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Property Management, Detroit, and Looking Where Others Aren’t

by Max

The other day, I was having breakfast with another founder when he asked me why no one else is trying to do what we’re doing.

It’s a good question. Other people aren’t stupid. If you have what you think is a good idea, but you can’t explain why no one else is pursuing it, then at least one of two things is usually true: either other people are pursuing it and you just don’t know about them, or it’s not really a good idea.

There are lots and lots of property management companies out there, filled with lots and lots of people, most of whom are doing simple, repetitive tasks (collecting rent, preparing statements, taking calls, answering basic questions) over and over. So why is no one else building an automated property management company?

I think a big part of the explanation is that property management isn’t sexy.

When the first Google Image search result for “sexy property management” is this guy, you know the industry isn’t very sexy.

There’s a reason we have so many photo-sharing apps—smart, ambitious, creative people like to do things that sound cool when they describe them to other people at parties1. As the head of another property management company told me the other day:

“I wish I could hire a bunch of smart, driven kids right out of college, but they’re just not interested. For most people, this line of work isn’t a first choice.”

This is not to say there aren’t great people working in property management—there are, just like there are in every field (remember that rapping flight attendant?) For the most part, though, it’s not exactly an industry that attracts the best and brightest, or makes you sound cool at a party2.

But the best opportunities are often found where the fewest people are looking. It’s why I moved to Detroit, and it’s why I bought a house there. And it’s why we’re starting this company.

For all I know, there are other people out there working on similar companies—frankly, I’d be surprised if there aren’t. But if our idea is one that most people haven’t had before, it’s because most people take one look at an industry like property management and move right on.

We kept looking. And so far, we’re excited by what we see.

  1. This isn’t a criticism of photo-sharing apps, by the way—the whole “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters” thing is snappy, but misguided. I’ll take instant connections with friends and strangers all over the world over flying cars any day, and throughout human history, new forms of communication have been just as impactful as new forms of transportation.
  2. Or on a date, as I discovered this past weekend.

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