In this episode, we spoke with Frank Barletta, CEO of UpTop, a technology company that’s revolutionizing the relationship between landlords, renters, and property managers.
Frank shares his thoughts on how he started his business and how technology can be helpful in the renting industry.
To learn more about Frank’s work, visit www.liveuptop.com.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Alexander Ferguson 0:00
In this episode of UpTech Report, I interviewed Frank Barletta, the CEO of UpTop, a technology company that’s revolutionizing the relationship between landlords, renters and property managers. We speak on his growth, the future potential of applying machine learning, and his focus on team building. Well, thank you so much, Frank, for joining us. And I am intrigued to hear your story starting off what year did you start your business?
Frank Barletta 0:31
Pleasure to meet you, Alex, thanks very much for your time and your interest in wanting to chat with me. started the business directly at January 5 2015. At 8:30am.
Alexander Ferguson 0:44
Wow, that’s very specific. Can you can you tell me, how’s this? How do you know that specific specificity? Never
Frank Barletta 0:49
forget it ever. One of the most important dates in my life? Honestly,
Alexander Ferguson 0:54
really? What can you expect? Well, think about it.
Frank Barletta 0:57
And we’re in business today. It was the first time that I’ve taken a leap to do something that put me so far out of my comfort zone, something that I had no idea what I was doing, and the beginning of the journey.
Alexander Ferguson 1:14
This is your first business that you’ve run.
Frank Barletta 1:17
This is the first business of this type that I have when I’ve had consulting businesses in the past, but they weren’t to this scale or to this opportunity.
Alexander Ferguson 1:27
Yes. And you’ve raised money since then. So it’s very fortunate. Yes. So this is definitely not a small venture, just consulting business. And I, I love the, you know, the exact time that you started.
Frank Barletta 1:41
So tell me, I might still have the receipt for breakfast that morning. So yeah. So what
Alexander Ferguson 1:47
industries do you primarily serve? We serve the residential rental industry. And within that industry, you’re going after renters and owners helping both of them? Am I got that? Right? Yes. So what is the pain point that you’re really solving for them?
Frank Barletta 2:05
So renting is a nightmare for everyone. It’s really tough for renters, it is super expensive, tedious and cumbersome for owners and operators. And while it’s 2019, there’s a ton of technology, the solutions out there, just eat around the edges, they don’t actually solve the core problems within the rental space. So what we want to do is solve that we want to streamline the entire rental industry with one platform that provides something that’s so powerful, and delivers it at no cost to owners and operators that you can seriously disrupt and make a big impact and changed just not not just improving bottom lines and making the experience much better.
Alexander Ferguson 2:49
I think technology that’s like one of the great things about technology, it should make our lives better. And what’s intriguing is when you can disrupt a market that is so when you’re giving it away for free, that’s probably Am I wrong? Is that one of the ways that you’re disrupting as well that there’s it’s just going away? Or is it the technology effect that you can automate this process as well.
Frank Barletta 3:10
So instead of saying to disrupt what I like to think of it as improving industry, obviously, if everything was perfect, there’d be nothing to do, everyone would just go home and eat food, watch TV, or just go out and do stuff, things that are important to your life. The fact that the industry is built on legacy software is the fact that the industry is built on old methods really gives me this idea that if you can be audacious, audacious enough to want to deliver the most impactful value to a business and figure out a model that allows you to do it at no cost, you’re going to make a change that’s so substantial that who knows what it would do to the industry, we know that there are hundreds of 1000s and millions of dollars that are spent per business to make an impact to operate. Even to the small owner and operator, they’re still spending hard earned money to rent their units to operate them and all the headaches that come with it. So the fact that we can deliver something that helps everyone of small to large scale, that that’s really exciting. And that definitely is something worth waking up for.
Alexander Ferguson 4:30
So how many customers you have right now on your platform using both of you, I guess you could say renters and owners together or individually.
Frank Barletta 4:39
Well, it’s a couple 100 users right now, owners and operators and they’re spread around 35 states. Exciting times, but also we’ve only had our platform out in the market for a short time. So it’s it’s great that we’ve been able to get as much business as we have today.
Alexander Ferguson 4:57
And it’s an interesting space for you because You’re having to have find both at the same time. Both need renters to make the owners happy because they want to get on or do you just if you get the owners that they get pulled their renters onto the platform it was it really need to be both the same time.
Frank Barletta 5:15
The software is designed to provide value everywhere. Typically our clientele is the owner and operator, we can provide them a phenomenal tenant experience for their current tenants and also help them acquire new tenants by giving them the tools that they need to do business like screening and lease signing, rent collection, all that stuff. So for them, obviously, they pass the tool, the apps on to their tenants or tenants using have a good experience.
Alexander Ferguson 5:42
So you said it was free? Obviously, no business is truly free. So how does the business model work? And what’s the pricing and look like for the the freemium it’s a freemium model Marais
Frank Barletta 5:54
is the product is free, the ways that we generate money are very simple. If you think payment processing, credit cards, debit cards, Ach, there’s fees, banks charge everyone money, there’s, there’s no free payment processing that exists. So instead of saying, hey, landlords pay us money for the product and pay us or for the software, we say, Hey, you can provide this for free to your tenants. But your tenants have a good experience. If they want to pay their rent online, they can and they will not just pay the bank p but they’ll pay a convenience fee that we charge a bit so that we can make money. But we make it so that it’s very affordable for everyone. So they don’t have to write paper checks or go to the lockbox and drop off cash or money or is it convenient space service and also tenant screening. Clearly, if you want to apply for an apartment, you may have to send your background check your credit score all that stuff. So there’s no such thing as free credit reports. In consumer level, you have to provide a full to provide a full substantial credit score and credit check, you have to provide that data and it costs money to the Bureau’s so we have charged up by a couple bucks when we make money. So it’s a lean business, which allows us to say, hey, more automation more good tech versus human involvement, which allows us to keep our business lean and, and generate revenues.
Alexander Ferguson 7:14
So it does keeping it super lean means you don’t have to do a lot of one on one support for any of them. It’s just here’s the tools use it. And it’s free, so that they’re not like bugging you much. But the way you’re making money is off of the small transactions. Have you you’re getting a good? You said it’s still kind of early on. But are you getting a good kind of transition for people saying, Okay, I’ll sign up and use your stuff. Oh, and I’ll use the background checks and the bank, the bank transfers to the credit card. You usage for my renters.
Frank Barletta 7:45
Yeah, it’s all about giving the product way, and saying, Hey, use this to the full extent you want. And if you have a great experience, use this for other things. And we don’t want to be pushy, because for us, it’s doesn’t, it doesn’t settle well with people, you don’t want to be pushed into something. So it’s more of, hey, we’re going to give you all of this, all these features to use. We’d love you to use them all. But we understand that you may have come here for a specific purpose. So benefit from that, ask us for support, ask us what you need. And we’ll help you operate your business better. And obviously support us by using our payment processing and screening. Got it?
Alexander Ferguson 8:22
The content, the intellectual property that you’ve created is really the the website and these automations and the connections into the payment processing portals and the credit, credit checks if I got that, right, is that is there any other pieces that have kind of put together as your intellectual property that’s unique to you.
Frank Barletta 8:45
We believe that this is the first business that streamlines the entire product in a very specific way. So it’s workflow driven, not to knock any other business that’s out there, because they’re they’re all very large, they’re doing very well. And they’ve been there for a long time. So they’re clearly doing something right. But from an experience perspective, we understand software development, and we understand modern workflows. So by actually working with owners and operators and understanding what their day to day looks like, you can essentially derive a user experience that’s based on that, instead of something that’s clunky and difficult to understand. So anyone of any age can figure it out. And it’s designed to make the process so smooth that you spend less time on the product, and more time doing the things that are more important. There are some things that we’ve developed that are proprietary, obviously, as well as things that we believe don’t exist in the industry. So it’s it’s nice to know that we have a forward thinking approach and obviously there’s so much more to do so. Look for that.
Alexander Ferguson 9:55
Whether you have it right now or looking into it, are you going to have like a matching algorithm It comes to like the best renter to the best owner is that kind of on the horizon or what you have or no rinse
Frank Barletta 10:06
interest. Machine learning is a very important tool for the industry for the future, it will take a very substantial amount of time and energy to learn patterns on who matches where, however, we do have a very good understanding of how to, to succeed in that space. So what I would say is, for those who are interests, support us and help us get there, because that is something that we do believe we’ll be able to achieve.
Alexander Ferguson 10:39
And you’re collecting the data one way or another. So you can what that’s the nice thing is that at any point your you can use that as training data and can move to that next stage that makes sense. So the partnerships is probably a big piece of with, I don’t know, if you call a partnership is just an association with your payment processing tool and your credit check. Have you do any other partnerships that you’ve built that have? Because running a business by yourself is hard, but it can be helpful if you start to build collaborations or API connections or other partnerships. So what kind of other partnerships have you created,
Frank Barletta 11:16
we see a lot of opportunities to work with businesses in the security deposit space in the rental insurance space, those are important for both owners and operators, and tenants. So both groups benefit from it. So that’s, that’s where we see a lot of benefit from and we prefer to work with businesses and make those types of API connections where it’s important, instead of just guessing and saying, Oh, we’re going to do this and that we’ll talk to everyone, there’s no reason why not to we’re not. I’m not shy of that. But is it beneficial? Is it beneficial to everyone is there someone who you’re working with that really needs that to operate their business, that it’ll make an impact for them. That’s where it’s more important to us. And that’s where we will focus our energy.
Alexander Ferguson 12:00
Gotcha. The if someone another entrepreneurs looking to grow a business, any thoughts on what it looks like to create connections or partnerships or API’s, other businesses, any hurdles that they could avoid, or learnings that you could share for doing that?
Frank Barletta 12:21
For specifically for partnering with other businesses? Make sure that your visions are aligned, make sure that there is a clear understanding, I think the fundamental tool set to any professional is communication. If you have good communication that’s listening and being able to articulate your, your goals directly, you’ll be able to achieve a lot. Much quicker, much quickly. Excuse me,
Alexander Ferguson 12:51
the for you. Obviously, the space is constantly changing and evolving and technology itself. So how are you personally innovating? How are you staying up on the latest and technology and figure out what you should apply to your business or not?
Frank Barletta 13:07
I would say candidly speaking to people, having an open network, be comfortable sharing what you’re good at what you’re bad at and being open to feedback, learning what the industry wants, learning what the technology capabilities are. There’s so much that’s out there that’s still in its infancy that as the as the technology is mature, you can apply that to your business and apply that to specific aspects of operations. So it’s just the desire to want to learn continuing education is important. Do you ever need a team also being open to listening to your team, your team gives a lot of feedback on things that they’ve seen and heard. So it’s not just me, I don’t This isn’t me by myself I have I have a team of people that bring very very good ideas that we all talk about spit ball and whiteboard that’s powerful
Alexander Ferguson 14:02
that everyone can is looking at things differently. So when you have a team or advisors or other folks who can talk to you that I appreciate it that that point do you have any favorite websites or places you go to for technology? Or I guess you look you have industry news is one thing but then overall business and the way it’s going give any preference? reading lists that you like that others could look at to
Frank Barletta 14:31
know website in particular I tend to use my Apple news feed that I specifically curate to the topics that I’m interested in the most which gives me my my a syndication of different news articles I can look at so I use same concept. Yeah, yeah, same thing. I just it’s easier for me that I try to spend less time on on the organizational aspect of
Alexander Ferguson 14:57
this is the new the new the new newspaper like we were going to one place, we just pull up on our Apple news or Flipboard. And we get whatever sources we most interested in. Yeah, it’s true.
Frank Barletta 15:07
And my one of my team members goes on Reddit often and is always looking at technology, the technology thread. So learning from there, what’s new and, and? And great. So it’s just being open to other people’s opinions and sharing information.
Alexander Ferguson 15:26
Do you have anything on your book list or audio book lists that you’re reading or listening to in the last little while,
Frank Barletta 15:32
it’s how it’s made. So the podcasts about how it’s made, or very, very enticing to listen to one of my favorite ones I’ve just recently finished up with Sebastian from he created the Power Rangers. So them and Airbnb the team, they’re listening to just similar stories, everyone wants to try to connect somehow. So listening to how other people did it the craziness that they went through. It’s just that’s exciting to hear. So oh, that’s the answer my question for for audio. But as podcasts related,
Alexander Ferguson 16:07
what’s one difficulty that you’ve had to face in the past year or so in growing your business that is, was a great learning experience,
Frank Barletta 16:17
challenges really is hiring the right people, team is so important. And you really never know who you’re going to work with. It’s important to make sure before even if you need someone desperately, that you spend the time to find the right person, because a bad hire, ruins businesses. And those are the challenges that I face finding good people, it’s never easy to find someone that you that you can trust that you believe fits into your culture that you believe will benefit personally and professionally from what you’re offering. But also it’s reciprocal, you know, for for me, the way that I see it is you want someone that is going to want to give their all. But you also want to be able to give that person every opportunity to grow personally and professionally so that this is a place that they find home, because you spend a lot of time with the people that you’re around. And I want to make sure that the team benefits from this just as much as any shareholder just as much as any client.
Alexander Ferguson 17:23
That’s a powerful outlook is the team the importance of it. How big is your team right now?
Frank Barletta 17:28
No, we’re 14 1415 people total?
Alexander Ferguson 17:31
She’s 15 people. Gotcha. Any,
Frank Barletta 17:34
we’re getting there? Yeah.
Alexander Ferguson 17:35
The A lot of it. Obviously, building the platform itself would be developers. And in that kind of range, or do you have I think that’s kind of the main
Frank Barletta 17:46
the split is more it’s like, we’ll say 7030 for product and then operations and growth.
Alexander Ferguson 17:54
Got it? Got it. Fantastic point oh, in hurdles got to go over is getting the right team and building that. Obviously, you’re still in the process, but you’re way, right on your way to being able to pull together. Where do you see your company in five years from now a
Frank Barletta 18:12
global platform that interchanges relationships around the world, being the centralized rental platform? Wow.
Alexander Ferguson 18:20
So what hurdles Do you see you’re having need to overcome in order to be the global, decentralized place that renters and owners are using
Frank Barletta 18:30
finding good team members, that’s it. Execution is, is the challenge to execute, you have to have a good team, I cannot stress that enough. That’s it. Like there’s there’s capital everywhere. If they believe in you, they believe in your vision, they believe in your team, they will work with you. There’s knowledge that you can learn to build software you can do this stuff, it’s just finding the people that that want to do it with that want to do it with you. That is if he toughest thing
Alexander Ferguson 19:01
ever. And you’d have to have the clarity on your vision to be able to do a good job of communicating that vision to your team location. Like the communication over to that. That’s awesome. Well thank you so much for sharing your both your journey that you’re on this insight that you have and are excited to see where these next few years and you get to global domination and decentralized ownership of renter’s so for those who want to learn more, they can go to live up top comm any other info that they get you’d love to share or want them to our viewers know about?
Frank Barletta 19:44
If my daughter Celeste, who’s eight months two days ago, sees this in a few years let her know that that he’s working his butt off to to show her that anything is possible from any one candidate a college dropout I work my butt off don’t come from the multifamily or rental industry at all. Taking this from an approach of a technology professional and a renter who wants to genuinely make a change and, and work with a lot of people.
Alexander Ferguson 20:16
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech report.com. Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you subscribe to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.