A Guide to Serial Entrepreneurship
Written by Meera Moorthy
Chad Guziewicz is Belleville’s own serial entrepreneur. He’s started multiple businesses, mostly in the software industry, including Tire Wizard and Rentify. We interviewed him to find out more about his business philosophies, what makes a successful entrepreneur, and some surprising facts about the rental industry.
Before we jump in, here’s a little background on Chad’s businesses. Tire Wizard is a web-based solution, providing dealerships with a customizable tire store. Car dealerships can work directly with tire stores to find the best tires for their cars and customers. Rentify is an app-based tool that securely transfers information between tenants and landlords. Online banking portals in the app allow landlords to request financial information from a tenant directly from their accounts. We asked Chad some questions about this app, so read on to find out more!
What is Rentify and how does it work? Can you walk me through the process of using it?
Landlords send you (the applicant) a link. They ask you some standard questions, just whatever they want to ask for their property (how much you pay for rent, pets etc.) and then you take your bank card, sign into your bank account, and in about a minute later, you’re done.
How does this vary from sending your information without an app? Just person-to-person?
There are a lot more steps. You’d have to use your SIN number, you may or may not have to do a credit check, you would have to get all of your pay stubs, you’d have to give them the name of your employer, you would have to show them financially that you’re making enough money, you’d have to gather any other stuff that they’re specifically looking for (because every landlord is different), and on top of that they may ask for 3 months of your bank statements. All of these steps could take you upwards of 2 hours, not counting the time that you have to reach out to other people. Huge difference from using Rentify.
How does it help applicants? As a student who will probably rent for the next solid decade, how can apps like this help me?
It’s easy to rent to somebody that has a perfect credit score. But how do you rent to people that don’t have a perfect credit score? Well, what our product does is it just shows landlords that you pay your bills and you have money coming in. As an applicant, you can show them that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. And using our app also doesn’t hurt your credit score.
With our system, you can also have a cosignature, so your parents can cosign for you and they can show your landlord proof that you also have income where they can cover for you. It basically shows your landlord you’re reliable before you’re out in the industry and can build a credit score yourself. Yes, you pay your cellphone bill. Yes, you’ve got a job. All that kind of stuff, it’s just giving the landlord more proof.
What would you say to people who might be concerned about the security of using an app to verify financial information?
Today, people are literally sending their SIN number in emails to landlords. Or sending their bank statements through their email. Or their pay stubs or all their information through an email. The reality is, you’re going through the cloud either way. Our system secures your information by separating the data from the moment it gets sent out. It only stays on a landlord’s ‘spot’ for 30 days, and then it gets “anonymized” and we hide your personal information. If anyone tried to look through the system for someone’s information, they wouldn’t be able to associate any of the files with a specific individual, after 30 days.
How did you come up with the idea?
Me and my partner, after starting Tire Wizard together, were in a parking lot saying, “What other industries could we disrupt?’ And I said, ‘Well, I used to be a landlord and it was the worst thing I ever did’. It wasn’t actually the worst but it was a real challenge vetting people. It was challenging trying to understand people, getting their information, and making sure it was real and accurate. If you picked the right person, it was great and if you didn’t it was a nightmare.
So my partner and I started researching, how these companies, third party companies, connect to your individual bank accounts. And that’s how the idea got started. Because we believed the information in your bank and your bank account tells the story of you. The way you spend your money, the way you behave, is the way you are. If you don’t pay any of your bills, you’re not going to be able to pay your landlord. If you pay your bills, you’re going to pay your landlord.
Today, if you go buy a property, they make sure you can afford it. For landlords, they don’t have a way to make sure you, as a tenant, can afford it. With these two ideas combined, we figured, this is the solution. And as we rolled it out into the market, from the feedback from our customers we’ve learned that it’s true. This is the thing that has been missing. Everybody tells us that Rentify is the “aha” moment. And it’s always good to feel good that you’ve found the solution.
The renting industry has been on a bit of decline recently. For those of us who don’t know a lot about renting, what is the issue? What’s going wrong and why?
The challenge is that the rules are so regulated. For landlords, [the question is] “Why even be in the business?” For landlords today, right now, it takes 12 months to evict someone. Imagine if you own that property, your mortgage payments are $4,000, and somebody wasn’t paying you for those. You would have to come up with $48,000 yourself that you’re expecting to get from somebody else. Because the housing market has grown so much, it’s better to just sell it off. It’s much safer.
The big guys aren’t going to do that. But the little guys are getting out of the business right now and it’s really tightening up the market. 80% of the rental market is done by little individuals, not by property management companies. If the problem persists, there’s going to be a bit of a monopoly but also there isn’t going to be the housing stock that we need for rental units.
How do you think it’ll change the renting landscape in the future? Where is the future of the renting industry going and how is this app going to fit into that?
I believe in the next 5 to 10 years that this app is going to be standard. Banking information is just so powerful that it’s going to be the standard way people rent and verify. If we don’t solve the renting industry, there’s going to be less and less, especially in Canada. With our tool landlords will be able to pick better tenants to stop the challenges of needing to evict ones.
If you put good tenants in, it’s a great business. If you put bad tenants in, it’s a nightmare. We need a way to share the right information, securely and safely to get the right tenants in the right place to keep more landlords in the market. I believe that our product is that niche that’s always been needed.
What was it like being financially accountable to a project like this? Was it limiting to how creative you could be? Are there different pressures than when you’re working for someone else?
The challenge of entrepreneurship is you have to be comfortable with being financially accountable to yourself and shareholders. You have to be comfortable with taking risks and the possibility of losing. Similar to if you go to a casino with $5,000, you have to be comfortable to lose $5,000.
There’s also a huge upside in it. If you work for somebody, you’ll always be stuck at a certain salary forever. For the rest of your life, you will never be able to get much more than what that position holds. In the end, with entrepreneurship, you’re in control of everything. With more control comes a lot more risk.
You mentioned you were a serial entrepreneur, you started a bunch of businesses. How has your mindset towards starting something new changed over the course of your career?
It’s important to bring a good team around you to question your thoughts. Your ideas. What would work? What wouldn’t work? Different things.
For me, because I’m in the software industry, which is a little bit different from others, the first thing I always do is put together a product and then try to sell it to somebody. Even if it’s just on paper. What you have to understand is, “Will somebody buy it?”. Have you put the right thing together before you spend the money building a product? Your assumption is that you think they’re going to want it, but they may not. In the end, your customers will always tell you what you need. The market tells you exactly what the product should be.
The guy that started Netflix, I really like his philosophy. I recently learned that I was doing the same thing without realizing it. Entrepreneurship is testing theories, like experiments in school or experiments in chemistry. You’re just trying different things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. When he started his business, he literally sent a DVD through the mail to see what the problems would be. Troubleshooting. Experimenting to see what are the problems in the business and what are the advantages.
Working in an industry, like technology, that’s evolving very quickly must come with certain pressures. What are some that you’ve faced producing Rentify and other software?
The thing is, we were bringing a product that never existed. It didn’t exist on the market and it was totally new. Nobody thought that using bank technology would be the place. And since nobody knew what the right way of doing it was, the only way to move forward was to test it out and see what came back. This technology may evolve in the future. But until we prove, mass scale, that this is a thing, other people won’t copy it, they’ll wait.
If you’re building an iPhone, you’re competing against another iPhone. The technology is already out there. That’s obviously going to move faster than what I have because nobody has ever seen it before. It’s like when Netflix came out and there was Blockbuster. There was only Netflix for another 10 years until other streaming services started to come out. If you’re bringing a brand new product, it takes a lot longer to copy. Again, in the end, your customers will constantly give you feedback and you’ll constantly make the product better.