right now, because it is silent. Jenny will attest that last time during junk it, my upstairs neighbor at about 2:00 in the afternoon decided it was a really good time to get loudly romantic. The junk it all got to share in that experience, world wide, live. Right here on Google Plus. Be a good tenant. Thank you so much for being here today and being part of this beautiful project. You provide such an amazing amount of value. I can’t wait to see how RentPrep and the landlord community and Hungries can continue to collaborate in the future.
Stephen: I look forward to it and I appreciate your time. Thank you guys.