The Pitch: A Renter’s Search Engine

May, 2009

Rentrilla LLC

Ryan Yanagihara, Chris Gilding


The Pitch

I was living in Los Angeles when I got a job offer to move back home to Hawaii in 2006. I was looking for a rental — specifically a three-bedroom, single-family home with an enclosed garage — but found it difficult to find anything online. The Honolulu Advertiser’s Web site has the same listings as its print classifieds (three-line text ads), and Craigslist made it hard to find a specific type of property.

Out of this frustration, my business partner, Chris Gilding, and I created, a search engine for anybody who is trying to advertise or rent property. For renters, the search engine includes fields for location, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, minimum/maximum rent and 13 other amenities, like fireplace or yard. The results are sorted by relevance, but include all properties in the area to show you what’s out there.

Property managers and owners can list their properties as long as they want and Rentrilla charges only when the property is rented. The owner pays $99 for properties rented for up to $1,000 a month, $199 for rents between $1,001 and $2,000, and so on. Renters can use the site for free and receive a cash bonus if they find their rental property through Rentrilla.

Gilding maintains the technical side of the Web site and has experience working with Locally, our competitors are the Advertiser and Craigslist. Compared to the Advertiser, we are able to post more information on each property, including photos. Unlike Craigslist, our Web site is easy to search and is managed by us to protect consumers from fraudulent listings. We will be running spot checks to verify housing listings. We will be expanding nationally, with our next markets in Las Vegas and Arizona. Nationally, we would compete against eBay’s, which focuses on large apartment buildings with hundreds of listings. We would focus more on individual landlords and property-management companies.

Expert Feedback

Ian Bigelow, president, Rental Solutions

While I like what is attempting to achieve, it is entering a saturated market. There are already several large sites that provide paid online rental advertising, and a very effective free advertising tool in Craigslist. I would not oppose listing our properties on the site or even paying if finds us a qualified tenant; however, our units typically rent out in under a week using free advertising, so would need to somehow create added value over what is currently available.

Soren Burkhart, managing director, Hawaii Business Consulting LLC

I believe that Rentrilla should revisit its underlying assumptions about the competition and its business model. It assumes the current limitations of the online rental market are based on limited search capability and that landlords would be willing to pay for the service. The major competitive advantage that Craigslist and have is their volume of users. Providing better pricing against Craigslist is very difficult, since it is free. With a fee of about 10 percent of a month’s rent, I believe Rentrilla would be very challenged to get landlords to pay for their services because it offers no compelling advantage.

Valerie Koenig, founder, Business Plans Hawaii

It is true that many successful companies begin due to a single, personal experience of the owners, but where is the market research? The company’s thrust is that the extremely popular and well-known Craigslist has a poor and cumbersome search engine. As an investor, I want to see multiple articles citing that same experience by hundreds of others. And I want proof that it is annoying enough to make folks pay $99!

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