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Is yet another rental startup necessary?

Yet another rental solution has hit the market, but with all of the noise in the sector, is it really necessary?

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Rental apps popping up like weeds

When we hear about a young startup in the rental sector, our ears always perk up, because it currently has the most room for improvement, and is light years behind the residential sector. We have highlighted dozens of them in recent years, watching them grow and make some of the same mistakes that residential search companies have made, namely the assumption that no one does what they do or can do.

TechCrunch recently wrote about Y Combinator-backed Rentobo.com, which at first glance was refreshingly beautiful. TechCrunch writes, “The team, which was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2011 class, started off originally with the idea of auctioning off apartment rentals. But it quickly realized that all the infrastructure it was building would be extremely useful in just getting most apartment listings online. So it began to focus instead on what it could do to automate the process and make things easier for both landlords and tenants.”

While an early pivot is never unhealthy, it made us immediately wonder why Y Combinator would back a company entering such a noisy space that is being pioneered by the big bucks? Although Rentobo is well designed and could possibly do the same tasks, RentJuice has already innovated the “common application” for renters and landlords, the crux of what appears to be Rentobo’s offering, and RentJuice also made headlines last year when they created the first ever directory of rental industry insiders.

Since then, RentJuice was acquired by Zillow for $40 million, so perhaps Rentobo sees flaws in the system and seeks to go head to head with Zillow, and why not? Zillow saw flaws in Realtor.com and came out doing something extremely similar, but in a way that they saw as superior.

Sexy design, but what’s next?

Although hailed for their beautiful design (by us and TechCrunch), it looks a bit like RentChimp, designed to compete with Nestio, a bookmarking site for real estate listings.

Rentobo also has to compete with LeaseRunner which has a loyal following for their making the leasing process paperless, automated, and easy enough for the non-tech savvy to understand, particularly landlords. Alternatively, RentMonitor simplifies property management and reduces paperwork, alongside their competitors.

Since the company already pivoted, it is conceivable that they could end up adding search, and not only go up against legacy brands like ForRent.com, but Inhabi, which matches renters and landlords, eHarmony style, or Lovely which is amazingly beautiful and going national.

Maybe the next iteration will include scoring for listings like Rentenna or throw in a mix of aggregated short term rentals with traditional rentals like Rentmix or stick to aggregating Craigslist and other listing sites like Padmapper is so famous for.

Perhaps lifestyle search could be thrown in to compete with RentSavvy or the focus could be on the investor portion of leasing, like RentScoper.

IS there room for Rentobo in this noisy sector?

So the question remains – is there room for Rentobo in the rental sector? Their design is beautiful, but not exactly unique, and their offering is being adopted already by Zillow through their new acquisition of RentJuice. They could pivot to go head to head with another company, but while the space is noisy, it is our assertion that there is tremendous room for improvement and innovation in the rental sector, particularly with multifamily and one-off landlords, as the actual leasing process remains a pain point for rental seekers every day.

So, while Rentobo’s offering is not overtly unique, they should take that Y Combinator seed money and keep forging ahead, and be aggressive about it, just like Zillow and Trulia did to Realtor.com – there’s room for improvement in the noisy space of everyone trying to innovate, but the rental sector is still coming up short. It will be fascinating to see Rentobo go after Zillow and their other competitors, as the cycle of young startups begin putting pressure on the companies that are no longer the new kids on the block. To Rentobo, we say go get ’em.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Frugyl

    July 7, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I’ll only read if it’s 75% or higher, so count me in! Ha ha! *squeal!*

  2. AgentGenius

    July 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    BOOM. You are the 25%.

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Tinder creators launch Ripple, a professional networking app void of pros

(TECH NEWS) Ex-Tinder employees have come together, backed by Match.com, to create a swipe-based professional network, but we don’t plan on giving it a second date.

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In 2015, we discussed briefly the possibilities of taking the dating app’s and repurposing them for professional networking. What if finding professional connections was as easy as finding a date on Tinder? Tinder (executives) literally heard us because they have introduced a solution in their new mobile app called Ripple.

Not to be confused with Ripple the cryptocurrency, Ripple the app is a professional networking tool that literally feels like Tinder.

As it should, the former CTO, Director of Engineering, and Lead Designer of Tinder all make up the founders, along with Mike Presz from Match.com. People who make good dating platforms came together for a professional networking solution that they hope makes networking easier, more natural, and more modern. I took the liberty of signing up for a few days and experimented with the app and I have a few things to say about it…

The good?

Design. Design. Design. The app has a luxuriously simple UI, and is fabulously easy to use. If you even tried Tinder for six minutes, you’ll be able to use this app. The use of symbols, big images, and easy UI is great. The application navigates simply.

It’s fantastic. It’s minimal, it’s content oriented, the interest categories are so good (but they could be better – no interest in process improvements? Go learn about Six Sigma) LinkedIn should look it. The profile set up takes no time at all, about five minutes and you’re ready to go.

But that’s about it.

Everything that’s not good? Everything else.

This is probably because the app is new, but there is nothing going on for the US market. I saw a lot of European professionals and professional groups, but zero people in my area, a major US metropolitan area also called Dallas-Fort Worth. The lack of content and the lack of professionals means the app has nothing.

I can’t rate group experience or say I met the mentor of my professional dreams because no one is on it. Which leads me to ask: What’s next?

The branding, marketing, and advertising for this app are going to have to take off. This is a beautiful product, but the lack of content makes it a pretty dull use. I had to actively remind myself to use it, and I’m in a serial relationship with LinkedIn.

Basically, no second date for me with Ripple until they get… something to happen.

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The cutest part of CES was Sony’s AI robot doggo, Aibo

(TECH NEWS) The Consumer Electronics Show revealed the technologies that are dominating and will dominate the market, with Sony’s AI puppers stealing the show.

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One of the most endearing items to emerge from CES this year was Sony’s revamped robot dog, Aibo.

Aibo’s first unveiling in 1999 featured a blend of emergent Sony technology, such as their Memory Stick and companion operating system. By the time of its demise in 2006, the Aibo was equipped with a large vocabulary (it could speak 1,000 words) and could interact with an owner’s commands and motion. The computerized canine wasn’t limited to just the realm of their traditional counterparts, however – the 2006 model of the Aibo could take pictures from the eye-embedded camera system, play music, and write blogs.

Equipped with more personality and a better interactive capability with its environment, the 2018 Aibo looks more like a real dog as well.

Composed of 4,000 parts and OLED-screen eyes to more authentically mimic movements, Sony says it relies on sensor systems and embedded cameras akin to those in self-driving cars to provide as close to an authentic experience as they can. The cameras, located in nose and tail, allow the robot to learn its way around the house and to deliver it back to its charging station once the two-hour charge runs out.

Reviewers at CES noted that the updated version of the Aibo was very “puppy-likem” barking and scampering with unlimited energy.

The current model is also touch responsive on its head, back and under its chin, allowing the user to give “puppy love” in a way that mimics that of what real dogs like.

Perhaps proving that Aibo is capable of acting more and more like a real dog, the robot canine was unresponsive to commands from Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai on stage at its unveiling, prompting Hirai to return Aibo to Sony staff quickly.

Slated to go on sale in Japan later this year, the dog isn’t cheap, priced at nearly $1,800, but does find itself selling into a dedicated Aibo fanbase from its earlier issue and a consumer market which is hungrier and more accepting for interactive experiences of this type of poo-free pet ownership.

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Lyft offers test rides in their autonomous cars – how’d it go?

(TECH NEWS) Lyft let passengers roll around Vegas in their self-driving cars, and surprisingly, no shocking viral videos resulted.

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If you haven’t been paying attention to the progress of self-driving cars, you’re in for a shock – they’re closer to a daily reality than you might think. As part of this year’s CES conference, Lyft offered test rides in a handful of their autonomous cars, and the results were reportedly decent.

Unlike other companies’ public tests in the past, Lyft’s demonstrations consisted of normal passengers taking normal routes in Las Vegas; there was little in the way of preemptive route control, meaning that the tests were as authentic as possible. Passengers were able to board autonomous Lyfts from the Las Vegas convention center, with some testers traveling well over three miles with minimal operator interference.

The cars themselves are designed by Aptiv, which is a technology company heretofore unaffiliated with Lyft.

While both companies are aware of the potential for flaws and the need to iron them out before production begins en masse, test riders reported that the cars were able to anticipate and respond to a myriad of traffic conditions (for example, slowing down to allow a faster vehicle to merge); this bodes well for the 2020 goal that many autonomous car companies have set.

Naturally, there were a few kinks in the cars’ respective operations, including yellow light confusion and some other finessing issues, wherein the cars’ human operators had to intervene.

The technology behind self-driving cars is only part of the equation, however. As autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, cities will have to adapt to accommodate them.

This process will most likely include things like redefining road architecture, legislation regarding car use (at the moment, autonomous cars must always have a driver in them), and implementation of smart technology.

There’s also the matter of public perception. While most of the reports from the Lyft demo in Las Vegas were positive, the fact remains that plenty of people will be skeptical of new technology – as well they should be, since any emerging technology is bound to make a few bad headlines before it evens out.

How Lyft counters this perception will be key in determining the future of its autonomous fleet, and perhaps even the future of autonomous cars as a whole.

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