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Revolutionising Renting with Demetrios Barnes and Tyler Christiansen

26.11.20

In this episode The Propcast speaks to Demetrios Barnes from SmartRent, and Tyler Christiansen from Funnel about how technology is revolutionising renting.

Click here to listen to Episode 7

The Propcast by Louisa Dickins, Co-Founder of LMREthe leading Global PropTech recruiter brought to you in partnership with UK PropTech Association, The UK PropTech Association is a membership organisation to drive the digital transformation of the property industry. This show will focus on connecting the Proptechs, real estate funds and VC’s globally…and get everyone talking about innovation of the build to rent environment.

About Our Host

Louisa Dickins

https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisa-dickins-ab065392/?originalSubdomain=uk

Louisa started her career in property working at a well-known estate agency in London. Realising her people skills, she moved over to Lloyd May to pursue a career in recruitment. She now is a Director at LMRE, who are a specialist recruitment firm driven by PropTech and recruitment professionals, and Louisa oversees their 5 core areas. Louisa co-founded LMRE and provides a constructive recruitment platform to the new disruptors in real estate. Louisa is also on the board of Directors at UK PropTech Association (UKPA).

About LMRE

LMRE believe there is a better way to recruit. LMRE focus on a more comprehensive, client led focus delivering exceptional talent to the right place at the right time. They are passionate about the industry and passionate about people’s careers. LMRE spend time with each client to become and an extension of the business, and their transparency and core values help them grow with the sector. LMRE simplify recruitment and innovate with our clients and evolve the people driven, PropTech community.

About Our Guests

Demetrios Barnes

https://www.linkedin.com/in/demetriosbarnes/

Demetrios is the co-founder and chief operating officer of SmartRent, where he leads his support Field Operations and Account Services teams. Prior to co-founding SmartRent, he was vice president of technology for Colony Starwood homes. Previously, Demetrios is director of property management and technology with visa pre owned rental homes, and a regional manager for several multifamily companies. Demetrios holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Arizona State University. SmartRent empowers property owners, operators and home builders to effectively manage, protect and automate daily on-site operational processes for IoT devices and from one enterprise level platform.

Tyler Christiansen

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ Funnel/

Tyler is Funnels newest CEO driving the company towards continued growth leads to revenue organization, including sales, marketing and client experience. He brings over a decade of multifamily experience to Funnel including six years of multi multifamily software sales. Prior to joining Funnel, Tyler was at Entrata, where he was responsible for running the national sales organisation. Tyler has a proven track record of success both out and try to and most and his past position as director of multifamily sales at the Rainmaker Group, a revenue management and profit optimization software company. Funnel is the industry leading marketing and leasing platform for multifamily owners and managers.

Resources mentioned

LMRE website www.lmre.co.uk

UKPA website www.ukpa.com

Funnel www.funnelleasing.com

SmartRent www.smartrent.com

Insights from this Episode

– You’ve got to make sure you integrate so tightly to that property management software. And I think continuously growing and evolving that will always just open the door as we bring in more hardware into our scope – Demetrios Barnes

– As we’ve seen other verticals, beginning to focus on the consumer, the customer, and realising that that focus will lead to better returns – Tyler Christiansen

– When I think of any consumer today and any vertical for any type of product, what really what sticks out to me is being able to move quickly, being able to have options, and be able to able to move on your own time – Demetrios Barnes

– I think allowing the shift to focus more towards the customer, that renter experience, and then bringing in the smart hardware into the properties has opened up just a world of possibilities – Tyler Christiansen

– We’re now leveraging that technology to provide such a seamless touch free experience, just around that community or that neighborhood – Demetrios Barnes

Episode transcript

Louisa

Hi everyone. And welcome to the Propcast, my name is Louisa Dickens, co-founder of LMRE and board director of the UKPA, and I shall be your weekly host. Each week for 30 minutes, we will be connecting the VC, PropTech startups and real estate professionals globally, and assist in bridging that famous communication gap we all love talking about. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the Propcast, today we will be talking about how technology is revolutionising leasing, and we are joined by Demetrios Barnes, COO of SmartRent and Tyler Christiansen, CEO of Funnel so welcome to the show, guys.

Demetrios

Thanks for having us here Lu.

Tyler

Yes, it’s a pleasure. Thank you so much.

Louisa

Now before we start with the podcast, let’s give a quick introduction to both of our wonderful guests. So Demetrios is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of SmartRent, where he leads his support Field Operations and Account Services teams. Prior to co-founding SmartRent, he was vice president of technology for Colony Starwood homes. Previously, Demetrios is director of property management and technology with Beazer pre owned rental homes, and a regional manager for several multifamily companies. Demetrios holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Arizona State University. Now, SmartRent empowers property owners, operators and home builders to effectively manage, protect and automate daily on-site operational processes for IoT devices and from one enterprise level platform. Their rapid expansion is a result of their deeply rooted passion for home automation, and dedication to bringing the very best smart home technology solutions to our customers communities. Thank you for joining us today.

Now for Tyler’s introduction. Tyler sits as Funnel’s newest CEO driving the company towards continued growth. Tyler leads revenue organisation, including sales, marketing and client experience. He brings over a decade of multifamily experience to Funnel including six years of multifamily software sales. Prior to joining Funnel, Tyler was at Entrata, where he was responsible for running the national sales organisation. Tyler has a proven track record of success, both at Entrata and his past position as director of multifamily sales at the Rainmaker Group, a revenue management and profit optimisation software company. For those who are listening who are based out of the States that might not have heard of Funnel just yet, Funnel is the industry leading marketing and leasing platform for multifamily owners and managers. Funnel is on a mission to fix the rental experience, they’ve built an award-winning CRM that eliminates repetitive tasks, and online leasing tools that streamline the apartment leasing process, enabling multifamily professionals to generate more profits, efficiency, and insight across their portfolios. So in short, Funnell is just building a better leasing experience for everyone. And now time to start this show. And let’s start because you better come from the multifamily space, I would love to hear and so with the audience, how is that space changed since you’ve both entered the market? Demetrios why don’t you go ahead.

Demetrios

Lu, thanks again, I’m going to I’m going to pick on Tyler a little bit. Over the years, we’ve known each other and have crossed paths many times and so when I think back into my entrance into property management, I was a kid just trying to get to college. So I was a leasing agent, and back then I had to make sure that I chose the right color ink to write guest cards and at the end of the day, I would file my guest cards and all of these different things. And you kind of fast forward to today, and I’m blown past smart and I want to go straight to what Tyler’s doing. I mean, really, just that whole process is digitized, it’s automatic now. So when you think of just the raw technological innovations we’ve seen in this space, it’s night and day. And I’d also add, typically the property management space kind of lags behind some of those other markets, and so when we think about where we’re at today, I almost want to go back 15 years and start this all over again!

Louisa

And Tyler what have you got to add to that? What’s your whole experience been since you first since he first entered this space?

Tyler

Yes, well, I’ll keep the bromance going. Likewise I’ve been in the space for about 10 years, I actually started more on the asset management acquisition side, it was interesting, that really has driven technology in the space, which I think is candidly backwards. But we started from the asset, the ledger, and really thinking about just the NOI, which obviously makes sense, this industry is about making money. But that really over the last 10 years, we’ve incrementally been chipping away at that old school mentality. And as we’ve seen other verticals, beginning to focus on the consumer, the customer, and realising that that focus will lead to better returns.

And I think the biggest change for kind of a technology perspective is software has been in multifamily 20/30 years, but on the residential technology the embrace of hardware, the embrace of smart properties that Demetrios and team started on the single family side by necessity, that really to me has been the engine not only clearly for what’s happening now in the COVID and leasing environment, but really facilitating more opportunity for us on the software side to innovate. Because when we have connected community, we have access with smart locks, that really opens up a whole new world. So to answer your question, to think about what’s changed in the market, I think allowing the shift to focus more towards the customer, that renter experience, and then bringing in the smart hardware into the properties has opened up really just a world of possibilities. And thinking back to when I started, when really all they cared about was the value of the land. It’s been a big shift.

Louisa

And I guess before we go into the technology side of it, I’d love to hear a bit more about both your products, you mentioned the customer, what does the customer now look for? Okay, we can talk about pre and post COVID, but what are the tenants expecting now, what do they want? Demetrios do you want to go ahead first?

Demetrios

Yes, I’d love to. Just to keep the energy going, when I think of not only just a renter, but any consumer today and any vertical for any type of product, really what sticks out to me is being able to move quickly, being able to have options, and be able to able to move on your own time. And I think for the multifamily and the various property management verticals, COVID has helped push some folks to adopt more technology to allow those things to happen.

But I’ll leave real estate for just a second, and you’re seeing car dealerships completely move into an online only scenario, you’re seeing food delivery happening more than not, so again I think the same can be said for real estate in general, in the sense as we were talking in kind of the pre-show Lu, I work 10/12 hours a day, and if I want the ability to go look at a new home or go check out a new apartment, I want to be able to do that on my own time. And for me, that time may only be six or seven o’clock in the morning, or six or seven o’clock at night. And so when you think about that, and having the ability to do that, I really think that that’s what those renters are asking for. And then I’ll take that to the next step. From the experience perspective, I think a lot of folks are because they have these or want these options, a lot of folks also don’t want to be peppered with 10 or 15 apps or other services they’ve got to figure out how to sign up with. So if you can bring a prospect into one of your assets, and that entire process is seamless into the move in, where they’ve got a welcoming experience versus more sign up things to do, I really believe that really helps and changes the game for all of us when compared to a few years ago.

Louisa

Definitely for sure, and just making it a lot easier for the customer. Tyler what have you seen change in what the customer looks for?

Tyler

To allude to the introduction you gave earlier and for some of your listeners that may not spend their every waking hour as Demetrios and I do in the very specific vertical of US multifamily and residential technology, pre COVID the world of touring was a hot topic, but I would compare it to video meetings. All of us had done video meetings before March, but the change from Zoom being a part of your life to being one of the main things you do every single day was exponential, and I think similarly in our space, the ability to facilitate self-service leasing, and most importantly the one step that we really were holding back on was the ability to tour an apartment unit or a home. And again, if SmartRent on the single family, I really was a pioneer, I have actually lived at a Beazer community where Demetrios worked. I live in a single family rental home today, and that space by necessity, again was already allowing the prospective tenant to go in and tour the unit on their own at their own time.

But the multifamily space treated their units almost hotel units, you don’t get access unless you come to the front desk. And now, by necessity again, we are seeing that complete shift towards making sure the units are retrofitted with the proper hardware, and then obviously, where Funnel is focused on facilitating as Demetrios described, a seamless experience to facilitate self-guided tours, self-service leasing, to make that parallel with other non-prop tech verticals, Zoom obviously was the obvious winner. I’d say technology like SmartRent is the obvious winner in a world where we’re trying to eliminate the physical touch points. But behind the scenes, if you think about companies like Twilio, your average consumer probably doesn’t know what Twilio is, but if you look at their stock, they’ve been just as hot if not better than Zoom over the last eight months. Similarly, I think that the technology needed to facilitate with the renters looking for, has really been where the industry has been focused. Funnel we did a press release last week, we’ve added 250,000 new units that have signed up for the platform since March. And so to your point, Funnel is not necessarily going to be a consumer tool that the renter is aware of, but facilitating that new consumer expectation where they’re looking as Demetrios said for self-service is definitely what’s afoot.

Louisa

And for the audience, tell us a little bit more about how your products have developed, I’m sure they developed a hell of a lot in the last eight months and congrats on all those new signups as well Tyler’s that’s impressive. Demetrios talk us through SmartRent’s product, and how it’s changed into the more recent times.

Demetrios

Yes, absolutely and Tyler thanks for that call out of yours. And so when I think about SmartRent, we were small company founded about three years ago, but the idea came to us back in 2011, myself and the other co-founders, we were operators, single family homes, and we come from the multifamily space, which the big difference between the two is geography. And so we know we needed to leverage things like smart locks, smart thermostats, various other sensors, whether that’s motion or contact, leak, you name it, in order to manage those homes. So in 2017 after helping make the company work for a ton of money, which we didn’t see, we said, Okay, we’ve got to solve this problem and take what we’ve learned to the industry. And so from 2017 to 2019, it was really just focusing on that core experience and getting our product out in the hands. And so over those two years, you we did about 80,000 units, and then COVID happened. And we all kind of took a break forcefully, unfortunately during that, that’s when we had this opportunity to really go back to our product offerings and say, how do we enhance? And during that process, we actually reached out to by some of the United States largest homebuilders and saying, Hey, we saw what you guys did for the multifamily space, the single family rented space, help us as builders, you’ll get these houses in the hands of new homebuyers.

And so over the last year, effectively, we have entered more verticals. So again, that homebuilders space offering a full-blown package. So when you now go buy a home, you’re buying a smart home, again very similar to that renter experience, now as a homebuyer and consumer, again you’ve got that full blown experience as you move into that house on moving day. So that was a big win for us, focusing on not the home or the unit anymore, we really said we’re tired of talking about smart homes or smart apartments, really want to talk about smart communities. And in order to do that you’re now leaving the asset and you’re now focusing on whether it’s common area space, administrative spaces, parking lots, gate access, elevators, all of that. And so when I think about the last few months of us really focusing on that side of things, we’ve made tons of new partnerships, creating just more seamless experiences and I go back to my love for Tyler, if you’re a prospect going through this experience now is as smart as a hardware partner we are seeing was going to be able to help Funnel facilitate that experience that they’re delivering, by leveraging those various touch points that we have around that community. And I want you to paint a picture for you Lu and listeners. Imagine yourself saying, Hey, I’m going to drive into this community, and your phone is your past to get you into that gate, your phone shows you a map on where to park, that map then walks you around the community or around the neighborhood to get you to your location. This entire experience is all being facilitated, whether it’s through us or a partner like Funnel, and we’re now leveraging that technology to provide such a seamless touch free experience, just around that community, or that neighborhood.

Louisa

I’m not going to lie, I love the sound of this. And I love how many partnerships you obviously have to make it all on one platform. Now, Tyler, we’ll hear about Funnel in a second, but going into your point about partnerships, what partnerships are you looking for in the future? And what are some examples of the partnerships you have now like Funnel?

Demetrios

Yes, first and foremost, I’ve got to do a big call out to Funnel. Funnel has been absolutely crushing the game, as Tyler said in in less than a year to see this team spiking an additional 300,000 units, as Tyler talks about providing that experience for the prospect, and ultimately the consumer, I would say that I believe that when you are providing experience for that manager, that renter and that prospect and it all comes together oh so well, your consumer experience just happens to be that much better. And so let’s take that a step further to your question, Lu. So outside of the wonderful team at Funnel, various other CRM platforms but I don’t want to talk about software, I want to talk about hardware. Hardware is something that you’re watching across the globe, players like Amazon, Google, whether it’s Salto, TLJ, Honeywell, folks across the globe, are all getting into or have been in the Internet of Things space. And so for us and I can’t say I’ve trademarked this yet, but I know when I run around the office, which is predominantly virtual now, I’m screaming from the top of my lungs, I want to transition from, here’s the one or two ways you do something, and I kind of want to be the Pizza Hut or the Subway to say, you just walked into a really awesome smart community, I’m going to help you facilitate the 45 different ways that we can do this, all while staying very crafted in that seamless experience.

And I think that all goes back to your property management software, when you start this journey, you probably don’t start with a purchasing Funnel or purchasing SmartRent. I mean, we hope you do, but you probably don’t, you’re probably buying as Tyler mentioned early, a ledger so you can manage these transactions. And so when you when you keep thinking about those integrations, those partnerships, I think it always just comes back to outside of bringing this all together, you’ve got to make sure you just integrate so tightly to that property management software. And I think just continuously growing and evolving that will always just open the door as we bring in more hardware into our scope.

Louisa

Thank you for that Demetrios. Tyler, I think you have a big thank you to Demetrios for that massive shout out to Funnel. Tyler tell us a little bit more about your product, what changed with it, especially since you joined Funnel as the CEO?

Tyler

Thank you and yes I’’ve just Venmo-ed you 20 bucks, Demetrios thank you! But yes, Funnel actually, as you said is a newer brand, but the company itself has been around since way back in 2011. It was known as nestea at the time, and the Genesis and SEO was it was born in New York City and originally was a b2c product. The concept that Karen our founder and Miko tool her co-founder really built was they were trying to build a better renter experience bringing almost a Pinterest to apartment shopping. And what they realized, in particular, New York, which is very low tech and high touch right, you’ve got additional stakeholders in the rental experience. You’ve got brokers and management companies and owners. Either facilitators, Demetrios just explained, bringing all the parties together, right and so that’s what were originally meant to plan to be a B2C company, they shifted towards the B2B. And the problem that they were really solving was making sure that apartment availability was correct, right. So really using the our new name starting at the top of that Funnel, and what that provided for us is as Demetrios just talked about, our industry has always historically been focused on the pm software my background and in trata, that is kind of the stickiest piece of the technology stack.

In the New York market, however, it kind of works in a different way, the top of the Funnel, your listings, management just keeping track of what units are available to rent is kind of the most important thing, and is almost handled separately. And so Funnel developed a very robust manage listings management platform that allow them to integrate with the Yardi’s and trotters real pages of the world. And then also integrate with all the different listing sites where a renter would go to find an apartment, and spent a lot of time in that space of the market, really perfecting the distribution or the syndication of available apartment units. So I joined the company in 2018. And really, the goal on the opportunity was to take advantage of the changing landscape that we were seeing again, I referenced earlier zoom, if you think about the biggest IPOs of 2019, you’ve got zoom, you’ve got Slack, that really are tools. And I’ve got , both of them pulled up constantly like computer, they’re both tools that Gmail hat, right. So why were these novel are so special, and it was the desire for best in class technology that could offer above and beyond what a single stack could offer. And so that same that same trend was happening in the rental tech space. And so that was an opportunity for Funnel and other CRM providers to meet your reference to really start to craft a better leasing experience.

But to your question to what really, so I joined in 2018, we launched the CRM, we were seeing, we were seeing growth, but the exponential growth that I referenced earlier, that really has been expedited with COVID is because of that changing consumer expectation. , we have a question later on about digitization. And, of course COVID, being the great accelerators, everyone says people accelerate on the past they were already on. And one big change for us that has happened we are launching two new products quicker than we expected to. And those are number one finishing the entire leasing journey. So as to meet your said earlier it’s one thing to go through that apartment have a seamless experience. But at the end of the day, it only matters if they sign the lease, right, we get paid for leases. And so Funnel is reinventing that leasing process that we can talk about a different time with some really great FinTech. And then the other piece that we I wasn’t planning to build. But ultimately again, as Demetrios referenced, there’s so many different stakeholders in the leasing experience.

Today, you have the community manager, you have the renter themselves, in many cases, you have a centralized call center. And then we’ve been adding in obviously, artificial intelligence, which is great right there. And there’s a lot of great companies in the space that are pushing automated chatbots and virtual leasing agents, the challenge that our partners were having is that these virtual tools these chat bots, when they lived outside of the CRM, in particular in March, when somebody says, Hey do I have to wear a mask to my tour? What are your COVID policies, right, that completely broke the bot. And the problem was, there wasn’t a handoff to a live person. And so we have developed our own virtual leasing agent. And I like to liken it to Tesla in the sense that test the car can drive itself, but you still have to have your hand on the steering wheel. And so while we’re using chatbots, and AI to automate communication, again, to meet the consumer where they are, which is self-leasing, we want to be able to facilitate answers at midnight, or whenever they’re inquiring. But you’ve got to have the human touch though. So that’s really what’s changed for us is that we’re finishing out our full Funnel, we’re adding in that machine learning element to make sure that we’re not completely reliant on the community manager, the centralized leasing person, but that third leasing agent now is a digital one that is much more responsive.

Louisa

Yes, it gets that extra bit of personal interaction, which a lot of maybe tech folks or people aren’t quite ready for the full digitalization of Razzie tag might need and seek comfort. And speaking of the changing landscape, you mentioned, digitalisation, you’ve both been in the industry for a while pushing digitalisation of the industry. And what have you seen a change and barriers or obstacles is obviously there’s been more uptake, your both your businesses are doing very well. What are the main obstacles you think we have ahead of us? And my next question would be for the audience or for any PropTech sales people or people in the industry, what advice can you give to them? Demetrios go ahead.

Demetrios

Yes, thanks, Lu great question. It’s something that we were actually discussing yesterday, as we enter the next few years is the shift. I said earlier, I think we’ve all said earlier the pandemic is kind of forced a lot of owners, managers, operators, investors to really think about the infusion of technology into their assets. And when I think about that, I think the real big challenge starts to become how ingrained are the various leaders of those various groups I mentioned, really thinking about how this technology is going to change their business. And what I mean by that is to say, when we first started the podcast, I made a comment of, I used to write guest cards, and I had to use blue ink if I started the day using blue ink, right? And someone said, at some point, hey, use a CRM, you don’t have to do that anymore. Fantastic. But no one really said, Hey Demetrios, there’s a CRM that’s going to automate this so now you’re going to stop doing that, and you’re going to change what you do all day. And I think that that’s to be true today, in the sense of I’ve got folks coming to us and saying, Hey SmartRent, we want to roll out all hundred thousand units, we want to go live in three to six months. Okay, fantastic, that sounds great. However, your entire business processes and operations are going to change dramatically. And where what I see happening is, a lot of companies are finding maybe that tech person, or that tech project manager, and they’re saying, hey you person, you go solve this problem for us? Well, what starts to happen is, is that person isn’t your C suite. So that person now has their own challenges of all of the things that are coming with this tech on how to infuse that into their business operations. And so what we see for the companies that are extremely successful, deploying this hardware in this technology are the companies who take a deep breath, come together, and strategically focus on what are their long-term goals.

And again, I’ll give you a very precise example of this. When we had home builders come to us today, please help us. The idea of us rolling out smart locks, was on one side of that table and once we started installing the construction guys came to us and said, Well, how do I get keys to the random vendor that may come at any given time. Now, luckily, that’s what we specialise in so it wasn’t a big deal. But if maybe that construction lead had been in those meetings months ago, there wouldn’t have been a fire drill at the time of deployment. And so again, I just come back to saying, we’re here, everyone’s ingesting this technology, but I challenge any leader in this space again, just to take a deep breath in and leverage your partners to be more of a consultant to you versus just some plug and play model that things are things should be perfect day one. And I’ll kind of wrap with another example would be, I can’t tell you how many times someone wants me to sign a vendor agreement that they have their landscaper sign. I’m not a landscaper, I’m controlling your properties data, resident’s data so again, I think some of those just traditional business processes and thoughts have to start at the top. And those teams have to come together stronger, more pragmatic in the beginning, before diving deep into the world of tech.

Louisa

I would agree with that. What about Tyler? What’s your experience been of the industry and how forthcoming it’s been to digitalisation?

Tyler

I love the question, I think I’m going to take it exactly as you asked Demetrios, what are those roadblocks that we see toward innovation in that space, and then I love the second question, which was what would you recommend other sales companies that are looking to emulate the type of success that our businesses have been fortunate to have? And I think they’re one in the same the answer, because the big roadblock I see in this space is there’s actually a big conference going on this week, a big virtual conference in our residential technology space, and you already hear certain comments about things going back to normal, which I am extremely excited hopefully to take a vacation, go over to Europe and in the Spring and get out of the state. So I’m hoping there’s a normal when the vaccine comes. But I think unfortunately, a lot of business leaders are thinking that, oh well, the demand for this new experience will be lessened. And as Demetrios was just talking about, I don’t really have to be that disruptive to my business. Yeah, I’ve got this CTO we brought in but I’m okay with the status quo. I think that’s the roadblock, is the mentality of not embracing the truly disruptive, innovative opportunities in our space.

Luckily, I think that there has been a change where you’re seeing not just CTOs in our space, but you’re actually beginning to see people in the PropTech space with titles like Chief Experience Officer, Chief Customer Officer and that is where we intend to go to the second question of where are we finding success. We don’t spend our time working with those companies that are and we’re fortunate at our stage, we don’t have to address the entire market, we’re just looking for those innovative partners that share our vision. That are that are willing to say, we’re not going to go back to the way we were doing things previously. Especially, I think we need to talk about the hardware, the smart apartments, it requires capital, and it requires a lot of work, it takes a long time. We were able to in the space of about three weeks in April, implement over 100,000 units for two of our partners. That doesn’t happen on the hardware side, it takes a lot more work. And so it’s easy for people to back up from that. But going maybe this step deeper into the analogy with the hardware, what has changed and what I hope will stay in different mentality – If it doesn’t, it’s going to hurt the prop tech space in general, is we’ve always when I first heard about smart apartments, the whole sales pitch was simply about the NOI. How do I improve my net operating income by reducing leaks, etc. And while that is to me, that is an ancillary benefit, the core focus should be on again the customer experience, and that was never the conversation previous.

It’s beginning to be the conversation that while there is this ancillary financial benefit to me as an asset manager, that installing capital expense over time, it’ll pay itself off. That is not the right way to look at the equation, the right way is to say, what does the customer demand and if I can differentiate my product by having a better customer experience, I will win. I think we overcomplicate things sometimes in space. so that’s where I see both the challenge the opportunity, and for up and coming PropTech companies don’t try and address the entire market. The advice that Satya Nadella got when he became the CEO of Microsoft from Steve Ballmer was be bold and be right. And I think we’ve got a bold vision for the future of PropTech and multifamily in particular, and we need partners who think we’re right.

Louisa

I second that, it’s such a big space and is makes sense to tackle little bits of it as you can digest it. And then once you get that part of the product right, maybe look for partners or develop a product as and when. Now we’ve touched upon hardware and the customer journey briefly, I would love to hear from both of you, are there any major trends you see in across whether it’s different states or cities, if there’s been more of an uptake in your products, or what people look for Demetrios?

Demetrios

Yes, absolutely and I hate to solely use the pandemic again as that the motivating factor for a lot of folks, but simply put in the last year our installations are going up 70% month over month. I am proud, blessed and shocked all at the same time to see that July record installation month, August record insulation month, September record installation month, and it there’s no signs of stopping. This past week, we’ve had three large reads basically say, Hey, sign us up for another 50,000 units each next year, right. And so everyone’s moving in this direction and it’s not for as Tyler so eloquently put, just the NOI at this point, residents are demanding it, insurance companies are demanding it, no longer does the Formica countertop upgrade or the a fresh coat of egg shell paints solve the problem. And the beauty is for folks like us in the hardware, the IoT space, I look at Amazon and Google, they do they do most of the marketing for us. Every time you turn on a television you’ve got Alexa or somebody’s talking to a device on the TV.

So ultimately, the residents are just begging for it. But I think what’s been more exciting, and it just brings you back to that smart community concept, we’re just so ecstatic to see how many folks are now saying I’ve been trying to solve parking for the last five years, and all I’ve been able to do is amass a really large notebook of Excel spreadsheets of parking spaces, and I want to monetise this, differentiate my building, so when I look at again the smart community features parking, a general access control, that’s what I’m really excited about. And I keep just clamoring to see where we’re going to take this in the next year, as we get more and more sophisticated in those offerings.

Louisa

Awesome. Thank you for that, what about Tyler? Tell us a little bit more about what changes you’ve seen across different states and cities, or I’m sure we can draw comparisons from your time at Entrata and the development you’ve seen over the past few years, since your career move.

Tyler

Yes and I think this is a really interesting question Lu, that I think listeners may not be probably aware that there’s been a lot of migration, obviously in the States. But there’s another element to how that is going to directly impact the PropTech space that I’m very curious to see how it’ll play out. At this point, it’s very clear that the gateway cities, New York City, San Francisco, are struggling. And so Funnel much of our growth has been with the large REITs, publicly traded REITS across the country. And so they’re obviously very focused here on earnings transcripts on where are people moving to, and the clear winner right now and we’ll see the if the shifts back, but is the suburbs, even in the metropolitan areas Long Island’s doing way better than Manhattan in New York. Much more so it’s the Sunbelt, I mean, basically from where Demetrios is sitting in Phoenix to where I’m sitting in Tampa Florida, it is a good place to own property. And I think when you talk about hardware in the shift that’s happening there it will be interesting, because even the REITs themselves are talking about where they are going to deploy capital into those markets, both in terms of new development, retrofitting assets.

I am hopeful and I’m a big fan of New York City, Nestio was founded in that city, I lived there with my family last summer, I’m hopeful that we see a shift back where rents again begin to grow in those markets, because that the capital investments needed to advance the industry, the rental industry, and facilitate the type of environment that Demetrios was just describing of connected communities, and as a PropTech executive, it just gets me so excited to think about and we were just talking about parking. There’s so much we can do with parking there is so do with experience management, when you start to have a truly smart community. But I’m worried that because of the shifts that we’re seeing, if all that capital only goes to the Sunbelt markets, I think that will further exacerbate the migration out of these great gateway cities and put them further behind. So it’ll be interesting to see do those large market snapback in a way where capital flows back into them, and therefore they’re able to retain the type of people that my company with about 50 employees, the majority of those live in the New York City area, they live there because of the experience. So anyway, there definitely are different market trends that are happening across the country that thus far have favoured the Sunbelt, the suburbs, and I think as Demetrios said, are leading to great advancements in those communities, those markets in particular, for better communities.

Louisa

And talking about future opportunities and I know it’s very difficult to predict what’s going to happen, especially considering the 2020, but how can we make our communities more connected? For your businesses, what next for Funnel? What’s next for SmartRent in 2021, have you’ve got any fresh ideas or things coming up?

Tyler

I’m very excited to be here with Demetrios, he said he gets up to at 4am every morning, I guarantee he’s got a lot of good ideas if he wakes up that early. For us, I would say as I mentioned, we’ve got a lot on our plate in terms of what we’re implementing, products we’re bringing in the market with our online leasing and our AI. But looking ahead of that, where we get really excited, where the future opportunity exists, I talked earlier about those innovative partners that have the vision. And that vision without giving away too much of the secret sauce that we think that we’re cooking with, is bringing hospitality to multifamily the same way that single family rentals really drove a lot of the growth in the multifamily PropTech space.

I think that hospitality and not necessarily their technology, more so their business model. When you think about loyalty, you think about retention, in the world when I used to travel every single week, it didn’t matter where in the country where in the world I was going, I could find a property inside of the Marriott brand, which is my preferred brand and I would stay in it. Whether that’s a renaissance, a courtyard or whatever it was. That doesn’t exist in the apartment space today, but our innovative partners I’ll give a shout out to some of those like Cortland who are also smart brand customers, they’re thinking ahead of that customer experience and thinking, we’ve spent so much capital trying to acquire a renter the first time, and so little retaining them. And I think our partners are really pushing us in a direction as we complete our funnel, we complete that self-service leasing. How do we start that over again? How do we recycle that renter back into the experience in particular, because I think the trends we’re seeing, and I see this in my own life I moved eight times in the last eight years, and I’ve got a large family.

Louisa

Oh, that’s a lot.

Tyler

It is, right. But it’s mobility is certainly the norm now. And how do we capitalise on that in the rental tech space is a question that I think the most innovative, the largest and most innovative players in the space are looking at. So that’s a vague answer, but I’m excited to see where that takes us. And clearly, again, we have more hardware, smarter communities, there’s a lot we can do to develop a better long-term rental experience in relationship.

Louisa

Well I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next with Funnel in 2021. What about Demetrios? What’s happening with SmartRent?

Demetrios

Well, SmartRent just sent Funnel maybe another 20 bucks on Venmo. But it’s, that’s a great question. And I’m going to steal some of some of Tyler’s words, I don’t want to give too much of the sauce away but Tyler, you hit it on the head, I think when I look at the world of hospitality, or the word the concepts of centralising various aspects of the service model and experience which is very parallel to the single family rental space, it really is about the maturation of that experience. It’s a huge call out to the players like Essex, Cortland, MidAmerica, UDR. I mean, the list goes on, where a lot of folks are saying, we’re doing everything in our power to make these capital expenditures because while that’s happening, and we’re getting that infrastructure in place, almost everyone is completely focused on how do we keep that experience beyond just that sales perspective. And so again, Tyler, I couldn’t agree more.

As a former owner, I tell you all day as a former property manager, that if I do a better job at maintenance service, my renewals are going to be higher, ultimately, meaning I don’t have to work as hard trying to get leases in the door, because people just aren’t leaving. And I think that truly is whether it’s officer or hopefully anybody in the PropTech space, it’s about that, that experience to keep people there. And then alternatively as also Tyler said, how can I also help you transition to the next place, because inevitably it’s going to happen. And so that’s something that we are saying for our residents that that live at a smarter community, we’re seeing residents more often. And maybe it’s because we’re becoming so large who knows, and we’re seeing a lot more residents, oh, I lived here up, this is a completely different community, oh my login, everything’s ready to go. This is the experience that I’m used to. And so a lot of our partners are saying, hey, we’re seeing a higher retention, because there’s no smart rent at the next community. And so I think it just completely comes back to how do we keep residents engaged beyond that initial contact and if they do need to change, how do we help facilitate that and make that a seamless process?

Louisa

I’d say plenty for us or watch out for and I hope you guys both of you have a great end to 2020 and am excited to see all that your businesses achieve in 2021. Hopefully a bigger year than 2020 and this is bringing us to the end of the show a slightly longer podcast than usual, but lucky for our audience. Before we go is anything that you like share with our audience and what is the best way for our listeners to add connect with you.

Tyler

We just want to say thank you, this was fantastic, I think that what you’re doing in the PropTech space and bringing more voices to the table and educating more listeners really is going to help push us in the direction we need to go. So thank you and thank you for having me on today. And if anybody would like to get in touch whether on the vendor side or you own properties or looking for ways to innovate on those Tyler@funnelleasing.com feel free to shoot me an email.

Louisa

Awesome. Thank you for that and Demetrios what about you?

Demetrios

I can’t agree more. Tyler Lu. What you’re doing is amazing, this is awesome. Hopefully not the last time we speak as I know, we seemingly were talking every quarter. So again, just thank you for having me once again. But for all of your listeners we are we are aggressively expanding into international land so please feel free to reach out to myself DB@SmartRent.com or go to www.SmartRent.com hit the contact and one of our lovely team members will reach out right away.

Louisa

Thank you for that Demetrios and guys, I think I might need to wire you some money as well for that shout out. Thank you for both joining with the listeners and obviously Tyler and Demetrios I will leave you guys to continue your bromance and Demetrios a special shout out to you for getting up at 4am today, I hope the sunrise is beautiful in Arizona, and I’m looking forward to catching up with you both after the podcast. Thank you for joining us this week on the podcast and a big thanks to our special guests. Make sure you visit our website www.lmre.co.uk where you can subscribe to our show, or you’ll find us on iTunes and Spotify. We’re all good content is found. While you’re at it, if you found value in the show, we’d appreciate if you could rate and review us on iTunes. Or if you simply just spread the word, be sure to tune in next Tuesday and I’ll catch you later.

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