Flatfish aims to streamline communication between tenant, landlord and tradesperson; rental maintenance made easy, if you will. We spoke to co-founder and CEO Tal Meser to find out more.
Idealog: So how did Flatfish come to be part of the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator?
Tal Meser: We went through the Creative HQ Global Growth Programme initially, but we had a different focus at the time. We applied for the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator and we got in. It’s been a really great programme, and an important part of our bigger vision to be a really fintech-targeted company.
So what was the generation of the idea?
We went out to the market and tried to understand what problems were out there. Initially, we had the idea for helping tenants find good quality flats, but we found out that there was a bigger problem: getting things fixed. So we pivoted to helping organise maintenance on rentals.
I had experienced the problem myself. A few years ago I was renting with some mates and we had a leak in our ceiling and that ended up turning into a big hole in the roof that costing the landlord a lot of money. Throughout the whole thing, communication was a big problem. Organising the tradesperson, finding good quality tradespeople that would fix the problem and leave the place in a good state, and also having the landlord be transparent in communication with us was a challenge. So we went out and really tried to explore that more.
When did you know that you’d hit upon the right idea?
Property managers have a really high volume of maintenance issues every month - They have property portfolios of 200-400 properties on average, some with more, and they have 100 plus maintenance issues coming in every month. They have to communicate not only with the tenants but also with the owners, with the tradespeople to get the job done, so we realised we had to focus on finding a solution for that.
We found a way that saves them a lot of time and really improves the communication for everyone, and leaves everyone happy. That was our big win.
So what kind of value did you get out of the accelerator? What does it actually do for startups?
It’s really about making connections and having those multiple heads really coming in with us. We were so lucky. We had really smart people getting involved in the process and giving us that second pair of eyes, helping us reflect on all the different possibilities early on. We came in with an idea - a problem and a solution - but having that ability to step back and recognise this big opportunity and understand how we can get to where we want to be in the future, that was really the key outcome for us.
Having a really great network around us that could connect us to the right people really quickly, having that structure that could get us to demo day and investment and the right team - there were multiple wins.
Your pitch was really good at the demo day. How much time and effort goes into getting that crucial five minutes together?
We start pitching really early on, beginning with elevator pitches and expanding that over the following weeks. We’ve pitched to a lot of different groups and that really gets you comfortable with the whole process.
We had quite a radical change in our pitch really late on - because of our pivot - but we'd been pitching so constantly that we were able to change direction with just a week to go because we were so practiced. It was actually easy to go live with the change quickly. Being able to change direction like that and still feel comfortable doing it was the really big win for us.
So what’s investor interest been like?
Really great. We’ve nearly finished off our round fully committed, so we're just getting to the point where we're nearly oversubscribed. We’ve got a good range of investors from all over New Zealand. If anyone else is interested in having a chat to us that's always exciting.
That’s another thing about the programme. It’s really helped us in terms of structure, the pitching and actually having the follow-up to get to this stage. It’s been amazing having that support. That’s a really key value we’ve gotten out of this programme.
So where is Flatfish at now?
We've just hit our first milestone of a thousand dollars of monthly recurring revenue, we’ve got six customers in our pilot programme which we’re halfway through and we've got about a dozen more on the waiting list.
We are going to hopefully grow into Australia in the next six months and hopefully the UK in the next couple of years. That’s the plan anyway. The roadmap is to grow really really quickly.
So what’s the big vision for Flatfish?
A big vision for us is to be that repairs platform for anyone. At the moment we offer Flatfish to property managers because they have a huge volume of maintenance issues, but we want to be the platform that anyone can use to organise repairs really quickly and get a reliable tradesperson every time - the one-stop repairs shop for everyone.
So we’re wrapping up our pilot, launching in Australia in the next 6 months and from there we will be putting more fuel on the fire to grow and then start looking at a third offshore market.
You sound really confident, but are there any obstacles you can identify here?
We’re going really well. I'm really stoked with how we've tackled the challenges offered by the programme. That's something that's really helped us; having that help to tackle the problems we really needed to at the time, now it's full focus full steam ahead really.
The only challenge we’re facing is growth.
Kristen Lunman, programme director for the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator at Lightning Lab, says:
“Flatfish is turning the painful process of solving maintenance issues into simple, actionable steps for tenants, landlords and property managers. Their vision is to empower property managers, landlords and renters to Rent Happy.”
“They tested and iterated their platform that best delivers on their vision and after 12 weeks of gritty determination, they made a breakthrough with property managers as their initial target market. Had Flatfish not applied lean startup methodologies, they could have easily launched a product to market and struggled to scale. This team embodies resilience! Property is New Zealand’s biggest asset class so it’s not hard to equate Flatfish to a FinTech meets PropTech offering.”