March 8, 2015

Born and Bred in Boston, Buildium is Built To Last

Last week I visited yet another Boston-based tech company that probably isn’t getting quite the recognition it should. 

Perhaps that’s in part because they’ve been in business for more than a decade and had steady but slow growth for the better part of those years. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t raise any outside funding until 2012, and even then it was, for the most part, kept under wraps. Whatever the reason, it seems the noise about them is about to get louder. 

I’m talking about Buildium, the property management software provider founded by two former Sapient employees, Michael Monteiro and Dimitris Georgakopoulos, in 2004. 

                                           Buildium. Michael Monteiro. Dimitris Georgakopoulos. VentureFizz

Just last month, Buildium made its first acquisition when it scooped up All Property Management, an online marketing service that connects property management companies with property owners. This was a significant move for Buildium as it not only added to their offerings, but more importantly, made them the only company in the marketplace that provides both web-based property management software and a way to acquire new properties to expand property managers’ businesses. 

I caught up with Monteiro, CEO, to hear about Buildium’s journey from inception to this acquisition and to learn where they’re headed moving forward. 

Monteiro first gave me a tour of the downtown Boston office (which will soon be moved to a larger space in the city) and specifically highlighted the conference room names.

Buildium Offices. VentureFizz

These names represent the location of each of Buildium’s offices, the first being Georgakopoulos’ apartment on Sewall Street in Brookline. 

Monteiro, a graduate of Boston College, and Georgakopoulos, a graduate of Providence College, had become friends while colleagues at Sapient. Realizing they both had a keen interest in real estate, they partnered up and began picking up investment properties in Providence – “an affordable alternative to Boston real estate,” Monteiro told me. 

After accumulating multiple properties, the management got dicey. So much so that it was difficult to confirm that 100% of rent checks were collected each month. Like most entrepreneurs, after realizing there wasn’t an easy solution to their problem currently in the marketplace, they built their own. 

Monteiro and Georgakopoulos left Sapient and started Buildium in 2004, released the first version of the product in early 2005, and acted as their own company’s first customers. They then began searching for early adopters to pilot the software while keeping some contract work on the side to pay the bills. In fact, some of that side work came through Saro Iskenderian, also a former Sapient coworker, who was running his own consulting business and is now Buildium’s VP of Product Management. 

Monteiro and Georgakopoulos eventually began to focus on Buildium full-time when they reached 50 customers in 2006 and got real office space (a small room often mistaken for a janitorial closet) on Hancock Street in Quincy. They would grow this 10X to 500 customers before hiring their first employee and moving to yet another office on Farnsworth Street in 2008. 

The steady growth continued and found the team growing out of its space and into nearby Congress Street in 2010 and even more so during the subsequent two years, leading up to their first outside capital raise in 2012, led by K1 Capital on the West Coast. The funding helped Monteiro and Georgakopoulos grow the team, move to their current location on Chauncy Street (which Monteiro said he expected to be in for a long time) and put more money behind marketing and sales. 

The plan worked. Buildium continued to grow and hire rapidly, which is why they’ll once again be heading to a new, larger space. 

However, it was about a year ago, Monteiro tells me, that his outlook on Buildium’s future changed. A vision he, at least in part, credits to a book authored by James Collins entitled, Built To Last, which provides a master blueprint for building organizations that will prosper long into the twenty-first century and beyond. 

                                                                      Built To Last Jim Collins. Buildium. VentureFizz.

Monteiro, who bootstrapped his company far longer than most do these days (another area where Buildium should get more credit than it does), admitted his long-term view for his company wasn’t always to build a 100-years company. He envisioned an exit somewhere along the way. 

But as Monteiro and the team spent the better part of a year to clearly assess and articulate their mission, their core values (Integrity, Simplicity, Balance, Service and Ownership) and their three-year vision, he and the other “Buildians” got even more excited about the opportunity. And Monteiro realized something: “This is a company I want to be a part of for a long time.” 

Monteiro and I discussed these values at length. Proud of their importance and meaning, he told me, “They weren’t decided on quickly or easily. A lot of time and thought went into this.” 

The mission, the values and the three-year vision for the company are all documented and updated annually in the “Buildium Playbook” and disseminated to every employee in the company.

                         Buildium Boston. VentureFizz.

More than his company’s rapid growth, or the move to a new downtown office, and even more so than his prideful bootstrapping journey, Monteiro’s passion shined through most on this topic of mission and values. This was the reason he built a company. This is why Buildium is built to last.

                                Michael Monteiro Buildium. VentureFizz

Key behind it all, Monteiro says, is the unanimous passion behind “helping the little guy.” 

For Buildium, it all starts with a focus on small businesses. That’s their audience, those are their customers. According to the company, 95% of the roughly 132,000 property management companies in the U.S. employ less than 10 people. To truly be passionate about helping small businesses, Buildium’s core values need to resonate with you. 

This focus on helping small businesses grow, now to the tune of 10,000 customers – a milestone recently attained by Buildium – is what drives Monteiro. 

We’re passionate about the little guy because when you help the small business owner you’re not only helping them provide for their family, but as they grow, you’re touching many more families… For me, it’s a reason to get out of bed every morning.” 

The Product

While at Buildium, I was able to catch up with several team members, including Iskenderian, who joined via the team robot (think, iPad on a segway). 

                            Buildium. Saro Iskenderian. VentureFizz

Seeing the product first hand I noticed the company’s “simplicity” value shine through. Real estate, and property management specifically, are industries that, historically, have been slow to adopt new technologies. Buildium has created a platform that is extremely user friendly and customizable to its clients and the tenants. 

Being able to see the platform from both the property management side as well as the tenant side, it’s easy to understand Buildium’s success – and its 10,000 satisfied customers. 

The platform features property marketing (vacancy listings, listing syndication to sites like Zillow), tenant management (ePay functionality so tenants can pay rent online, payment tracking, document management), owner management  (1099 e-filing, document templates), accounting / business management (bank account management, budget creation, analytics) and maintenance (notifications, photo attachments) just to highlight a few offerings. 

                Buildium. VentureFizz
                Buildium Software. VentureFizz.

The Future 

The acquisition of All Property Management was a step in Monteiro’s plan to build Buildium to last. While 10,000 customers is nothing to blink eye at, especially for a company bootstrapped for its first eight years, that is only a fraction of the market. 

As for what’s next for Buildium, Iskenderian, who is excited about where they are as a company, shed some light on the product side, saying: 

“We’re poised for innovation in the next two years. We have a solid base to build off and a strong product and development team, so expect a lot of genuine innovation coming from Buildium.” 

In the more immediate future, Monteiro says he’s doubling down on mobile and is eyeing adjacent markets.

“Property management is a huge business,” Monteiro said, “We’re going to be opportunistic and create new ways to help small business owners grow their companies.”

* Be sure to check out Buildium’s BIZZpage for the latest list of career opportunities!

Josh Boyle is Director of Marketing & Community, VentureFizz.  You can follow him on Twitter @jb_sid
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