To understand the significance of Tenant Turner being named the Region’s Next Best Start-Up at the i.e.* Start-Up Competition finale, you must first take yourself back to the 2008 housing crisis. Many homes were bought at the height of their value and quickly toppled alongside the housing bubble. To make up for lost ground, many new homeowners, like James Barrett, CEO of Tenant Turner, decided to turn unneeded room into rental space for potential tenants.
Sounds easy, right?
That’s what Barrett thought, as well as the founding partners of Tenant Turner, Brandon Anderson and Chris Stewart, when they all became landlords.
The trio all learned-the hard way-the responsibilities and pitfalls of their newly acquired title. Barrett says that being a landlord is “like giving someone you met for the very first time the keys to your brand-new car.” A bad tenant, he says, can quickly turn nightmarish when a landlord is unable to evict, collect lost rent, collect for damaged property (not to mention fixing the damage), and fill the space with a good tenant due to time lost handling the prior inconveniences. Often, landlords will screen prospective tenants before accepting them into their rental property. This can help to avoid the headache of dealing with a poor tenant when it’s too late. You can find more information on screening and credit checks here – https://www.american-apartment-owners-association.org/tenant-screening/credit-checks/.
As Barrett puts it, “Being a landlord isn’t simply renting an empty space, it’s a learning curve deserving of a degree.” And this is where the idea of Tenant Turner was born. Their purpose is not only to expedite that learning curve for first-time landlords and independent property owners, but also to eliminate the grueling process of qualifying compatible tenants. Those engaged in out of state real estate investing might also be aware of some of these challenges from their own experience.
Like true entrepreneurs, the founders of Tenant Turner lived through a real-world problem in order to create their own solution. Drawing upon similar backgrounds (all three graduated from the same high school and the same VCU business program), the local entrepreneurs initially logged in time together at Snagajob while first testing the waters as landlords. This spring Tenant Turner moved a step further when they were awarded $10,000 at the i.e.* Start-Up Competition finale to invest in its idea of helping rental property owners and managers find better tenants faster.
“We were confident going into the competition, and after seeing all the amazing competitors, winning it was that much sweeter,” says Barrett.
With all their current out-of-the-gate success, however, Barrett confirms that RVA will remain the home base for the startup. “There is a vibrant tech and startup community rapidly growing in Richmond. We would be fools to not be apart of it while being role models for others striving to get their companies off the ground too,” says Barrett.
In addition to funding from their i.e.* Start-Up Competition win, Tenant Turner will receive six months of free office space at New Richmond Ventures, $3,500 worth of IT strategy and implementation from Imagine Simplicity, and ongoing mentoring from Lighthouse Labs. Local co-working space 804RVA also donated six months worth of community co-working memberships to all finalists.
One of the finalists CUSH also picked up the $2,500 People’s Choice Award thanks to an on-site audience vote at the i.e.* Start-Up Competition finale. CUSH is a team composed of VCU students Calvin Peterson, Kaitlin Taylor, Wallace Pitts, and Elliot Roth. The CUSH team intends to continue developing their wheelchair cushion using pressure-alleviating technology in an innovative design to distribute weight and help prevent pressure ulcers.
“It is exciting to see that RVA is becoming a place where creative people can turn their innovative ideas into flourishing businesses, thanks to remarkable support from the region’s entrepreneurial and corporate communities,” says Chrystal Neal, director of creativity and innovation at the Greater Richmond Chamber. “Our innovative culture here in RVA is gaining national attention as we put our stake in the ground as a thriving startup hub.”