Perry Griffith and Harry Dubke Troublemakers at Cortado

The more I do these podcasts, the more optimistic I am that opportunities are all around us entrepreneurs. If you have the instinct to see them, and the bravery to jump in, you can be like my next guests.

I first met Harry in Richmond with his friends (one of whom is dating my daughter). The talk turned to business, and I picked up bits and pieces of what Harry and his co-founder had launched in the Washington DC market. A week or so later, Perry and Harry were on a video chat educating me on the opening they had spotted, a gap in the three-to-four month rental market for student and intern housing – not just in DC, but world-wide.

Put yourself in the world of the people whose job it is to find short term rentals in large cities around the world. They’re forced to call real estate companies, whose job is to fill up huge rental buildings and get the longest lease agreements as possible. Good luck working with them. You’ll hear a couple quotes from directors of two major U.S. universities. Brutal truth.

Minimal acceptable technology

Over my years helping companies with their sales and marketing, I’ve seen many of these executives get hung up on building custom software rather than starting out with minimal acceptable solutions. Perry discussed how the technology behind Cortado is helping them scale and keep their costs down at this time in their growth.

Similarly, they’ve automated about 80% to 90% of the repetitive day-to-day chores. This has freed up a lot of time.

  • Unified in-box for communicating with customers
  • Modern APIs
  • Modern software stacks to handle lease-up and lead communication
  • Smart devices installed on-property for home management and monitoring
  • Natural language processing software
  • AI for solving simple questions from the tenants

The pivot – Multi-tenant vs privately owned

Initially, Perry and Harry approached the class A multi-family buildings popping up all over DC by the big developers.  They were putting up 300 to 600 family units. The realities of dealing with a heavily entrenched sector forced Cortado to pivot.

They pivoted to single-family homes. In DC they’re called row homes. The guest students will be in a more welcoming environment, surrounded by other students.

The best part of this pivot is it allows Cortado to manage the entire property. It’s a win-win with the building owners. Looking at some of the upgrades Cortado brings in (like technology) will boost the homeowner’s house value. At some point, as the company grows, they very well change their minds and take over entire floors in some 300 family buildings.

Supply, meet demand

Cortado will need to move quickly to balance supply with demand. Luckily, they understand the university schedules, and they understand the college renters’ mentality. Their proficiency with technology will help them keep the needs of both sides met.

They are students of business

In this podcast, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that Perry and Harry are both very bright business executives. Their grasp of so many moving parts of both sides of Cortado is refreshing.

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