Ben Eastman is a 2011 graduate of the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management, where he majored in accounting and entrepreneurship. Following graduation, Ben was a consultant with Ernst & Young's real estate transaction advisory group in San Francisco and Phoenix for three years.
Jon Eastman graduated in 2013 with majors in finance and entrepreneurship, and then focused on developing his computer programming skills through additional coursework, self-teaching, and working with a mentor.
Last year, the brothers set out to solve a problem that both experienced in the real estate rental industry: the lack of technology for "Do-It-Yourself" (DIY) landlords.
"After renting a house from a Tucson landlord who did not use rental management technology, I realized this was a leading cause of communication breakdown between me and my roommates and our landlord," said Jon.
To solve this problem, Jon and Ben created Rennection, (Rental + Connection) a rental property management software for DIY landlords. Both landlord and tenant benefit from the convenient way to manage the rental relationship.
"Submitting paper rental applications with all my personal information was not only a hassle, but a little frightening not knowing where my social security number and bank account information would end up," said Ben.
Rennection gives landlords the ability to accept online rental applications with credit reports, collect rent online, and includes a full maintenance portal where tenants can create documented maintenance requests with photos. The tenant's personal information is protected using Rennection's secure platform. In October, the brothers announced that Rennection had taken the necessary steps to become a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) and official reseller of Experian credit data. All applications processed through Rennection come with an Experian credit report, a national criminal background check and national eviction history check.
Jon has always been interested in computer programing and designing application systems and started teaching himself to code following gradation, which was especially useful since the brothers realized developing software in-house was the only sustainable way to run a technology company. After finding an awesome mentor, and attending multiple programing conference events, Jon has developed an impressive skill set that moves Rennection forward everyday.
"The ability to make instant changes to the software after customer feedback, or add a new feature over the weekend constantly improves Rennection," said Jon.
Rennection is now being used by landlords in over eight states and the number of users continues to grow each week.
"It is very rewarding to see new users signup each week and know that our product is helping simplify and improve an area of their life," said Ben.
What do you consider your biggest entrepreneurial success?
Jon: My biggest success to date has been launching Rennection. It definitely has not been easy and there’s still a long road to go, but researching, developing, and launching a software product that helps landlords manage their properties more efficiently is an awesome feeling.
Ben: It's amazing and humbling to step back and see how far we’ve come with Rennection. When I look back at our early drawings and notebooks with our ideas for a rental platform, it makes me proud that between the two of us, we've been able to completely build the Rennection platform which provides a genuine service for a significant industry.
What is most surprising about being an entrepreneur?
Jon: Realizing the quote from Steve Jobs, 'Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.' is actually true. When you start a business, you’re going to have to wear multiple hats, many of which you know little or nothing about. However, with the amount of resources available today, everything from filing state corporate commission paperwork to developing software is available online in some form of media (articles, blogs, videos, tutorials). It is possible to accomplish a lot of daunting tasks if you take the time to learn how to do them, and do them right. Plus, if you do it wrong, you most likely will never make that mistake again!
Ben: How important it is to keep a detailed schedule and stay organized. When you are first starting out, you typically won't have an HR department, accounting department, etc. It is easy to get distracted focusing on one specific thing, but it is so important to make sure you don’t let that cause you to get off track.
What was the most important lesson you learned in the Entrepreneurship Program?
Jon: The skill of pitching is so important! Whether you are standing on stage in front of 100’s of people or on a ski lift talking to a random gentleman who turns out to be an executive at a local software company, you are always 'pitching.'
Ben: Financial modeling. We are constantly reviewing and updating our financial models to help us make the appropriate decisions for additional features, sales/marketing strategies, etc.
What impact has the Entrepreneurship Program had on your career or life?
Jon: The biggest impact on my life has been understanding the concept that learning never stops. There is always something new to learn in your industry, which will help your business grow.
Ben: Learning that you can use an entrepreneurial skill set in so many different aspects of your career and life. There isn't one specific way to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is about creating new or improved ways to do something or make something and there are many paths to get there.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Jon: There's no such thing as luck.' Starting a business takes a lot of work, things usually take longer than expected, and unseen issues will arise; but stay positive, focused and put in the time to solve those problems and get back on schedule. By staying focused, and putting in the time necessary, you will 'create your own luck' which isn't actually luck, because things will happen when you work hard!
Ben: Starting a company is not glamorous. How the 'startup' culture is portrayed in articles, on TV, and in movies is rather amusing. There are good days and bad days, plenty of stress, and unexpected delays. However, if you love the challenge of starting something new and making it a success you will work through the rough times and enjoy the journey! You have to stay focused, be positive, and work hard.