Are you tired of dorm food and want to avoid the mad rush of finding a place to live off campus before next semester? There’s got to be an easier way for students to rent houses and apartments. It’s a problem that many entrepreneurs have tried to solve.
Today, I am talking to Dave Spooner of Innago. There are few incentives for landlords to digitize their rentals. Landlord demand for a listing platform is low, but there definitely is high demand for better tools to effectively manage and communicate with tenants.
[02:50] Tenant Management Software: Making landlords lives easier with online rental payments, tracking payments, basic accounting, lease signing, and tenant screening.
[04:14] Understanding Innago: Flexible, effective, simple, and intuitive software for landlords and property managers.
[06:05] Learning Curve: Competitors’ software requires expertise and certification.
[07:32] Who wants to waste time adopting ugly software?
[08:58] #1 Priority: Intuitiveness in software; speed is love language.
[10:20] Different portals for different people to be more productive.
[12:16] Find balance, and avoid too fast feature creep.
[13:14] Possible future integration with Zapier and other third-party tools?
[14:22] FAQs: Access permissions and pricing for landlords and tenants.
[17:25] Innago offers unique and unmatched level of support.
Jason: Welcome DoorGrow Hackers to another DoorGrow Show. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors, make a difference, increase revenue, help others, impact lives, and you are interested in growing your business and life, and you’re open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrow Hacker. DoorGrow Hackers love the unique challenges, daily variety, and freedom that property management brings. Many in real estate think you’re crazy for doing it, you think they’re crazy for not, because you realize that property management is the ultimate high trust gateway to real estate deals, relationships, and residual income.
At DoorGrow, we are on a mission to transform property management businesses, and their owners. We want to transform the industry, eliminate the BS, build awareness, change the perception, expand the market, and help the best property management entrepreneurs win. I’m your host, property management growth expert, Jason Hull, the founder and CEO of DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show.
Today’s guest, I’m hanging out here with Dave Spooner of Innago’s. Dave, welcome to the DoorGrow Show.
Dave: Hi Jason, thanks so much for having me.
Jason: It’s great to have you. Dave, we always like to get into our guest first, help us understand who Dave is, and how you kind of got into the space that you’re in, and give us a little background.
Dave: Yeah, absolutely, I’d be happy to, and thanks for the intro. I graduated from university in 2013. I kind of already had that entrepreneur spirit. Me and a couple other folks got together and we wanted to solve the problem of finding a place to live. We’re not the first people to try to solve it, and I’m sure we won’t be the last to try to solve it, but we want to make it easier for students to rent houses and apartments off campus. A lot of those markets are still mostly or fully offline, and there’s usually a mad rush to try and find a place to live. We recognize those issues and we tried to solve them.
As we were going about doing that, we kind of quickly realized that there’s not a lot of incentives for landlords to digitize their portfolio. There’s not a lot of incentives for landlords in student housing to really do a whole heck of a lot, but helps the students out because they’re already going to fill other properties, which is really high occupancy in student housing.
We kind of pivoted, and listened to the market, and realized that there wasn’t a huge demand on the landlord side for this listing platform, but there was a lot of demand for better tools to manage tenants, and better tools to manage and communicate with those tenants, and to manage their businesses. That’s kind of how I got my foundation. I worked on that listing platform for a few years, learned a lot about the market, and then myself and the CTO of that company started and founded Innago in 2017, and we’ve been hard at work trying to make lives easier for landlords ever since.
Jason: How do you make lives easier for landlords?
Dave: Innago is tenant management software, and we call it tenant management software instead of property management software because we really believe that the focus should be on managing tenants, managing those relationships, and managing those personalities. Innago, of course, includes a lot of your classic property management tools like online rental payments, tracking payments, basic accounting, online lease signing, tenant screening, etcetera. But at its heart, it’s a communication platform. It’s something that makes it easier to interact with and manage those tenants. We believe that having that, having that foundation enables landlords to become better landlords, and property managers become better property managers.
Jason: I haven’t heard of the software before, is this something that there’s a good amount of property managers already using? Is this geared towards landlords, or is this geared towards property management businesses? Help me and the listeners understand Innago here.
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. We work with both. We work with landlords as small as one unit, and landlords in the thousands of units. The software is really flexible, it’s effective, but it’s also simple and intuitive for somebody who just owns some properties on the side, works a normal nine-to-five, and then manages at nights and on weekends, and for a landlord or property manager that’s fully dedicated. We work with both property managers and landlords. We predominantly work in the residential space. We do a lot of student housing landlords, given my background, and my partner’s background. We also have some commercial landlords as well. It’s a really powerful, and flexible tool, and we work with all sorts of different clients.
Jason: Cool, that’s exciting. Help people understand, because a lot of the listeners in our audience probably already have a property management software, I mean, probably likely. They’re probably already with Buildium, AppFolio, Propertyware, maybe Rent Manager. They’re probably with one of these guys. But nobody’s ever fully happy with their property management.
Dave: Right, of course.
Jason: So help those listening, how can they see where you fit into the market in relation to these?
Dave: Well, yeah, it’s funny you say that. I was actually listening to one of your earlier podcasts with Taylor, and he has the accounting services, the consulting accounting services, and one of the things that he mentioned, they work exclusively with AppFolio users, and kind of what they said is, “We only hire people that have worked at AppFolio, and we will only work with AppFolio at this stage because that’s the only thing that we’re comfortable with,” because it’s this monolithic behemoth that you need expertise to even navigate, right?
Dave: That’s definitely true for AppFolio, and it’s true for a lot of the other software. There’s a huge learning curve there. The first time we hire somebody on Innago, we always sit them down, and we jump on LinkedIn, and we do a little exercise, or research the companies. We’re not looking for employees of those companies, or even their company page, we’re actually looking for employees at property management companies that their job title, their role is like the AppFolio expert on T, because you need certification to understand how to use it.
That was kind of the initial kernel Innago came out of is, you shouldn’t need a certification to use property management software. It should be like picking up Gmail for the first time, or picking up iPhone for the first time. It should be intuitive, and simple, and elegant, and powerful, and flexible to work with a lot of different users in a lot of ways. That’s really our difference, in the way that we’re approaching the market, putting a lot of time, and thought into the features, and the way that they interact, and the way that the user interacts with those features.
We’re really proud of the features that we do have. It is an ongoing product, and we’re constantly adding more. I think for a lot of property managers, and landlords on the higher end, they’re going to find at this stage that it might not be a perfect fit, but for those folks with small to mid size portfolios, it’s got a lot of really great stuff that it will work well for them.
Jason: Yeah, I’m in total agreement. When it comes to software, the number one challenge tends to be adoption, and ease of use is right there. If something is intuitive, that’s the biggest challenge, and hurdle.
Jason: I don’t even like them using software that’s ugly.
Jason: I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe it’s the designer in me. I don’t know, but if I’m going to be living in something, I don’t want it to be ugly. That’s why I use Apple products because they just…
Dave: Right, absolutely. Clean design.
Jason: I was around my mom just yesterday, and she had a computer and she was like, “I clicked on Chrome, and it’s not loading, and nothing’s happening coming up,” and I’m like, “I don’t know, that’s a PC. I’ve never had that problem on a Mac.” I just don’t have that problem. I just think it’s funny. I was like, “I don’t know, good luck.”
Dave: Yeah absolutely, and a lot of property managers and landlords—many are very tech savvy, there’s also many that aren’t so tech savvy. It’s equally, if not more important, to have something that’s not incredibly complex, and incredibly challenging, and opaque, and difficult to enter into.
Jason: I’m incredibly tech savvy, and I probably could’ve figured out my mom’s computer thing, but it probably would’ve wasted an hour or two of my time and I don’t want to waste time figuring out my software at every step of the turn and teaching my team members how to figure out software at every step of the turn. Intuitiveness in software is my number one priority. A lot of people build their whole set up internally in their business, trying to find one piece of software that can do everything, and it’s usually really awful at everything in a lot of instances, instead of finding the easiest, and best, and fastest tools.
Speed is my love language, I think in business, and I want it to be fast, and want it to be simple, and intuitive. I love that that’s kind of a foundational goal with your software, because I don’t believe that any of the other property management software, that was their foundational goal, ease of use, and to be intuitive. If it was, they’ve gotten long far away from it.
Dave: Right, yeah, I think you’re right.
Jason: Yeah, and some are much worse than others, and some of them, they can do everything. They’re like the ultimate Swiss army knife. Like I’ve joked in the past, you’re not going to see a handy man carrying around a multi tool to try and do all this hard jobs.
Jason: He’s going to have a nice tool box with the best tools. The software’s more intuitive, the software is really easy for people to use, and now you’re saying on all parties for like the owners, they want to maybe check reports, is there an owners portal?
Dave: There is.
Jason: Tenants that want to pay rent, and do their stuff, there’s tenant portal. And then for the property manager, they can manage and see their portfolio pretty easily, and know what’s available, and vacant. Does this have marketing stuff connected to it yet for listing, and the getting the properties out there in the marketplace?
Dave: Yeah, great question. We do not currently have marketing. We plan to roll that out, but as you mentioned, I think one of the problems that’s happened with other software packages, the feature creep went too fast. They wanted to get all the features that any landlord could ever ask for out as quickly as possible, and that has not been our approach. We have said let’s do this methodically, let’s think about ways to integrate this into the way that the rest of the software works. Let’s make sure that it’s easy to use.
We are constantly adding features but we’re not necessarily rolling out everything that everybody wants, all at the same time. Market syndication is what we call it. The marketing piece is definitely on its way, but it’ll probably be another three or fours months before we have that out there.
Jason: Yeah, feature creep is a real issue. I’m a big fan of Jason Fried. He’s the CEO of Basecamp. I got to hang out with him on a Skype call for 90 minutes. He cut my staffing costs in half overnight, no doubt. I’m a big fan of him. By saying he cut my staffing costs in half, I should say he doubled our productivity. I didn’t just fire everybody. We just became that much more productive because he helped me understand how we had so many interruptions, we had so many things that weren’t intuitive, and he changed how we communicate as a company.
He has a similar philosophy when he talks about creating their softwares. Basecamp doesn’t do a whole lot compared to a lot of other software, it’s pretty limited in its feature set, but it’s consistently always at the top of the tools and resources people mention for project management even though I really don’t believe Basecamp is a project management tool, I believe it’s a communication platform for internal communication, that’s how we use it.
Everyone’s going to ask for features, you have to really be picky in choosing about what are the features that are really going to matter the most and get the biggest bang for your buck and really make a difference without it becoming overly crazy, too cumbersome, unintuitive, and difficult to do. There’s always that balance of managing all of the features.
Do you see that you guys will be doing any sort of Zapier integration so that people can create zaps and start connecting and integrating with third party tools? No software has come out with this yet.
Dave: Yeah. That’s a really good idea. That is not our road map but I love Zapier. We use it for all sorts of other things, whether it’s connecting WordPress to HubSpot or whatever. It’s a really cool platform. That’s an interesting thought. We hadn’t gotten that far. We might still…
Jason: Add it to your list and be the first. I’m waiting to see who is the first property management software the adds Zapier integration because everyone’s been asking for it. All these people want it connected to their automation. They want to connect it to their process street processes, or they want to connect it to whatever. I think this would be a really cool thing.
Dave: We’ll let you know when we do.
Jason: I keep throwing that out usually to property management software that I have on my show and I’m waiting to see who’s the first to have Zapier integration. Some people call it [zey-pier], but I think [zey-pier] is weird because it creates [zaps], people, so it’s Zapier. You’re not [zey-ping] your business.
What else should people know about this software? What are some of the most common questions that a property management business owner might ask that they’re concerned about?
Dave: Well, one you hit on was the sub users. Enabling not just the head property manager from accessing the platform, but also giving out who has access to which permissions, who has access to which features. Maybe it’s Bob, you want him to handle these categories for these properties, or you want your property owners to log in and be able to handle it themselves.
Jason: There’s the ability for vendors to leverage and use the system as well?
Dave: Not vendors, that would be like a maintenance person that you either have on staff or you have on retainer 1099 or whatever. We do not have a vendor portal at this time. That’s a big one and then the other really common question we get is of course the pricing because of the sector that we’re in, that’s at the top of our base mind.
Jason: Do you want to tell pricing now? If you’re planning on changing, don’t. Tell them to go to your website.
Dave: No, I’d be more than happy to jump into pricing. Now it’s pretty unique, we’re 100% free to use for landlords. There’s no monthly fee, yearly fee, setup fee, there’s no contract. There’s absolutely no cost. Everything that I’ve mentioned is included. Instead, when a tenant pays rent online, we charge them $2 for an ACH transaction. We charge them $2.75 for a credit or debit card, and that’s it.
Jason: Totally reasonable. I’ve been saying for at least over a year to people who have listened to some of my older podcast episodes that free property management software will come and there will be the day that somebody’s going to offer it, just like people aren’t paying for Gmail, people aren’t paying for this sort of stuff and it’s making money. It manifested, here it is.
Dave: That’s right, we did it. It’s 100% free for the landlord. Some landlords see the value in an online payment, they see it so highly to pay actually choose to incur a cost and we allow them to do that if they want to, but for most landlords 90% plus, they’re not paying a dime to use Innago.
Jason: Very cool, that’s really interesting. This would be fantastic then for startup PM’s, startup property managers. A question that my team would care about is for the rental listings, the vacant properties, do you have some way of listing the vacant properties in some web based fashion? If they’re putting properties into their system, is there some sort of code that we can embed on a website to show their available rentals?
Dave: Again, there’s nothing on the marketing side just yet. Everything is cotntained within Innago but we certainly see the value in that.
Jason: Maybe in the future then. What else should people know about Innago? Anything else you want to throw out there?
Dave: Well, we offer particularly in our sector where you do have some of the lower cost platforms out there or some of the simpler platforms out there I suppose. Oftentimes, they don’t offer any sort of support beyond a 48-hour email window. With Innago, we’re a little different, we offer full phone support. We also have embedded videos and help section to ease landlords along in the system as they get started and learn the platform. We’re really big believers in early success begets future success. We want to make sure that we’re hand holding for your first month, two months on the platform, and ensuring that you understand how to use it. You can use it effectively and can leverage it to improve your business. Once you do that, then you’re off to the races and in really good shape. We offer a unique level of support that many others can’t really match.
Jason: What platform are you using for support?
Dave: We use Freshdesk, and we use HubSpot, and we use Zapier to connect certain things to other things.
Jason: Cool. We use intercom for anyone listening, because property managers need some sort of support desk too. Dave, this sounds really neat. How could somebody demo this if they’re curious to check out your software and how should they get in touch?
Dave: Yeah. They can go to innago.com and they can request access to a free account. We’ll get in touch with them shortly after just to make sure they’re a good fit, that we’re going to solve some problems for them. We don’t want them to waste any time fooling around on a platform that is really not going to work for them. If they request access, we’ll shortly be in touch, and we’ll get them into the platform, and they can start playing around with it.
Jason: Where does the name Innago come from? I’m a branding guy, I’m always curious. Explain Innago.
Dave: We like to think of it as a strong three-syllable word, that’s about the extent of it. It’s really kind of like Google or Yahoo, there’s not a whole lot behind it.
Jason: Okay. Maybe we’ll have to make up the story sometime together about it.
Dave: Yeah. We’ve thought about it, but we’ll take any suggestions.
Jason: When did you guys launch this? How new is this software?
Dave: We launched the company in January of 2017. We had the product out in the market, kind of like an alpha stage really in March of that year. We’ve been coming along ever since. As far as a product, we’re a little over two years now.
Jason: Awesome. How many companies are using this right now?
Dave: We have thousands of landlords on the platform and it’s growing every day. I would nail that hard number, but it probably changes by the minute.
Jason: Yeah. It’s probably pretty tempting and pretty easy if it’s free. I would imagine you guys will have some success and you guys are making enough money you think to stay healthy just through the transactions?
Dave: Yeah. As you know, there’s a lot of landlords out there. The majority of them are still self managed or not using any kind of software. There’s a lot of tenants that want to pay online. Only about 30% of the market currently pays rent online. That’s a huge giant blue ocean that’s ready to be captured.
Jason: Yeah. There’s a lot of blue ocean that are self managing. If you really want to super attract property management business owners, if you can figure out a way to help connect these self managers so that they can get that professional managers to take over stuff, and partner, maybe create some partners, I think you’ve got a winning affiliate business going on right there that’s good for your company.
Jason: I know there’s lots of people listening that would like to get connected to those that are self managing and work with them. Dave, super cool to have you on the show. I wish you lots of success. It would be cool to have you come back maybe in the future after you’ve come out with even more features if you’ve got something really cool to share. I wish you guys a lot of success with the free software. I’ve been talking about this for a while. I think it’s long overdue. This is really great.
Dave: Awesome. Thanks so much, Jason. I really appreciate it, my pleasure being on the show.
Jason: Yeah, thanks for coming on.
You heard it everybody, free property management software that is intuitive. If they are really intuitive, they’re going to have a lot of natural success and growth, and if they’re free, they’re going to have a lot of growth. If they can make the numbers work which sounds like it would be pretty easy with all the transactions that are going to be occurring, it could be a game changer.
I think other property management software, they’re a little bit greedy, and there’s too much of that feature creep. I think this will be a competitor. It’d be interesting to watch. Let’s keep our eyes tuned, our eyes peeled and stay tuned to see what they do.
Anyway, this is Jason Hull of the DoorGrow Show. If you are wanting to know if your property management website is leaking money because every website is probably leaking money. If you want to see that it’s leaking money because you don’t want it to be leaking deals and leads anymore and you want to make more money and cash from your business, test your website out by going to doorgrow.com/quiz and take our DoorGrow Score Quiz that’s going to grade your website on how effective it is at creating conversions.
Some of the questions are tricky. There’s a lot of people taking the test and then make a bunch of changes to their website, some of them are false positive, so be careful if you’re going to do that. Do that quiz and then maybe talk to our team and we can help you improve your website piece because I really don’t believe that anybody’s better at creating websites that make money than DoorGrow for property managers. Alright, we’ll talk to all of you guys soon. Until next time, to our mutual growth.