10 Mar The Start-Up Series October Winner: RentalStep
Founder: Mike Georgeson
Description: Online property rental platform for both tenants and landlords
For a long time, high street agents have been the main players in the property rental market, with landlords and tenants paying high prices for their services.
It was while reflecting on his five years as a landlord that Mike Georgeson decided this system needed an update:
“I thought, the current system is broken. It’s a system of them and us; tenants and landlords. I’m more collaborative,” he explains. “It’s a massive industry and I thought how can I make it better?”
Georgeson’s solution? RentalStep, a unique online platform uniting tenants and landlords with “a timeframe of renting property” and all the services needed to complete the rental process “at a much lower cost than if the tenant or landlord had gone to an agent”.
Tenants using the innovative platform can build a comprehensive TenantPassport showing their rental history and TenantScore in one place, and through RentalStep’s partnership with Experian, users can even boost their credit score with each punctual rent payment.
Considering Georgeson’s background, he was well-suited to create such a business: “I’m a people manager with a technical background. I’ve been developing web applications for 15 years now, and managing people in teams that are developing web applications.”
Georgeson also has considerable experience of running businesses, with Liverpool-based RentalStep his third start-up venture. “We started [the previous two] with nothing and built them up organically – it was tough at times but a great experience,” he reflects.
However this time around Georgeson admits a different approach would be necessary to start up RentalStep, and decided to seek investment straight away “to hit the road running”. Yet he struggled to gel with the angel investors he met with: “I didn’t want to work with stuffy investors.”
So, when he came across the Start-Up Series competition – ran in partnership with experienced investors Worth Capital – he did his own “due diligence” on Worth Capital: “I saw [the businesses] invested in before and got in touch with an investee. […] They said Worth were down to earth and really friendly.” – Exactly what Georgeson was looking for in an investor.
The property entrepreneur then embarked on the application process, which he describes as “fantastic” and “so quick”, adding: “I got a phone call a couple of weeks later.”
After being shortlisted, Georgeson submitted a detailed business plan and later underwent a video interview with Worth Capital.
Next came an in-depth half-day pitch, which was certainly a highlight for Georgeson: “If you imagine Dragons’ Den, it was the very opposite of that,” he says, adding that the “friendly and constructive” judges were “there to help, not pick holes in business plans.”
When he received the news that RentalStep had won the competition – and bagged £150,000 seed funding – Georgeson was “absolutely delighted”. He says: “To win the first one was just unbelievable, as a person and a business.”
He puts the victory down to the quality of his team. “We all get on well,” he says. “My background of technical and people mixed in with marketing helps […] our CTO Chris has built websites for big brands, including Red Bull and Centrica – for him to jump ship and work on this start-up is massive.”
Now, Georgeson plans to use the funding to supercharge website development and marketing. The side of the website for landlords will be developed, while the tenant-focused offering will be marketed to university students through a Facebook advertising campaign. The investment will enable the business to “put a plan and a really good team in place” to spearhead efforts.
On the back of these developments, Georgeson plans to launch RentalStep’s tenant-focused operations at the end of this month, with a development plan in place to launch landlord-focused operations in July.
From then, the team will be closer to their goal of providing a comprehensive, cost-effective service that benefits both tenants and landlords, fostering collaboration rather than conflict between the two:
“We want to be leading a rental revolution,” Georgeson says. Through “transparent, open and friendly” branding, Georgeson intends for RentalStep “to become a trusted voice for tenants and landlords […] known as the intermediary looking after both parties, making sure everyone’s getting along not fighting against each other”.
Beyond his aspirations for his own business, Georgeson hopes that RentalStep’s Start-Up Series success inspires others in the Liverpool start-up community. “The tech start-up culture in Liverpool is rapidly growing,” he explains. “[RentalStep winning] tells other fledgling businesses that it’s not just London businesses that get these opportunities.”
Georgeson has now received an advance from Worth Capital, and is notably impressed by the speed of the process: “Applications closed in mid-October and it was all done and dusted by the end of November,” he says. “The whole process has been superb […] Worth’s experience is invaluable to us.”
Though Georgeson confesses that he is still “in awe” of the world of investment, on his involvement with the Start-Up Series he says his “first foray into investment funding has been brilliant”.