Today’s Featured BizSpark Startup is VerticalCloud from the United States.
Matthew Angerer and Jeff Pierce might only have on their Super Startup Founders hats on nights and weekends. But every day, their hearts beat to the entrepreneurial drum.
Matt Angerer is an IT professional by day and a landlord by night. At all times, he has an entrepreneur’s heart and mindset.
The day job was okay but, as a landlord, he was frustrated with cumbersome and expensive software products for tenant screening. He knew he could create something better than what he was encountering and, eventually, partnered up with Jeff Pierce to found VerticalCloud in early 2011. It is the company behind the flagship, leading-edge real estate SaaS (software as a service) products, VerticalRent and AppSingular.
VerticalCloud, he says, was founded on the premise of building a SaaS powerhouse designed specifically for vertical markets, starting with real estate. He and Jeff are both techies with a mind for business. Jeff is more of the technical wizard, however, while Matt has a good understanding of how all the pieces come together.
The two men design, build, and deploy their products, working feverishly as a product line evolves.
Like them, the current products complement one another: one is for landlords, one is for tenants. VerticalRent, for example, is designed to assist property managers, landlords, and tenant screening firms that require advanced tenant screening. It allows landlords and real estate agents to monitor each step in the applicant’s process, in real-time on a mobile-friendly device.
VerticalRent is their flag ship software as a service product. It's a low-cost alternative to traditional property management software. Within minutes of receiving a full rental application, credit and other checks like criminal and eviction can run automatically. The landlord can make an informed decision about leasing, send a lease agreement to the tenant and wrap up the process the same day.
Then there is AppSingular, a new kind of online application for tenants. It’s a platform that combines a tenant’s credit report with a multi-use rental application. An added benefit comes in the form of online rent payments.
From a business perspective, they make reasonable predictions of how they are going to achieve revenue, then test it out. That business model is working well: VerticalRent and Appsingular achieved “market pull” and VerticalCloud now has customers in all 50 U.S. states. The startup is on-track for $100,000 in revenue in its first year and also qualified for Pennsylvania's Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) program.
From a technical perspective, VerticalRent and AppSingular are built with .NET and sit on a SQL Server Database. Fairly quickly, Angerer and Pierce realized they would run out of space using SQL Server Express. They needed a solution – fast – and found it with the Microsoft BizSpark program.
Angerer says the program is helping them save money as VerticalCloud scales up.
“BizSpark is the perfect program for entrepreneurs like us looking to build and grow a product,” he says. “For instance, it has helped our budget tremendously by licensing SQL Server to us free of charge. Add into that the other free software, the advice, the mentorship and everything else – it’s been a real advantage for us.”
The duo is looking forward to the opportunities the future could bring for their ‘side’ company.
“Ninety-nine percent of people just follow the crowd,” says Angerer. “True entrepreneurial types march to the beat of a different drummer. We both hear those drums."