Trading equity, booking spas, and filling out rental applications–activities that couldn’t possibly have anything in common. Probably true, unless you’re an entrepreneur like Ezl Liu and your career path just happens to include working in three very different fields. Like the weather near his home in the Windy City, Liu’s path has taken dramatic and surprising turns.
Liu’s latest project is Rocket Lease, a startup that provides rental applications for landlords and property management companies online. As some one who’s lived in New York and Chicago the last few years and had to switch apartments (and rent out my home) way too often, I can testify that the leasing process has definitely not caught up with technology. There’s an appalling amount of paperwork redundancy. Filling out applications, running credit checks, eats up a lot of time and money for everyone involved.
Rocket Lease’s Liftoff
Liu discovered similar frustrations when he became a landlord after investing in multi-unit housing in the Chicago area. Forms, check processing, running credit checks, you name it–Liu couldn’t find adequate tools online to accomplish such basic tasks. These kind of aggravations inspired me to down several beers. They inspired Lie to build Rocket Lease.
Unless you’re a part of a large property management team, keeping up with the paper can easily overwhelm the small to medium sized landlords and property managers. Rocket Lease helps landlords create custom forms and accept online apartment applications. A management dashboard that’s easy to navigate keeps applications organized. Users can expect bank-level security when exchanging information. The site also features integrated tenant screening (credit and background checks, eviction history, etc.) for which Rocket Lease charges a small service fee to process. A blog offers advice, tips, and analysis covering various aspects of renting out properties.
Rocket Lease is a bootstrapping venture through and through. Liu has done the founding, the developing, promoting, the entire works. He’s even the janitor at Rocket Lease, proving he’s willing to do everything it takes for his young company. (At least he’s done himself the favor of cutting down on all the paper he needs to clean up.) Liu has not sought funding yet, choosing to focus on product upgrades. Maybe that will change soon? In its first eight months, the startup has already grown to more than 3,000 users.
A Founder’s Foundation
Before founding Rocket Lease, Liu co-founded Spaciety. This website is a platform for booking spa and salon appointments in Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle. Users can find discounts, locate services, as well as make appointments for massages, manicures, haircuts, and more.
Prior to his startup days, Liu worked for the Chicago Trading Company as an equity index options trader. Which makes perfect sense, because Liu studied chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin. Armed with the right motivation, restlessness, and curiosity, an entrepreneur will follow the winds of opportunity however they might blow.