£150,000 later: What happened after The Start-Up Series – RentalStep
Having won in October 2016, RentalStep's Mike Georgeson says the investment has helped him build his platform, gain new customers and more
Popular perception of property renting condemns it as a nightmare for all involved. Tenants tell of getting stuck in poor-quality housing with absentee landlords, while landlords risk signing unruly tenants who neglect to pay rent – and that’s without mentioning the fees and administration that both face.
This is why, after five years of serving as a landlord, entrepreneur Mike Georgeson decided to make the industry better. He founded RentalStep, a platform which digitises the entire rental process and enables “great tenants and great landlords and agents” to connect directly, while minimising cost to both parties by charging no additional fees.
Though Georgeson had never raised funding for any of his previous ventures, he knew RentalStep would need cash to scale at pace.
So, in October 2016, he entered the very first round of the The Start-Up Series – Startups.co.uk and Worth Capital’s monthly seed funding competition, which had just launched that month – and went on to win £150,000 equity seed funding as well as access to expert business advice and guidance from investment promoters Worth Capital.
So, what is our October Start-Up Series winner up to now – and how could your start-up benefit from The Start-Up Series?
Over one year since his victory, Startups’ caught up with Georgeson to see how just how the funding and guidance has helped to propel his business forward. And while he says “there are many daily highlights with this business”, there are several big steps the start-up has been able to take as a result of the win…
A “ground-breaking” new platform
First and foremost, Georgeson says, “the investment has allowed us to build the core elements of our ground-breaking platform”.
In fact, RentalStep’s platform – complete with an innovative, comprehensive ‘Tenant Passport’ which shows a tenant’s rental history and gives them a ‘TenantScore’ – wouldn’t exist in its current form without the investment, which has funded the development of the product.
A successful marketing campaign
With the platform underway, Georgeson tells us that Worth Capital’s investment has also funded the business’ marketing efforts. Since receiving the investment, RentalStep has “started marketing our service to tenants and landlords”, and has launched a specialist online campaign specifically targeting tenants.
And the campaigns have proved successful, with customer numbers soaring. As Georgeson attests, “we now have nearly 1,000 tenants and over 100 landlords and agents registered”.
Furthermore, with more capacity afforded by the Start-Up Series win, the business has been able to enter into talks about providing the service on a bulk scale: “We are in discussions with four local housing authorities to provide our Tenant Passport for their tenants.”
Georgeson adds that interest in the service has come from more places than even he had hoped: “We have been amazed by the interest shown by letting agents, which we hadn’t expected. Our business model was based around landlords but we have seen many agents register with us and give us great feedback.”
An initiative with five universities
According to Georgeson, The Start-Up Series has also given RentalStep the resources to work with five different UK universities, showcasing what the service has to offer to student renters – specifically “how the Tenant Passport can help them increase their credit scoring”.
Not only does this initiative drive awareness of RentalStep among students, attracting more users to the platform, it also seeks to enlighten students about the importance of boosting their credit score – a vital factor in renting and buying property (but most likely something a student wouldn’t usually consider).
The potential for further funding
When we spoke to Georgeson in March 2017 about the Start-Up Series win, he assured us that his “first foray into investment funding has been brilliant”. Now, having been able to fully utilise Worth Capital’s investment and guidance, his eyes have been truly opened to what investment can offer and still takes this view – so much so that he has gained the confidence to prepare his business for more:
“Having proven our business model, we are launching a crowdfunding campaign in February, which will enable more investors to be part of our journey and allow us to market our services to a mass market.”
Sound business guidance
According to Georgeson, the expertise on offer from Worth Capital been just as valuable as the investment, with Worth Capital co-founder Matt Cushen acting as a sounding board for ideas and an excellent guide.
As Georgeson says, “there have been numerous occasions where Matt’s expertise has been invaluable, especially his insights into customer journeys and his knowledge of the investment market”.
What The Start-Up Series could do for your business:
RentalStep is one of many start-ups who have won The Start-Up Series and, as a result, gone on to experience tremendous growth – whether that’s through research and development, building a website or platform, attracting clients and customers, launching new initiatives, making hires or more – and you could do the same.
Every month, up to £150,000 equity seed investment from a £3.6m funding pot, along with expert advice and honest guidance on how best to grow from Worth Capital, is on offer to two winners – with both B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) businesses considered for the investment.
So, how can you win the competition?
Finally, Georgeson offers a few pearls of wisdom to entrepreneurs who are in search of funding and guidance: “It sounds obvious, but enter!
“Don’t think your business plan isn’t up to scratch or that your business isn’t good enough. You never achieve anything by not being in the game. The very least you will get from this process is a better understanding of how your business fits with investors.
“Have a good business plan with realistic numbers and, if at all possible, stick to the plan. The world changes quickly which presents opportunities for your business but always keep your eyes on the final goal.”