RET Ventures eyes ‘rent tech’ investment opportunities

When a technology company looks to put its mark on the real estate industry, the multi-family market in particular, Real Estate Technology Ventures (RET Ventures) wants to be there to help make it happen.
RET Ventures is a real estate industry-backed, early stage venture capital firm. It helps form disruptive technology companies that can assist its strategic partners operate their real estate portfolios more efficiently. RET Ventures invests in all real estate technology solutions with a primary focus on “rent tech.”
“Rent tech” is any technology solution that assists with rental property amenities such as reducing thermostat temperatures, letting people into the building and anything else that makes the rental experience more efficient not only for the property managers, but the tenants themselves.
John Helm, RET Ventures partner and managing director, said the company put its focus on the rent tech arena because it recognized that even though multi-family properties are seen as part of commercial real estate, it is big enough to stand out as its own entity. According to Helm, there are more than 40 million rental households in the United States, and close to 28 million of them are multi-family units.
“We think (multi-family) deserves its own focus,” Helm said. “No one has really been focused on it. We believe the category’s been relatively under-invested if you look at a lot of the money that’s flowed into real estate technology. The big amounts have not really flowed into multi-family yet, so we think it’s a great investment opportunity.”
There numerous rent tech “buckets” in the multi-family real estate industry, including a handful in which RET Ventures looks to invest.
Funnel and marketing tech
Building owners and property mangers use marketing technology to promote their buildings and keep them leased. This could be anything from customer relationship management (CRM) tools owners and property managers use to attract tenants, to content syndication products that export their listings to various Internet listing services.
Property management tech
Once a building owner or property manager gets a tenant to lease space in their building, the task becomes keeping the tenant happy while still operating the property. This crucial task involves a whole different type of rent tech that includes core property systems that are used to run the building, handle the accounting, rent, etc. Building owners and managers are now also increasingly leveraging mobile apps that tenants can use to submit maintenance requests.
“They can automatically submit those requests to the maintenance guys who also have mobile phones,” Helm said. “Those phones allow them to track the maintenance guys and know where they are on the property, if it’s a big garden community.”
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT devices can play a key role in helping building owners make the leasing process more effective and efficient. Helm pointed to an example of a company letting potential tenants into a house to look at with a smart lock so they didn’t have to send a leasing agent to the house. Through smart features, they were also able to turn on the air conditioning to cool the house down two hours before the showing, turn on some lights to make the house more welcoming.
Helm sees this trend of using IoT devices to show a home without a representative present moving towards rental properties to allow for self-guided tours.
“A big problem now is getting enough people to work the properties given current employment rates,” Helm said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to get people to work on the weekends. If you can allow self tours and only have on person on duty on a Sunday, you could still make that person as productive as two people.”
RET Ventures currently backs four companies. Amenify provides convenient in-home services to multi-family properties like pet care, personal training and cleaning. Lexicon Travel Technologies provides vacation rental property owners with personalized assistance with tools for content distribution and optimization, marketing and merchandise strategies to help maximize their return on investment for online channel distribution.
Moved is a concierge service that connects users with its network of vetted service providers who handle the frustrating parts of moving. Lastly, Smartrent provides a hub and software solution that lets residents and property managers alike control various IoT devices remotely, which enables operational savings, ancillary revenue and an in-demand amenity for technology-savvy renters.
To learn more about RET Ventures, visit the company website.

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