Raj is the founder of Rent Round, a tool that helps landlords search, compare, and achieve a deal with letting agents. He launched it in 2019, and through a combination of Google Adwords and SEO, it has grown to +£5k/month.
Hi Raj! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?
My name's Raj Dosanjh, I’m 34 years old and the founder of Rent Round.
Post studying Computer Science & Business at university, I focused on creating a consultancy in the investment banking industry & running my own property portfolio. Both of which continue to do well.
More recently, Rent Round has been my focus. We provide landlords the ability to compare letting agent fees & ratings. In turn, we provide letting agents with leads, as part of a subscription-based package. I’m glad that the business has gone from strength to strength since its launch last year.
In my spare time, I train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After 8 years of training, I started my own martial arts club which is going strong with over 30 students.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I created Rent Round based on my own experiences when dealing with letting agents. Whenever the properties I own lost a tenant or a new tenancy agreement was needed, a huge amount of phone calls & web searches were needed to understand what fees & services were on offer.
I thought to myself, I should be able to find a letting agent just like I do with my insurances; type in my details and up pops a comparison I can choose from.
From that Rent Round was born.
My motivation was firstly to fill a need that I was sure other property owners were seeking. Secondly, it was to create something I could creatively be proud of.
Over the years I created a few failed ventures, most notably a cosmetic business linked to the fitness industry and a student mentoring platform. I was young and made a lot of mistakes, mainly focusing too much on immediate profit.
The soap business was trying to follow the trend of the growing fitness industry. The product itself was based on containing natural ingredients that fight common skin ailments in martial arts and gymnasiums. I was tentative in investing sufficiently in the business. In addition most of the profit I took out of the business, as opposed to reinvesting. I was a lot younger then and didn’t have a financial security blanket to lose a chunk of my savings.
The student mentoring platform was based on students paying for a mentor who works in the industry that the student wants a career in. The mentor could then become the students way into the industry if the relationship goes well. The largest issue was the price. The mentors were placing a high value on their time, which the students couldn’t really afford. In addition, students weren’t sold on the idea of paying for a mentor, which actually may not increase their chances of getting their foot in the door.
We tried to sell the idea to universities, aiming to get them to foot the bill for their students. We found a lot of barriers to get discussions with the right people and gradually the business lost momentum.
Now when I create a business, especially with Rent Round, my primary focus is to create something that adds value & is of high quality. I believe once these deliverables are met, profit follows naturally.
How did you build Rent Round?
I started with the model of creating a quick & basic prototype to test the market. As with most entrepreneurs, there’s always the element of doubt if the business will take off.
I first decided the business would be a subscription model, based on trends I was seeing across different industries. I then analyzed a few sites that I liked for design inspiration. Finally, I hired an offshore development team that I’ve worked with previously.
The prototype took 2 months to build after many long days & iterations, my many changes to how I thought it should work didn’t help the timeline.
In parallel, I also drew up a marketing plan to sell the idea to letting agents. This was heavily based on cold calls and emails, asking (begging) agents to take a look at the platform.
As I was funding the business myself, I was conscious of getting the business demand tested before investing significantly. So everything up until this point was done at a low cost.
I was slowly seeing an increasing demand on the platform which was building my confidence in the idea.
That was up until I got featured on a major property platform, which blew up my site traffic. I was inundated with agents signing up to the platform and a high volume of requests.
It was difficult to keep up with the growth and interest, but at the same time exciting.
The only way I could approach this was head-on. A lot of sacrifices were made and many all-nighters were spent in this period.
On the tech side, the development is done by a team in India. I chose them as they’ve done excellent jobs for me and some of my acquaintances in the past. I try to restrict my involvement on the coding site. I have a background in Computer Science, but as the old saying goes ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’
I restrict myself to logging onto the system to make wording, reviewing user activity, and uploading blog content.
I’m far more hands-on with wider internet tools. I have a dedicated screen to manage my AdWord campaigns which I’m constantly tinkering with. In addition, I’m constantly logging onto portals such as What’s my SERP & Ubersuggest, to stay on top of SEO improvements.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
My marketing strategy was based on short & longer-term plans. In the short term, I was heavily reliant on Google Adwords, paying to be shown when people search for keywords relating to my business. In parallel, I invested in reputable property-related advertisements that would help build my brand.
Both of these are costly but if done properly can yield very positive results.
In the longer term, my strategy is to ensure my site ranks well organically for my keywords. This includes writing huge amounts of property-related content, being featured on related websites & ensuring my platform is search engine friendly.
In the present time, I’m moving away from my short term strategy, as Rent Round is gaining more traction on ranking well on search engines. I recall being elated when Rent Round was ranking 1st for the term ‘compare property managers’. It’s not the most searched for the term but it felt like I’d won the lottery!
In terms of what has worked well and helped grow my revenue, producing well written, insightful content has been the most fruitful. Other websites are more receptive to posting your content when it adds value. This goes the distance in improving your search engine standing. As a result, the site gets more traffic and therefore conversions. It’s far from easy. Content takes hours to create and reaching out to other websites to host your content can be tricky to manage.
As the brand got more familiar with agents and I invested in a redesign to improve the look of the system, the business has seen generous revenue spikes. We are seeing quarterly increases in revenue of about 20%-30%. While we’re not hitting the millions of pounds quite yet, I recouped my initial investment within the first 6 months.
While the majority of agents have been pleased with our value, as you could expect with any new business, there have also been pockets of adverse feedback. This has been substantial in improving our service.
For example, in the early days, we realized a number of leads we were obtaining were actually tenants looking for a property to move into, which Rent Round doesn’t cater for.
We were then able to add clarity on our landing pages so it’s clear who the service is for. In addition, it triggered us to adjust our keyword targets so we’re more able to zone in on our key audience.
What are your goals for the future?
There’s still huge room for growth for Rent Round. There are 16,000 letting agents in the UK and right now we are only at the tip of the iceberg. We had plans to release new functionality & features on the platform to increase our market share significantly in 2020. However, Covid-19 has impacted the property market. We continue to strive for improvements but marketing investment has been paused as agents look to veer around the impact of lockdown.
As we continue to grow, we will increase the contracts we have with our freelancer teams. I’m not against hiring staff permanently, I personally think that more people are increasingly comfortable with the gig-based economy; choosing their hours, location, and who they work with - This suits me as well.
The rental market is only one of the areas I see Rent Round conquering. The buy/sell market is a much larger, albeit more saturated, market. This is also in my sights.
In addition currently Rent Round is UK centric. The model will work in other regions which is something we have in our minds to do.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and the obstacles you overcame?
The ultimate goal is that my businesses run themselves & my role becomes relatively passive.
Currently Rent Round is far from that! The business needs my constant attention. While I find the challenge extremely exciting, it does require many hours of dedication a day. The biggest challenge is balancing my personal life & other businesses.
I had my 2nd child in December and the experience of raising a family is truly amazing. The challenge is ensuring I have the right balance in life. It’s an ongoing pivot between feeling you should be spending more time with your family vs. the guilt of neglecting the business.
As Rent Round moves out of it’s ‘startup’ phase, the right balance is easier to achieve. I’m able to handover some activities to my team & switch off to enjoy my family time. Of course, there are exceptions in busy periods, but that's part and parcel of creating a businesses
Which are your greatest disadvantages? What were your worst mistakes?
I’d say my biggest disadvantage is I need to spread my time across multiple businesses, my property portfolio, martial arts club, Rent Round & my financial consultancy.
When there are high priorities being raised across the businesses, certain things don’t get my attention as much as they should.
In terms of mistakes, we were a victim of our own rapid growth towards the end of 2019. We were growing rapidly and the excitement got the best of me. I planned a large advertising campaign and I also had a number of technical upgrades in the pipeline.
The upgrade was to take place over the weekend and the marketing was to start on the following Monday. Needless to say, there were issues with the upgrade, which meant the site wasn't working as it should have been. This resulted in a quite expensive advertising campaign not being as successful as planned.
I’ve learned to be more composed and take a step back from my excitement from time to time, as hard as that is. Growth is infectious and momentum is important, but slowing down when required is a key skill to learn.
If you had the chance to do things differently, what would you do?
In my previous answer, I called out the importance of patience and managing growth properly. Looking back this also would have been an important knowledge set when I started the business.
I should have been 100% sure of the model, design, and functionality before development of the platform started. It’s a fine balance between getting a product out to market as quickly as possible vs taking a breath and analyzing key decisions more.
On the flip side when you start seeing a product being created, new ideas pop up which warrant a change.
I would additionally tell myself to discipline my despair. When there is negative feedback for your business or certain client conversations don’t go as well as you planned, it’s easy to get bogged down and get the feeling that momentum is slowing down.
Downers are part and parcel of business. The ability to overcome them and improve quickly I found a massive advantage.
What are some sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?
I find NeilPatel’s website an extremely useful asset for digital marketing, both for beginners and the more seasoned marketers.
For motivation, inspiration, and life balance views, Naval Ravikant talks are a must. I learned about him on the Joe Rogan podcast and whenever I need a steer in the right direction, he’s a golden source.
Where can we go to learn more?
I write a lot of content on the Rent Round Property Blog. If you’re interested in me rolling around pretending to know Jiu-Jitsu, there’s a few videos on our club page.
I’m always happy to talk to entrepreneurs, like-minded people and those interested in business, I can be contacted at email@example.com.