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One of the toughest parts of being in the apartment rental business is collecting rent. After building a billion-dollar rental property portfolio, Damian Langere turned his attention to launching a fintech startup to ease the process.
Domuso, which he calls PayPal for renters, is a payments platform connecting tenants and landlords. The vision is to build an ecosystem that includes a proprietary underwriting system to assess risk and then provide credit to eligible tenants who need help paying rent.
Langere describes how his apartment managers each month would hear from tenants who had hit a rough patch. He decided technology could be a helpful tool, but landing on the right solution took some time.
"You’re starting out with a grand theme to save the world, so to speak, but you have to understand what the exact problem is that you truly are solving," he says. "In this case, the rental experience, one element that we could solve for was payment inflexibility."
To execute his vision, Langere knew he needed to hire a team that would "follow me through the war". Tackling financial services is particularly difficult because you need to understand the lending business, build consumers’ trust and satisfy regulators. And at the end of the day, you have to prove that the financial services model can be profitable.
"Finding a team to accomplish a revolutionary vision is the most important part of being an entrepreneur," Langere says, adding "You have to lead that ship into some scary waters."
Finding a team to accomplish a revolutionary vision is the most important part of being an entrepreneur.
Langere quickly found that the best team members weren’t necessarily the ones who agreed with him. He thinks of diversity as elements of different personalities: The benefit of hiring people who are willing to challenge your ideas typically results in a better idea. Langere’s team is "bright, stubborn and willing to take risks. When you’re building innovation, especially in financial technology, you need that."
As if financial services isn’t challenging enough, Langere and his co-founder have bootstrapped the entire way. Only while on the journey did Langere realize the immense perseverance required to keep Domuso afloat. "I think there’s a reality check for many entrepreneurs, the point when you find it’s going to take longer than you think and it’s going to take more money than you think. You can get there, but you can never take your eye off the ball."
Last year, Domuso was accepted to join Commerce.Innovated, the annual four-month-long accelerator co-sponsored by SVB that is designed to help fintech companies grow their businesses and gain access to a network of financial services experts. "We were able to rub shoulders with very talented individuals who were attacking pain points in their own spaces, and that was invaluable to us," Langere said.
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Damian Langere, CEO and co-founder of Domuso, describes how he created a fintech startup focused on helping renters.
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