Introducing Zeus 🏡

Tech-driven property manager focused on corporate rentals

Zeus is the new product I’ve been working on since September of last year. I’m excited to share the idea, its genesis and progress.

What is it?

Zeus is a tech-driven property manager, focused on providing convenient, high-quality, corporate housing in the Bay Area.

Zeus starts by taking the pain out of being a landlord.

If you own a property you want to rent out, you can submit it to Zeus, where we price it, inspect it, and take it off your hands. You avoid Craigslist & the multi-step schlep of property listings, finding tenants, screening, collecting rents and managing the property.

The master bedroom in the first Zeus property, courtesy of Justin Kan and designed by Christine Oh

Zeus then furnishes the property, sets up the fastest internet possible, and markets it to corporate tenants. Landlords collect a check each month from Zeus, and Zeus takes care of the property.

Being a landlord is filled with complications. It should be painless. For tenants, renting quality, furnished housing should be as easy as buying something off Amazon.

Our goal is to make that vision a reality.

The origin

My cofounder Joe had to move from the city to Palo Alto this past summer. We were going through the NFX Guild program, and his move was a huge distraction.

We were working on a different startup idea, Status, which wasn’t growing the way we wanted it to. My mind kept drifting to the schlep Joe was dealing with.

Property was something I’d always had a knack for. I’d bought my first flat in Mumbai whilst an undergraduate at Oxford, and went on investing from there.

One night, I lay in bed wondering what a quantum leap improvement in the landlord user experience would look like. My internal dialogue began something like this:

“Renting out and managing a property is extremely painful. What if you could just go to a website and have it looked after instantly? How could I build this?”

I remember seeing the first demo of Stripe in April 2010 in Boston. Patrick, my former cofounder, copy pasted code into a website and voila, you could accept payments! Stripe reduced a painful process to an API call.

With that, the idea was born.

What’s different about Zeus

Zeus signs leases directly with landlords and guarantees them a fixed monthly income. This creates the following incentives:

i) to care deeply about the tenants’ day to day user experience compared to regular property managers

In the Zeus model, the tenants become customers of the property manager. Zeus focuses on providing an exceptional user experience and modernizes the apartments to a high quality to ensure they keep coming back. Over the last 10–20 years, hotels have cottoned on to the importance of the brand experience (think about The Standard Hotels), but property managers have not.

ii) to use technology to be super efficient about maintenance

Zeus is rebuilding the maintenance stack from first principles using data and software. We install smart home tech (think digital locks, dropcams, Nest thermostats) to help us. Zeus leverages on demand, specialized labor to increase efficiency.

iii) to minimize vacancy

Landlords lose ~6% of income each year to vacancy. Traditional brokers do not have strong incentives to minimize it. Zeus reduces it to zero. In turn, Zeus uses data-driven pricing to maintain full occupancy, making an illiquid asset more responsive to supply and demand.

The Zeus philosophy is that in order to create the best user experience for landlords and tenants, we have to do the complicated operational work involved in sourcing, pricing, maintaining and marketing our properties.

This means that we write custom software to help us overcome these bottlenecks as they arise, rather than being a traditional SaaS startup that sells software. Our bet is that this will allow us to make a bigger impact on the corporate housing and property management industries than by trying to sell property management software.

Our progress so far

Zeus has 24 properties and has housed several YC companies, multinationals, students, and millennials relocating to the Bay Area.

Three Story Zeus House with an Ocean View in Upper Parkside

Zeus has helped owners who’ve previously struggled to rent out their places. This beautiful house was empty for four months before Zeus started managing it. The owner spent over six figures on renovation, but failed at the Craigslist game and suffered a lot of vacancy.

Zeus landlords include professional real estate people and the “long-tail” of owners, who want nothing more than for their place to be looked after and for it to provide a stable, steady income.

What’s next

Property Management is an industry that made $14bn in profit last year on $58bn in revenue in the US. However, it hasn’t seen much innovation and has been largely untouched by software.

We raised a seed round led by Bowery Capital to execute on the vision.

If you have a property you would like us to manage, please get in touch.

If you are looking to join a startup at the intersection of technology and real-estate, please contact me. We are currently hiring in sales, marketing, operations, customer success, product and tenant experience.