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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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rentobo rentals

rentobo rentals

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 - she has 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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Tech News

Facebook deletes developer over ironic browser extension invention

(TECHNOLOGY) Think a muted week for a nipple shadow is bad? Facebook just permabanned this inventor for…helping others to use the platform less.

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African American hand holding iphone on Facebook's login page.

It must be true that corporations are people because Facebook is pulling some seriously petulant moves.

In a stunt that goes beyond 24hr bans for harmless hyperbole, and chopping away at organic reach (still bitter from my stint in social media management), Facebook straight up permanently banned one of their users for the high crime of…aiming to get people to use the platform a little less.

Developer Louis Barclay came up with Unfollow Everything, an extension that basically instantly deleted your feed without having you unfriend anyone or unlike anything. Rather than have users manually go through and opt out of seeing posts, they’d now opt IN to keeping who they wanted front and center.

In his own words on Slate: “I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time. It was near-miraculous. I had lost nothing, since I could still see my favorite friends and groups by going to them directly. But I had gained a staggering amount of control. I was no longer tempted to scroll down an infinite feed of content. The time I spent on Facebook decreased dramatically. Overnight, my Facebook addiction became manageable.”

Since more time spent on Facebook means more ads that you’re exposed to, means more you spend, the add-on started slowly making headway. I myself pretend to be a ranch owner to keep ads as irrelevant to me as possible (though my new addiction to hoof trimming videos is all too real), and Unfollow Everything probably would have been a great find for me if it hadn’t been killed by a cease and desist.

Law firm Perkins Coie, representing the internet giant, let Barclay know in their notice that Unfollow Everything violated the site’s rules on automated collection of user content, and was muscling in on Facebook trademarked IP.

They also added, in what I can only assume was a grade-school narc voice, that the add-on was “encouraging others to break Facebook’s rules.”

Barclay, not having the resources to fight a company with the finances of a small country, promptly ceased and desisted. Practical.

Officially speaking, Facebook might have actually have some ground to stand on vis-à-vis its Terms Of Service. The letter and legal team may have been warranted, not that we’ll ever truly know, since who’s taking Facebook to court? But then they followed up with a ‘neener neener’ deletion of Barclay’s 15 year old account – which was still very much in use.

Look, Facebook is the only way I connect with some of my friends. I don’t take enough pictures to make full use of Instagram, I fully hate Twitter, my Tumblr is inundated with R-rated fanfiction, and any other social media platform I’m happy to admit I’m too haggish and calcified to learn to use. So a complete WIPE of everything there with no notice would be pretty devastating to me. I can only imagine how Barclay felt.

And in light of the fact that the browser extension wasn’t hurting anyone, taking money, or spewing hateful rhetoric, there’s really only one thing to say about Facebook’s actions…they’re petty.

Sure, they may have the legal right to do what they did. It’s just that when you notice every fifth post is an unvetted advertisement, their high ground starts to sink a little. I mean nothing says ‘We’re being totally responsible with user information’ like the number of add ons and user tactics popping up to avoid seeing the unnecessary. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Facebook put up a fight against losing ad traffic.

We all know all those stores with amazing deals aren’t actually going out of business, or even using their own photos right? Right?

Barclay added in his article, “Facebook’s behavior isn’t just anti-competitive; it’s anti-consumer. We are being locked into platforms by virtue of their undeniable usefulness, and then prevented from making legitimate choices over how we use them—not just through the squashing of tools like Unfollow Everything, but through the highly manipulative designs and features platforms adopt in the first place. The loser here is the user, and the cost is counted in billions of wasted hours spent on Facebook.”

Agreed, Mr. Barclay.

Now I’m off to refresh my feed. Again.

 

Graffiti wall with image of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, with the saying "You've been Zucked."

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Tech News

Glowbom: Create a website, using just your voice

(TECH NEWS) Talk about futuristic! This app allows you to create quizzes, surveys, an online store, and even a website in minutes–without typing.

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Colleagues looking at Glowbom website homepage

In the past, we’ve discussed things like simplified coding and no-code app creation. Now, a San Francisco startup has taken the process a step further with no-type app creation.

Glowbom is a voice app that allows you to dictate steps to an AI – from adding information all the way to exporting code–in order to create a simple app, survey, or game. While the built-in options for now are limited to four simple categories, the power of the app itself is impressive: By asking the Glowbom AI to complete tasks, one is able to dictate an entire (if small) program.

It’s an impressive idea, and an even more impressive product. Glowbom founder and CEO Jacob Ilin showcases the power of Glowbom in a short demonstration video, and while he only uses it to create a simple survey, the entire process–up to and including the exportation of the API–is accomplished via voice commands.

Furthermore, Glowbom appears to process natural inputs–such as phrases like “Let’s get started”–in the context of an actual command rather than the colloquial disconnect one tends to expect in AI. This means that users won’t need to read a 700-page manual on phrases and buzzwords to use before jumping on board–something the Glowbom user base was probably hoping to avoid anyway.

As of now, the options one can use Glowbom to create include a quiz, a survey, an online store, and a website. It seems reasonable to expect that, as support for the app grows, those categories will expand to comprise a larger library.

Glowbom certainly opens a few doors for people looking to take their businesses or ideas from an offline medium into the digital marketplace. As coding becomes less centralized in computer language and more contingent on processes such as this, we can expect to see more products from folks who may have missed the coding boat.

Perhaps more importantly, Glowbom and products like it make coding more accessible to a wider base of disabled users, thus taking a notable step toward evening the playing field for a marginalized demographic. It’s not true equality, but it’s a start.

This story was first published here in October 2020.

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Tech News

4 ways startups prove their investment in upcoming technology trends

(TECH NEWS) Want to see into the future? Just take a look at what technology the tech field is exploring and investing in today — that’s the stuff that will make up the world of tomorrow.

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Woman testing VR technology

Big companies scout like for small ones that have proven ideas and prototypes, rather than take the initial risk on themselves. So startups have to stay ahead of technology by their very nature, in order to be stand-out candidates when selling their ideas to investors.

Innovation Leader, in partnership with KPMG LLP, recently conducted a study that sheds light onto the bleeding edge of tech: The technologies that the biggest companies are most interested in building right now.

The study asked its respondents to group 16 technologies into four categorical buckets, which Innovation Leader CEO Scott Kirsner refers to as “commitment level.”

The highest commitment level, “in-market or accelerating investment,” basically means that technology is already mainstream. For optimum tech-clairvoyance, keep your eyes on the technologies which land in the middle of the ranking.

“Investing or piloting” represents the second-highest commitment level – that means they have offerings that are approaching market-readiness.

The standout in this category is Advanced Analytics. That’s a pretty vague title, but it generally refers to the automated interpretation and prediction on data sets, and has overlap with Machine learning.

Wearables, on the other hand, are self explanatory. From smart watches to location trackers for children, these devices often pick up on input from the body, such heart rate.

The “Internet of Things” is finding new and improved ways to embed sensor and network capabilities into objects within the home, the workplace, and the world at large. (Hopefully that doesn’t mean anyone’s out there trying to reinvent Juicero, though.)

Collaboration tools and cloud computing also land on this list. That’s no shock, given the continuous pandemic.

The next tier is “learning and exploring”— that represents lower commitment, but a high level of curiosity. These technologies will take a longer time to become common, but only because they have an abundance of unexplored potential.

Blockchain was the highest ranked under this category. Not surprising, considering it’s the OG of making people go “wait, what?”

Augmented & virtual reality has been hyped up particularly hard recently and is in high demand (again, due to the pandemic forcing us to seek new ways to interact without human contact.)

And notably, AI & machine learning appears on rankings for both second and third commitment levels, indicating it’s possibly in transition between these categories.

The lowest level is “not exploring or investing,” which represents little to no interest.

Quantum computing is the standout selection for this category of technology. But there’s reason to believe that it, too, is just waiting for the right breakthroughs to happen.

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