Nate Kroll (second row, far right) and his Leasemaid team are looking to stay in Harbor Springs after their “start-up summer” is over; they are currently working with Graham Management, who will serve as the company’s first client.
Editor's Note: The second cohort of Coolhouse Labs teams have settled into Harbor Springs for the summer, bringing lots of creative energy with them. In this occasional series, we'll be featuring different teams that are spending the summer, and perhaps longer, in northern Michigan. The second team we're featuring is Leasemaid, a startup that is looking to permanently relocate to Harbor Springs. "Chief Maid" Nate Kroll gave us some insights on Leasemaid, and the company's leap across Lake Michigan.
Give us the elevator pitch for your company.
LeaseMaid handles the chores of leasing apartments for landlords, management companies and renters. Our free web and mobile applications securely organize and streamline the apartment leasing process by screening tenants, generating leases & disclosures, and collecting rent.
Where did the idea come from...and what made you decide to move from idea into action?
After four years as a commercial credit and treasury analyst for Bank of America, I followed my passion for real estate and started a brokerage specializing in apartment rentals in Chicago. After about a year of running around town collecting paper rental applications and signing leases, I knew there had to be a better way of doing it online. I couldn't find a solution that wasn't hundreds or thousands of dollars to sign up for, so I decided to learn web development and build it myself. I attended a programming "bootcamp" called The Starter League, and learned enough to build the first prototype that I used for buildings I managed.
What sets your business apart from what is already "out there" and what hole in the market will you be filling?
Right now all the property management software systems are very expensive, with several top providers costing thousands of dollars to set up and maintain. LeaseMaid is absolutely free for property managers and landlords, and we make money through rent collection credit card fees and targeted advertising.
How did you decide to apply for Coolhouse Labs? What attracted you to the program most?
My family has a small cabin in the northwoods of Wisconsin where I spent summers growing up, so when I heard about Coolhouse Labs it was a no-brainer. You mean you're going to give me $25,000 to work on my dream and we get to spend the summer up in the north woods? Done.
Were you familiar with the area at all? First impressions?
While this is my first time up north in Michigan, I felt at home just driving through town the first day.
What are the benefits/challenges of working in a small town (so far)?
I can't think of any challenges off the top of my head, but the main benefit to me is obvious: being able to get away from the city and live together allows the team to really focus on building a great business.
Do you have a favorite "small town" story or experience to share from your time here?
My team definitely enjoys the great ice cream and fudge shops downtown, and we have racked up a bunch of the buy 5, get 1 free cards already!
We've heard you might be staying in Harbor Springs once the program ends. Can you talk a little about potential plans, and why you like the idea of basing your business here?
I love all that this area has to offer in terms of outdoor activities; there's always something to do. I'm also excited to be part of this new tech/startup community, some really cool things are happening here.I know LeaseMaid has all the resources it needs here in Harbor Springs to be a large international company.
Anything else you'd like people to know?
We have been working closely with Kennie and Makayla at Graham Management to develop our system for property managers and are excited to have them as our first client!