Can you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Well, I’m old so won’t bore you with all the details – but started with a great 10yrs in the military and then into Telco/IT which allowed me to live/work in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Back to Oz as the kids got older and through good luck I managed to bump into Michael Malone and iiNet – I was there until we sold the business in 2015 to TPG. That’s when I joined Rent.com.au, so a little over 5yrs as the CEO
Tell us about your company and the products/services they offer?
As our name implies, we are all about Renters – from finding that great home to managing your payments while you are there. Australia has a real fascination with property (or to put it more bluntly, with the buy/sell side) and this has led to a perception that renting is somehow a secondary choice – But we have over 30% of us renting and the truth is that for many it is an entirely practical/logical thing to do that suits their stage of life.
Renters today are better educated, more inclined to move around the country, earning good money and more than ever have seemed to have nailed that lifestyle balance – so we see that as our job, Renters are all we are focused on and we want to make the process easier – basically, we want to make renting rewarding.
“…Our mission is to remove the stigma of renting and to make your rent money work for you.”
We have a bunch of products to help people through the process – from cool additions to our listings (lifestyle gauges, walkability), our Renter Resume (now over 1.2m people using it) and its critically acclaimed partner, “Pet Resume” (yep, it really is for pets!) through to tools to make you stand out from the crowd (important now given the heat in the rental market) and to ones that help you with the costs of moving.
Our latest venture is Rentpay, only new but really proud of what we are starting here – for the first time in Australia, we have a product where your regular weekly rental payments can actually contribute to your credit score – our mission is to remove the stigma of renting and to make your rent money work for you, so the credit score builder is the start with more to come.
What does a typical day at Rent.com.au look like at the moment?
Busy would be an understatement, we are only 25 people and that covers everyone from our cracking customer service crew through to our wonderful (if slightly odd) development team. We are running a combination of flexible hours and WFH so first up there are various team catch ups and then off we go. I am really fortunate that we have a strong leadership group, passionate and experienced so as you would expect, they cover the day to day. One thing we do that I really enjoy is that we have a rule about not eating your lunch at your desk, so we all end up in the lunchroom together and it’s a really great way of making sure we keep the random casual ideas/chats flowing between all of us.
Who are your inspirations, in business and/or life?
My first real role where I could influence the outcome of a business was at iiNet – working with MM was also my first experience of working with an entrepreneur/founder and it literally changed everything for me.
It’s funny how you can remember simple things, on my first day (company was pretty small then, I think I was employee #100 or so) and as we were walking through customer service Michael was saying hello to everyone by name, he knew everyone and I’m standing there thinking shit, I forget my bloody kids names. I know it’s not a big deal but for me it showed me what a leader was, he built a connection with everyone, there was no real rank or hierarchy and everyone knew that they had a voice and that they were integral to the business. I loved that we were always on the “right side of right” as far as customers were concerned, we were changing the world of internet in Australia and we were passionate and proud to be the little guy, the disrupter. So, basically Michael ruined a corporate career for me.
“…We are doing stuff that has never been done, it’s a great business opportunity and is terribly exciting (and daunting sometimes) but importantly, it’s also the right thing to do”
I see many of the same things in RNT, I hear our staff on calls everyday where people are in stressful situations – I hear the empathy from our people, the willingness to go above and beyond to help and the passion for change. We get out of bed each morning and come to work knowing that we are genuinely helping people, doing the right thing and delivering on our vision to make the world of renting better – we are doing stuff that has never been done, it’s a great business opportunity and is terribly exciting (and daunting sometimes) but importantly, it’s also the right thing to do.
Where might we find you when you’re not at work?
I have an old car I tinker with, it’s my thinking time and why would I pay a mechanic to work on it when I can do half the job at twice the price?
What are the benefits and challenges of working in proptech, such an emerging, innovative industry?
Well Protech comes in a 100 flavours, we are probably closer to Fintech but the common benefit for me is that you are dealing with passionate people – people that are betting their house (sometimes literally) to get an idea off the ground, to disrupt the status quo and with that comes a real sense of energy and purpose. I also feel that there are real opportunities across the entire sector – some areas are devoid of tech so that’s an opportunity, others are dominated by large incumbents with margins to protect and no desire to innovate, so that’s another vector.
Challenges are always present as well of course, I know access to capital is a perpetual challenge for some as is simply getting your idea or business in front of the right people but these are common for most start-ups . I think as a segment (and more broadly, as a country) we are getting better and we have some fantastic success stories as examples of where we can get to.
What would you say to someone considering getting into proptech?
It’s an interesting sector with a real blend of old and new, there are also opportunities at every level (local, state, national and global) so there is no shortage of places to start. I can’t put myself in the same position as some of the inspirational founders I have worked with, but I think normal rules apply – clearly identify the problem you are trying to solve, then wing the rest.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I get lots of advice from my wife, some of it is even constructive – on a serious note, I do love the saying “change the world”, I know it’s corny but I truly believe that everyone one of us has the power to make a difference.
What have you been reading/listening to/watching lately?
I’m a new Grandad (I know, I look so young!!) – so right now we hang out for the latest episodes of Bluey, recently the grandbaby has discovered “Shaun the Sheep” so I am getting my fill of that as well – sorry if you were looking for something more high brow!
What are you and your company excited for within your company and within the industry in 2022?
I do think 22 is going to be big – for us we have new products and partners to unleash on the world and it will be interesting to see how the country rebounds as borders open. At an industry level, I think we will see more consolidation/collaboration and I think that’s a good thing – it’s a logical path to scale and amplifies influence/change.
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