Podcast Transcript – Series TWO, Episode 31

Patrick paul, ikos  April 2021

Patrick Paul: [00:00:00]40 million rental units in the nation, half of those are owned by people who own less than 10 units.

That summer cutting grass, single handedly made me get my degree. It was too hot out there.

My boss one day was just like, the only way you’re going to do this is if you start your own company

I see how housing really impacts people’s livelihoods. Like it it’s a huge thing.

and then we randomly ran into, uh, a landlord in Pittsburgh who were just like, what are you guys doing?

In that moment where, you know, it was super scary, kind of backs up against the wall.

And I was just like, wow, we’re actually going to lose our company to a virus.

Oh, this is a black founder. No, I am. I’m a founder who happens to be black. Right. That’s just always been my mindset. That’s just always been my approach.

I’m young enough to take this risk. If I actually do want to be impactful make and change in the world, this could potentially be that opportunity.

I would really say progress over perfection.

I spent the whole past 12 months doubting myself about my entire existence. And this thing is still here.

Dan: [00:00:55] What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihanya here. Thanks so much for checking out another episode of [00:01:00] Founders Unfound. That was Patrick Paul Co-founder of Ikos, a startup using data and information to allow property owners to execute and manage the vital day-to-day tasks of investment property ownership.

Patrick was raised with a strong Haitian heritage, starting in New Jersey and ending up in Southwestern Florida. He grew up an athlete, ended up going to a military Academy, then college, and then to the world of finance and real estate. Now based in Pittsburgh, Patrick has helped to transform the modern rental experience with Ikos along the way, raising millions and weathering an industry hard hit by the economic crisis from COVID-19. Patrick has a great story. You’ll want to keep listening.

Our episode is sponsored by Trajectory: Startup – Ideation to Product Market Fit. This is a brand new book by entrepreneur and investor Dave Parker. This hot-off-the-presses publication is THE playbook for those at the earliest stages of the startup journey; or even if you’re just contemplating the jump to entrepreneurship. This resource could save you literally [00:02:00] years of time on your path. I wish I had it when I started my first company. It’s a must read for all budding founders out there. To get Dave’s book today. Look for a link in the show notes, or simply go to dkparker.com, amazon.com or anywhere you like to buy books.

Before we continue, please make sure to like, and subscribe to the podcast we’re available anywhere you get podcasts, even YouTube. I so appreciate you all. in Unfound Nation who show up to listen to the great founders we get on the show episode after episode. And if you like what you hear, drop us a review on Apple or podchaser.com.

Now on with the episode, stay safe and hope you enjoy.

Hello and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds. This [00:03:00] is episode number 31 in our continuing series on founders of African descent.

I’m your host Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it.

Today we have Patrick Paul, Co-founder of Ikos, a startup using data and information to allow property owners to execute and manage the vital day-to-day tasks of investment, property ownership. Welcome to the show, Patrick, we’re super excited to have you on thanks for making the time.

Patrick Paul: [00:03:23] Yeah. Thanks. Thanks for having me. I’ve been a episode 31, right?

Dan: [00:03:27] That’s right. How does it feel? It’s great. You know, I love it. I love it. If my goal is to get to a hundred at some point. And so we’re on our way.

Patrick Paul: [00:03:35] Sometimes I watch these podcasts. They have, uh, they have people come on again. So maybe I’ll be lucky. Number 100.

Dan: [00:03:42] Yeah. We’ll see. Absolutely. So let’s start off, uh, help the listeners understand exactly what I ghost is all about.

Patrick Paul: [00:03:49] Absolutely you are, you gave a pretty good introduction to it, but 40 million rental units in the nation, half of those are owned by people who own less than 10 units. So pretty much [00:04:00] we use data and information to do day-to-day tasks that property owners do all the time in redundancy and manual way.

So in short, we help these landlords open the door. We showed the unit. We collect a lot of information and data and we help them fill the vacancy. We do it for half a month’s rent. It’s been a pretty interesting journey. So that’s, that’s us in a nutshell, I could talk too much about it, but that’s what we do.

Dan: [00:04:23] I love it. And we’re definitely going to get back into it in a bit. And we talked about this before, my dad was a landlord and a property owner. And like you said, how half of the people who own this are just like normal people who have this as extra income and a way to , kind of diversify their, their income and their wealth.

And so they’re not sort of professional managers. So I think that the service itself is brilliant for sure. Appreciate it. Absolutely. But let’s start off getting to know who Patrick is. Tell us a little bit about where are you from, where you grew up. What’s your background?

Patrick Paul: [00:04:53] So my name is Patrick youngest of seven, uh, family and myself. We’re all from Haiti. Migrated [00:05:00] to Jersey. A lot of Haitians end up between Jersey and New York or Florida for some reason. So started off in Jersey and grew up in Florida, a pretty small town. It’s called Port Charlotte, nestled in between Tampa and Fort Myers. So, so that’s, that’s me in a nutshell, grew up playing sports, outside, doing things, but some way, somehow I just always kind of found my self into entrepreneurship one way or another, and it was always highly encouraged through the culture and through the family. So.

Dan: [00:05:28] How old were you when you came from Haiti?

Patrick Paul: [00:05:30] So I was actually born in Patterson, New Jersey. I was the only one of my seven born here. Right. Because of that, we kind of have a joke. We were still raised in Haiti, even though we were living in the States. Right. You kind of get real with that, with that iron fist.

Dan: [00:05:44] Yeah, absolutely. We’ve heard that story for sure. And how old were you when you went from New Jersey to Florida? Can you remember that?

Patrick Paul: [00:05:51] Yeah, it was, I was four. So I was pretty young when we, when we moved down there, which was, which was pretty cool. Um, but you know, for my older siblings, they had that huge [00:06:00] kind of pull from living in a big city.

Cause you know, Patterson lean on me, tough place, pretty, pretty big city. Right. Moving out to, uh, the Florida in the nineties, there are just like, this is the woods. So it was a pretty interesting transition for the whole family.

Dan: [00:06:14] How old is your oldest sibling ahead of you? Like how many years?

Patrick Paul: [00:06:19] Uh, she’s she’s gonna be mad that I say this out loud.


Dan: [00:06:22] just give us, just give us the amount of years between the two of you then 18, 18. Wow. So when you were born, she was already an adult, I guess.

Patrick Paul: [00:06:32] Yes, she was, she was on her way to college for the school she went to, I think it was St Elizabeth’s college. She, she wanted to be a nun, but then she ended up being a doctor.

So interesting transition there.

Dan: [00:06:43] Wow. Maybe we should have her on the show. That sounds like an amazing story.

Patrick Paul: [00:06:47] She, she, she’s more interested in than me for sure.

Dan: [00:06:49] And so being the youngest of seven, I mean, how do you think that affects who you are today as an entrepreneur? Did it make you more, you know, a lot of big families talk about like, you know, when [00:07:00] the, when the food lands on the table, everybody’s trying to get theirs.

And sometimes the youngest have to fight the hardest.

Patrick Paul: [00:07:06] Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s a story I like to tell that I had at the roughest as the youngest, but I honestly think coming from a big family, I think you just kinda naturally grow up and just like conflict, right? Like just things happen always at all times.

And I think from a young age, you just kind of gather that voice. So I think that’s one thing for sure. I think another thing is I don’t want to say I grew up fast in a negative way, but I just think I was around a lot of. Older people who are kind of going through kind of their experiences. And I think it rubbed off on me in some way.

So, you know, I just think my resiliency is kind of based through my own experiences, but also going through a lot of the stuff that my siblings and my parents, you know immigrants, barely speaking, which kind of like making it happen. I think a lot of that really benefited me in a positive way.

Dan: [00:07:48] That makes a lot of sense. And you know, what’s interesting usually is I know for some families, by the time they get to the youngest, the expectations are high, but sort of the rules are sort of not [00:08:00] as intense because it’s like, they’ve already seen everything from the older siblings. So I was like, ah, okay.

Yeah. That’s not a big deal. Did you experience that or did you have like these parents still that were very strict by the time they got to you.

Patrick Paul: [00:08:10] You put me on a spot, man. I think that was the first one of my siblings that was allowed to stay the night over someone’s house. And I think that was that, that was the talk, right?

So we’re, we’re talking that level of structure and being pretty strict, but I think they were pretty consistent from, from top to bottom. I definitely got away with a lot of things and, you know, as we, as we get older, I now understand because. Uh, boy, I probably got away with things that my sisters did.

Right. Like some of those things that I kind of took for granted, but I would say the structure and discipline was pretty consistent and the expectations were actually pretty high. So like, you know, um, through my siblings, I mean, you have three doctors, a lawyer, a nurse, right? Like myself, like it’s pretty, everyone’s kind of.

Pushing that. So there’s more competition than expectations, which I think it’s a beautiful part when it can be that way [00:09:00] more than just kind of like this kind of failure busting.

Dan: [00:09:02] Right. And did you have any sense of wanting to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer or something that would be sort of in line with the legacy of the rest of your family?

Patrick Paul: [00:09:13] Man Dan, I’ll be, I’ll be honest. I think that was the one they were the most concerned about because I did not want to be a doctor or in medicine. I’m very squeamish. I don’t like blood. I didn’t like any of that. And I convinced myself at some point that I wasn’t a studious person. Right. So. I thought I didn’t like school, but it’s actually something I actually really grow to love.

And I love learning. I almost always knew I wanted to be in business or a businessman. And you know, my, my older sister, who’s 18 years older than me. Sorry. He says for saying this out loud, when I was 10, I started a lawnmower company. It’s actually something that’s quite common down in Florida. Right? It is hot.

Yards are big. No one wants to do it. We have a lawnmower start with the neighbor. I mean, before, you know, when I was cutting almost like three, four blocks, and I had a neighbor who was my best [00:10:00] friend and I had this little business and we got our first cease and desist because we’re putting flyers in people’s mailboxes.

Right. So I kind of knew at that point, that. I, I like that. I really liked that.

Dan: [00:10:10] That makes since then we just have a conversation, uh, with somebody else from Florida. And I was telling them how I spent a summer in Florida. My uncle was a landscaper and I remember cutting lawns and having to do it like early in the morning and later in the day because of the hot cause it was the summertime.

And, but that’s entrepreneurial for sure.

Patrick Paul: [00:10:30] Uh, a funny story. My, my junior year of college, when I came home for the summer, you know, just coming home, I was playing football in college and I just needed some money right. In between workouts and summer classes. And a buddy of mine has a landscaping company.

So he was just like, Hey man, like if you want to come landscape, you know, do whatever that summer cutting grass, single handedly made me get my degree. It was too hot out there. I just, these guys were cutting. I think they were cutting the grass every 15 [00:11:00] minutes. I just couldn’t keep up. I just, so that that’s summer and cutting grass has something with me.

Dan: [00:11:07] Yeah. Sometimes we need those moments of. Yeah. If, if I have a choice, if I can make my own opportunities, I probably got to make this one of the last choices. So tell us about when you were going to college or thinking about going to college. Were you thinking about business? Were you thinking about, what were you thinking about?

I mean, you said you played sports, so that was obviously a part of, part of the experience.

Patrick Paul: [00:11:29] Again, you know, it’s so funny. Cause I hear so many of these stories about the founders and it’s almost like they kind of knew and like they set these things, but I actually quite modestly, I was, I wasn’t very passionate about sports and about football.

Um, and also I was a decent athlete. Right. I wasn’t superior, but you know, it wasn’t bad, you know, I could definitely hold my own. And, you know, once it came down to the, to my senior year, I just, my grades just weren’t there. Right. Again, I convinced myself, I wasn’t studious. I made my whole identity sports, whole nine yards.

Right. So actually went to a military college in Philadelphia. That’s called Valley Forge Military [00:12:00] College. It was a decision I made on my own. My mom was like, are you sure you want to do this? Everyone was like, are you sure you want to do this? Do you know who you are? And that was the first choice I made on my own.

It was probably the best decision I ever made.

Dan: [00:12:12] How did you find it out? Like how did that come up as an idea even?

Patrick Paul: [00:12:15] Yeah, I was getting recruited by coach and he said, I love you a lot. I think you’re a great person, but you don’t have the grades nor the discipline from what I’m hearing about you I’m going to go out on a limb and say, you’re probably going to say no to this, but I think it would be a good decision for you to check out these couple of schools and Valley Forge is one of them.

Lo and behold that coach had passed my information to the Valley Forge head coach, uh, Coach DeCarlo. He gave me a call, said, I heard you’re a knucklehead you’ll fit right in. How about you come up here? So from Valley Forge, I then got recruited to a four year St. Francis University. So it’s a, it’s a small division one school, which, which for me was really exciting.

Again, not thinking about business, not thinking about anything. And, um, I think when I got to my four year at St. Francis, [00:13:00] it’s when I really started to get serious about. Man, all these guys are here hungry. There’s no place that we can get to. Why don’t I sell some stuff on a George Foreman or why don’t I make some stuff on a grill?

Right? So like, it’s kind of funny, but the philosophy of maybe buying some Jordans and flipping them and doing these little things, it really started to apply some stuff from class to like real life. So that’s, that’s kind of where it got started. I’m maybe a late bloomer when it comes to that sense.

Dan: [00:13:24] No, actually, I think you’re saying the opposite is that you, you know, uh, what is it?

Malcolm Gladwell has this 10,000 hours or right to mastery. This was your 10,000 hours, right? Doing these side hustles, getting these reps in really right. Of like I do something, I sell something. I make something. What happens, who buys it? How much do I make? So I actually think it’s was part of your training regimen that led you to being an entrepreneur later in life.

So tell us when you came out of college, what was the opportunities you were looking at? What, what did you decide to do?

Patrick Paul: [00:13:58] Yeah, so I [00:14:00] was, I was an accounting finance major in college. I definitely knew that I did not want to do anything in accounting, but it was actually something I was like, kind of good at.

So again, just through source of mentorship and a number of different people, there was a, like an investment bank down in Florida. They were working in oil and gas and they were really like, Pushing a lot of things through custodial retirement accounts, which this was 2012, 2013, it wasn’t rocket science, but you know, people had a lot of money in their retirement accounts that they weren’t really investing.

So got into that. Through there, met another mentor who was working at Goldman from there. This is, I think this is where the story really starts for me is he was like, Hey, listen, what you’re actually doing in Florida is like, actually quite impressive. No, the company, I know that work. We do work with them.

I’m moving to Pittsburgh to start a company it’s going to be in housing. You should quit and move up here. This was about a year out of college. So this, this was, and again, I was pretty, it doesn’t cost that much. I was making decent money and this was to move up and make virtually [00:15:00] no money. Right. You know, it, it just felt right.

It was that change was that competitiveness. And my brother had a BS not to graduate top of the class, that med school. Right. So I had to, had to do something.

Dan: [00:15:12] So, but what do you think was the driving, aspect that sort of said, yeah, I’m going to do this. What did you, will you just kind of open adventurous or you were like, there was something about this particular opportunity, like cause Florida a Pittsburgh.

I mean, even if the business is good, man, you, you got to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Patrick Paul: [00:15:30] Whole new wardrobe. There’s there’s not a lot of Haitian people up there. You know, here it’s, it’s, it’s different. I would say this and, and I don’t say this from a selfish or, uh, just from a crazy standpoint, but I was, I was working with very, very talented people.

I w I would say, right. And, you know, I noticed that really quickly on some of the decision-making that they were doing. And I was really trying to propose these ideas and kind of like do these different things. And I was just like, my boss one day was just like, the only way you’re going to do this is if you start your own company, when he said that to me, that really [00:16:00] plays in.

Again, I just thinking about starting up the lawnmower company, doing all these different things. I said, actually, I’m young enough to take this risk. If I actually do want to be impactful make and change in the world, this could potentially be that opportunity. Um, so that was a driving factor. It wasn’t just being wide open.

I think it was a little bit of my competitiveness and saying, Hey, actually, I can do this.

Dan: [00:16:20] Did you get up there and have her have a moment of like, what have I gotten myself into? I did I do this?

Patrick Paul: [00:16:26] Yeah. I arrived to Pittsburgh. I met my then co-founder and we were sitting in the living room. I came from sitting in a very nice office and sitting in the living room.

I think at that point, the three of us kind of was just like, we gotta make it out. We gotta figure this thing out. So. I think that was kind of the first crash course in startup and entrepreneurship sitting right there in that living room.

Dan: [00:16:49] Yeah. That can be a stark difference for sure. For a lot of people who are used to the accessories of being in a business, which don’t seem it at the time, like somebody to fix your computer [00:17:00] and there’s people who will order your lunch and things.

Patrick Paul: [00:17:03] So yeah, that, that was the moment. But, but again, sitting there with, with those two guys, and again, my, my now co-founder, it was, it was kind of like a world-class learning list. And I think all three of us needed to. Go through. And the premise of that was, you know, all guys in real estate kind of understanding how everything in real estate is shifting is can we apply some technical and technology principles to real estate, specifically roots, right?

Kind of these larger portfolios. He was leading housing at Goldman, a lot of connections. It was actually again, pretty successful in like what we’re sitting in the living room. We’re speaking to a couple of publicly traded REITs and companies. And we’re now in San Francisco, I’m sitting in San Francisco in front of these people, talking to that, it was, it was a bit surreal, right?

But you, you, you catch on quick, you just kind of keep going and keep going, keep going.

Dan: [00:17:50] I love it. And we’re going to, we’re going to get deeper into the story of Ikos, but we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with Patrick Paul from Ikos.

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Dan: [00:19:09] So we’re back with Patrick Paul from Ikos. So Patrick, let’s talk a little bit about Ikos and the kernel of that idea and kind of what was the spark or the opportunity that you saw with your co-founder and said, Hmm, we got it.

Patrick Paul: [00:19:23] We were, we were traveling a lot at this point for work and we were on a flight back from Calgary to JFK, to Pittsburgh.

I mean, it was just a horrible flight turbulence. I was just like, man, this is, this is not what I signed up for. I’m traveling way too much. This is kind of wild. And you know, him and I are kind of sitting next to each other. And it was funny because up until that point, him and I have both rented a ton of different places.

He and I through family and through him on real estate have on real estate. What’s so funny is we’re sitting in front of these people and thousands of properties. And just imagine if a small landlord. Had access to this information. [00:20:00] It was the conversation that we had on the flight. We’re kind of laughing and joking about it.

Right. But didn’t think too much about it. And then we randomly ran into, uh, a landlord in Pittsburgh who were just like, what are you guys doing? X, Y, and Z. And we kind of were joking around and told him the idea. We cooked up on the plane and that will be actually work for, and he said

Dan: [00:20:18] you met him on the plane?

Patrick Paul: [00:20:19] No, we met him at a coffee shop. after we landed, it was an early flight. We grabbed coffee. Right. We saw him that day. What are you guys doing here? Like, you know, the neighborhood in Pittsburgh is called Beach View. It’s a pretty like family neighborhood. Right. So two young guys, we were in suits. What do you got, like, what are you guys doing here?

Right. What’s happened just kind of a random conversation. And we told them, Oh, like, you know, like we’re working on all these tools for like small landlords, like, Oh, I’m a landlord. What do you guys do? And we started, we were just like, Hey, we actually, you know, we actually do this, but like, we’re actually curious, like what, what do you do?

How do you go about it? And he said, listen, no matter what it is, I got there’s all this stuff for rent payment. There’s all this stuff for this and that I can not be a landlord because I’m always showing these apartments. I don’t [00:21:00] trust property managers, real estate agents are too expensive. So for me, that would be man, if you, if you all knew how to figure that out through the computer would be on board for it.

And my co-founder were just like, how much would you pay? He said, well, I would pay a property manager or real estate agent, one month’s rent. He was like, yeah, I know. But in Pittsburgh you’ll pay a full month’s rent. He was just like, yeah, it’s you pay a full month’s rent everywhere. And we replied, what if we did have much rent, would you do that?

He said, if you were to rent my units for half months rent, not only would I sign up, but I guarantee you could sign up millions of people that, that right there was the start. I mean, we, again, young, Oh man, we could just do it all. So that’s, that’s really how it started. And at the same time, you know, with Steve and I, we were really building a really great friendship.

Right. So it wasn’t like, we were just, Oh, let’s just come together from a business. It was like, Hey man, I actually would, uh, I would appreciate doing something with you. Right? Like building something with you. So I think the combination of that conversation with the landlord, Dan, and just kind of how Steve and I were building [00:22:00] relationship, I think it was like a perfect storm of just like, let’s just give it a shot.

Dan: [00:22:03] I love that story. That’s great. And, uh, yeah, a lot, a lot of karma, kismet, serendipity, divine influence, whatever you want to say there, you know, in the long haul of you having this relationship with your co-founder, because that is such a critical aspect of startups is to have that connection and, you know, synchronicity with your co-founder.

And then this idea of just. You know, it’s almost like the stuff you hear about the legends in Silicon Valley, right? Like somebody sitting around and talking about something and then an investor walks up and says, I want to invest in that. Right. So you, you couldn’t script like a movie plot better. Like, you know, it’s like, Hey, we have this idea. And then we bumped into a customer and they were like, yep. Sign me up.

Patrick Paul: [00:22:48] And, and I think that’s the coolest part about it, right? Because again, we were not thinking about venture backed or accelerators or anything. We’re just like, let’s just start something, right. Like, let’s start it then. Like, you know, it was just like, you know, [00:23:00] let’s just start this company.

So like, actually our first customer was like our first investor kind of been like accelerating our inspiration to even give this thing a shot.

Dan: [00:23:08] So tell us a little bit more about how it works and, uh, how has it evolved, I guess since that time too.

Patrick Paul: [00:23:13] Yeah, absolutely. So, um, I’ll kind of start with how it evolved, like many companies, we took multiple iterations, right?

His question to us simply was, Hey, how can you get this place rented with a computer? Our initial concept was with current tenants who are living there, how can we enable them to do all the heavy lifting that the landlord would do? Right. We found out that landlords didn’t want their current tenants to be shown perspective tenants, their units.

There’s a conflict of interest for a number of different reasons. Another landlord came up and said, well, I would pay you guys, but I wouldn’t pay my rent. So the evolution ended up starting from creating and hacking together a mini syndication, right. Something that’s actually was so remarkably interesting to me.

There are like 80 to a hundred different internet listing sites. So you [00:24:00] can market your property for rent on like a hundred different websites. So, you know, Steve and I hacked together a couple of things and we ended up having like some sort of syndication and people really appreciated getting their unit onto multiple sites.

Right? At some point, people kind of devalued, I rental from a home listing. But when you post on the MLS, you’re getting to this huge network of people, ask for rental people just kind of think of like Craigslist and you know, one or two other sites. So the evolution kind of went from that, started to hack some things together.

And then really quickly we realized, as we were showing apartments, we were in the middle of a lot of information that people were exchanging to us. And we’re actually seeing a lot of the traffic for properties relative to other properties. So we were pretty much aggregating all these small mom and pops to be able to get a better bird’s eye view on how this unit is performing versus another.

Right. Because again, if you own one or two properties, it’s not like you’re going through a neighbor and saying, well, you have to rent in your place. You know what, you know, what kind of flooring it’s actually [00:25:00] pretty siloed and people don’t share that information. So we were easily able to go to one land or let’s say, Hey, versus this other landlords, is that the same price point?

But we’re seeing in what’s happening in your place. Actually isn’t there. We saw massive value and people just looking for information. Hey, I want to list this place for a thousand bucks. Can I get it? That came up often.

Dan: [00:25:19] That’s really fascinating. So it’s almost like the evolution from a convenience service point of view, kind of offloading some operational stuff to now it’s about optimization and almost like a pricing either maximize or adjust to the market in a way that makes you competitive, at least.

Right. I guess if you’re overpriced or if you’re, under-priced like you’re leaving money on the table, so that’s pretty powerful.

Patrick Paul: [00:25:44] Yeah. And it’s, um, just to kind of further that point with real estate, right? It’s, it’s very subtle, but it’s a hard asset. So if you make a bad decision on a hard asset, it’s there for ever, right?

It’s not like a stock, you know, you kind of buy some Tesla goes down, just kind of whatever. [00:26:00] So we found that people were saying, okay, I have this property, but like, I’m a property owner. I want to go ahead and get the next property. But. Before I do that. Can you actually give me insight into what I should be looking at?

What are renters looking at? How’s the market responding because this hard asset, all those there for a hundred years markets go through evolutions, constantly things change constantly. So, so that to us became super interesting as, okay. We’re just going to rent your place for half a month’s rent to hold on.

Hold on. There’s there’s actually some interesting stuff happening here.

Dan: [00:26:33] That makes a lot of sense. And so what’s the business model now at this point, do you charge per event or is it SAS or how does, how does that work?

Patrick Paul: [00:26:42] Yeah. So, um, the business model is we still rent your unit for half a month’s rent. We run the applications, you run the screenings.

We do the showings. We provide Supermicro information for half a month’s rent. We have a little bit of a premium service, which you could pay for personal advice for your property. [00:27:00] Um, and then the other element of it is we have this pure SAS play, which is so many things in a market are changing for instance, Zillow for the first time in the history.

They’re charging to Lista rental, right? So it’s, it’s a, it’s a drastic change. So we’re able to distribute out your unit and allow you to do self-serve of some sort. But the longer term vision and where the business model is really shifting is that data and information, um, for a lot of landlords to make their next investment.

And then also, interestingly enough, um, people growing in real estate, Um, there’s actually a really interesting statistic that came out in 2019 in Pennsylvania. I think it’s 83% of people who have a Pennsylvania sales person’s license did not generate a dollar of income. How much? 83%. Wow. Did not, did not generate a dollar of income.

Right? So you have a lot of people who get into real estate to be real estate agents, and then you have to make it happen. Right. It’s you know, people just don’t jump out the woodwork saying, Hey, I want you to be my it’s a. It’s a pretty interesting field and being able to leverage [00:28:00] information to help your buyers and sellers.

It’s something we’re starting to look at.

Dan: [00:28:03] That’s pretty brilliant. And tell us a little bit about what’s the status? What’s the snapshot of customers or regions you’re in or, or the progress? I mean, obviously we can talk about how the company has weathered COVID, but just like, as it stands today, how, how are things going?

Patrick Paul: [00:28:17] Yeah, absolutely. Um, so, uh, as we were speaking about earlier the year has gone fast, but you know, we, we are currently in four cities. We started in Pittsburgh and we’re in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC, uh, with plans for expansion, hopefully by the end of this year, um, we have roughly. 40,000 units that are under our purview, right?

So of our clients who we work with, they own roughly that many. And growth this year has been great. I mean, our growth, we’re up 40% year over year again, last year was a very interesting year, but just with that growth has been pretty exciting and us, weathering that storm.

Dan: [00:28:53] That’s great. And how, how was COVID?

This is an industry that must’ve been pretty hard hit by COVID in [00:29:00] 2020. How did it affect Ikos?

Patrick Paul: [00:29:02] Yes. It was an industry that was impacted greatly. It was a very scary time for a lot of different people. And the impact of Ikos was, was pretty tough. I mean like, like many companies we, we had to do very tough and painful layoffs, which in that moment where, you know, it was super scary, kind of backs up against the wall and, you know, just trying to figure out like even what the next day was going to entail.

But I think in weathering COVID right in, in 2020, it just made us realize that. Honestly, we could push innovation faster than we were expecting and because of COVID, the market had to accept that innovation. So for instance, something that just tremendously helped our company because we do a lot of showings.

We were able to implement video tours. So renters were able to inquire about a property, see a video tour. Get a floor plan, get a super comprehensive, look at the property, go ahead and fill out an application and get approved without having to go to the property. And it kind of sounds like super [00:30:00] subtle and like not a big deal, but that’s actually pretty huge in this industry, which it’s very.

You inquire, you go to the property, you, you look at it three or four times and you do those different things. So I think it really introduced a level of innovation that I wasn’t expecting the market to adapt that quickly. Um, and it’s been super helpful for our company because we we’ve been able to push a few more innovations that have been super helpful.

Dan: [00:30:22] That makes sense. And I hear that story a lot. I think the companies that survive and thrive or have done so through this kind of necessity is the mother of invention.

Patrick Paul: [00:30:32] The, the Mo the mother of a lot of things. We’ve, we’ve gone through some tough moments, but I think, you know, in, in including innovation, it made us take a hard look in the mirror and just say, what is actually important.

Right. We were working on. 1,000,001 things. And we wanted to chase this idea and chase this thing. And it just really forced us to say, Whoa, time out. Like we need to focus on the one, two or three things that’s going to help the company survive. And I think carrying that with us throughout this [00:31:00] year, throughout all those moments, it just, it just really helps solidify what’s important.

Right? Like sometimes the noise gets very noisy. Yeah. It was, it was tough for a lot of different reasons, but I think that was the wake-up call that we really needed as founders and as a company.

Dan: [00:31:12] Did you ever have a moment where like you thought maybe, maybe we won’t make it.

Patrick Paul: [00:31:18] Being transparent. Yes. And it may, because of my immaturity as a founder, I’m a first-time founder with this company, but there was just so much uncertainty.

I was just like, wow, we’re actually going to lose our company to a virus. And I really thought that after we did our layoffs. This was March of last year. We were actually pretty early on the layoffs. Um, just kind of like getting a pulse from our investors. But at that point I was like, this, this is it.

I honestly thought that. Through all of March and all of April, just little by little day by day, just coming into work, collaborating with a group of people. I think we all kind of help get each other.

Dan: [00:31:53] And it’s times like that. I mean, a lot of startups go through valleys. Um, but when, [00:32:00] when you have. The macroeconomic environment of, you know, threats of health pandemics and the economics, and just the stress of being at home.

And, uh, it was a tough time for a lot of companies. Can you recall the, and maybe, maybe it hasn’t happened yet, but it sounds like you, you feel good about things, but can you recall a moment where more recently where you’re like, yeah, I think, I think we’re sort of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?

Patrick Paul: [00:32:24] Yeah, again, because real estate is, is quite seasonal, especially with us focusing on Northeast. It’s very hot in the summer and the winter. No, one’s really looking to move. So we hit the pandemic 2020 right into the slow time of the holidays. You know, there’s a lot of anticipation around the spring. Like, are things going to get back to quote-unquote normal?

Are people going to move in the same way? You know, we, we kind of track a lot of our metrics as far as units rented and all those things just even month over month, right? I mean, we’re, we’re up over like 60% month over month. And in some regards, as far as like renting units, a [00:33:00] hundred percent as far as like application.

So, you know, as of recently. Whoa. Like we actually have a company, right. I spent the whole past 12 months doubting myself about my entire existence. And this thing is still here.

Dan: [00:33:13] It’s just about showing up and, keep going. And what is it? Uh, like somebody says like, uh, you know, perseverance is like when you’re at the, at the limit, but you take one more step.

Patrick Paul: [00:33:24] Yes, absolutely. That, that is, that is it in a nutshell.

Dan: [00:33:28] So tell us now that you’ve got some wind in the sails, what’s your vision of success for this company? Like if you look down the road a few years, or however long you think it will take and you want to look back and say, yes, this company did it. What does that look like for

Patrick Paul: [00:33:44] Ikos?

So, um, really happy you asked that question because, you know, I think, you know, for, for a lot of times, right, when people look at business and I look at these companies, it’s, it’s about being a unicorn and, you know, getting these massive exits, which of course it’s like, if, if you can do that, you’re providing some real value.

But for [00:34:00] me, the, the vision, when I look back two, three years, Is simply can be changed, how people look at renting, right. And, you know, just, just being a black founder, you know, being an immigrant, you know, parents, heavy accent, I see how housing really impacts people’s livelihoods. Like it it’s a huge thing.

Right. And I think with a lot of the value and the vision that we’re trying to propose is to democratize the data, access and information. Can we actually. Level the playing field for both renters and landlords, people who own properties, people who are searching. So when I kind of look at it, I think the innovations that help change rentals such as in how people look at rental applications, for instance, it’s not easy to rent an apartment, right?

People are looking for three times the monthly income people are looking for a crystal clear criminal history. They don’t want to see debt. And that doesn’t really constitute a good or bad personal renter. Right? Can we implement practices? In education and information and data that actually quite shows maybe someone [00:35:00] who has a voucher recipient is actually a better renter and a better person to live in this home than someone else.

And it has a massive impact on the community. Right? And I think ultimately too, one thing that’s missing in real estate, especially with the small mom and pops, is that, you know, housing is just, you know, a speaker box of what the community needs. Right. There’s so many times are speaking with luxury developers who are building.

Four or $5,000 a month units. Right. Which is astronomical. And there’s no affordable housing in these neighborhoods. Right. So that’s really the vision for, for us. That’s selfishly a mission for me to kind of create the infrastructure and democratizing that data access.

Dan: [00:35:37] I love it. That’s a great vision. So we’re going to take another short break and we’ll be right back with Patrick Paul from Ikos.

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Dan: [00:36:54] So we’re back with Patrick again. So Patrick, let’s switch gears a little bit and let’s talk [00:37:00] about fundraising. How, how have you funded this company so far?

Patrick Paul: [00:37:04] We went through accelerator then backed VC, and we’re, we’re pretty much a VC backed company, um, uh, heading into an, a round. So, so that’s how we funded.

Um, it’s, it’s been quite the experience. Brought challenges, it’s brought rewards, but, um, that’s how we even funded this part.

Dan: [00:37:21] That’s a, that’s a good arc of, uh, kind of, uh, the playbook, right? Like, yeah, you get started and get going and go through the accelerators. Then you start to, to raise money institutionally, or at least from outside investors.

What’s been the biggest surprise. Since you said you’re, you’re a first time a tech founder. What’s been the biggest surprise about that experience to you that you didn’t anticipate.

Patrick Paul: [00:37:45] We we’ve gotten pretty lucky with, with our investors, but I actually think the amount of trust that anyone who gives you $1 instills in you as an individual.

And there’s a lot riding on that. Right. I, again, it’s like, it [00:38:00] may. May have been new to me, but you know, there’s people writing checks for millions of dollars and they’re just like, all right, like, we’ll see you once a month for a board meeting. Right. And I was just like, Whoa, like, wait, like, you don’t want to talk more like, you know, you want, you don’t want to do those things.

Right. So that was one of the, that was one of the first things for me. Um, but I think also another surprising thing that I learned is like, There’s like kind of no rules to VC. Like there’s no perfect playbook. Um, there’s a lot of warm introductions that kind of get passed around cold emails, get tough.

There’s a lot of these arbitrary benchmarks that kind of get set. I think for me, that was one thing that was surprising because for me it ultimately, it’s just like you build an amazing company with great metrics and KPIs. And you will get funded and you quickly realize like, wow, that’s true. In a lot of cases there it’s actually not that simple, right?

Like even me saying, I went to a junior college two years and went to St for, I mean, that’s that prestige, right? I didn’t go to Harvard or Stanford for me. I think that was really surprising of how much has stacked up against you other than just the [00:39:00] company standpoint you

Dan: [00:39:01] and your co-founder are interesting diverse team.

Do you see advantages or challenges with. You being a black founder and obviously your co-founder isn’t tell us about that dynamic and how it’s reviewed by the investors as well.

Patrick Paul: [00:39:16] Yeah, I think the dynamic has been great. I mean, to, to his credit, I mean, he’s, you know, he’s, he’s definitely, uh, noticed microaggressions and subtleties in meetings and he’s actually taking the time to like, you know, on a flight back from the Bay or in a hotel, just like, Hey man, like, can we, can we actually talk about that?

Right. Like actually want to understand better. And I do think there is an inherent kind of benefit given to me walking in a room with him. Right. But nonetheless, I think the dynamic. Lends to, again, just this, the space that we’re in, right. With how we got here. I think how we pitched the company. Right. A lot of times when I’m going in, um, we’re, I’m leading the pitch, um, really building the relationship.

So I think it’s lent its hand. I think it’s a pretty interesting dynamic, but I’d like to [00:40:00] argue, you know, I hold my own in those meetings. I’ve, I’ve learned a hell of a lot and it’s, it’s been interesting. My name is Patrick Paul and sometimes I walk into meetings like who’s Patrick who’s Steve. Right? So it gets, it gets pretty interesting.

Dan: [00:40:12] Yeah, that seems like it would be interesting, kind of a semi brief awkwardness. So tell us, like, do you feel reminded on a regular basis that you are a black founder or does it tell us about that? How does that happen?

Patrick Paul: [00:40:27] Again, just, just the subtleties, right? That, you know, for instance, we could be in a board meeting or not a board meeting, but let’s just say, uh, you know, we’re, we’re pitching a prominent VC, right?

Nate, you know, we, we speak about the data and information and kind of how it lends to making communities better. And, you know, there’s these voucher recipients and, you know, housing, that’s just inequalities. Are there. Patrick. Can you explain to us about fair housing and vouchers and section eight? Right.

You know, some of those things, whether conscious or, or, or not, you know, it’s, it’s a reminder right. Of that in a room. Right. Um, a lot of the social [00:41:00] events that happen in the country as of recent. They reach out and they reached out to, you know, can I get your advice on X, Y, and Z, or, you know, it’s a constant, subtle reminder, but again, um, if, if anyone knows the history of Haiti,  for me, that’s never deterred me.

It’s, it’s never been an issue. I’m very proud of my blackness. I’m very proud of my heritage and where I come from. So for me, it’s, it’s always just, if you want to play that game, I could play that game better. Right. We can lead a revolution. So that’s always been my perspective on it, but there’s always a reminder of it for sure.

Dan: [00:41:31] That’s great. I mean that we’ve had other folks with Haitian, uh, heritage on and they have the same kind of in the DNA. Right. Cause because Haiti, Haiti was the first free, free state and uh, they didn’t, they didn’t play.

Patrick Paul: [00:41:45] Yeah. W well, not only the first free stayed, but it was a brutal revolution, right?

I mean, Tucson and Dessalines when, when they were writing the constitution, they asked for the skin of the white man and the bones and the blood to kind of write the [00:42:00] constitution. Right. This is what I learned. It was taught growing up. So for me, I actually never, I actually never felt inferior. I was kind of like, look pity on people when I kind of sense those moments, because there’s just so much that they’re missing out on when there’s implementation of that, like kind of barrier of like, Oh, this is a black founder.

No, I am. I’m a founder who happens to be black. Right. That’s just always been my mindset. That’s just always been my approach.

Dan: [00:42:23] I love it. And, and I think it’s that  inner resolve that can push you past those daily frictions. Have there been any, um, outside allies, organizations or groups that have been particularly impactful in your entrepreneurial journey?

Patrick Paul: [00:42:37] Yeah. Um, so, um, for me as a founder, um, one thing that I learned very early is that if, if you try and take the weight of the world on your shoulder alone, you will crumble. It is hard to kind of do this thing alone. Uh, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I actually have a group of great advisors and mentors.

One is Julia Lipton.  She is phenomenal. She kicks my ass and she’s pretty [00:43:00] tough. I have a pastor here in Homewood who is amazing because although he is a pastor, he is a businessman first and you just instills a lot of that into me. Um, and I think honestly, Pittsburgh in general, um, although anyone could say whatever about Pittsburgh, cause there’s a lot of experiences here.

I do think a lot of the organizations here, you know, Birchmere, um, they’ve been great Draper. They’ve been great. And there’s now a Black Technation Ventures. Yeah, it’s been, it’s been amazing. I mean, there’s, there’s too many people to name of support that I could could mention, but you know, those, those kind of come up and, and Julia Lipton.

I mean, she’s, uh, she’s just been amazing to me.

Dan: [00:43:34] That’s great. And, uh, tell us a little bit about Pittsburgh. We had Jim Gibbs on last year from Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon’s there. And so tell us, what is it like as a kind of a tech ecosystem?

Patrick Paul: [00:43:46] Jim is my guy. So shout out to Jim, but, uh, Pittsburgh has an ecosystem.

It’s, it’s actually pretty interesting, right? Because you, you have the super duper strong pool of Carnegie Mellon, right? It’s, it’s an amazing school and institution, but you end up having people [00:44:00] who like stay here because it’s like cheap and affordable. And at some point the funding dries up. It’s like you get the seed money really easy.

You know, you get the accelerator money pretty easy, and then you start to stretch out a little bit and it it’s. Tough to raise here. I think things have improved over time with the introduction of capital and people kind of understanding, but you know, there there’s a ton of talent here and, you know, just it’s, it’s a little tough because again, Pittsburgh is a place that’s grown up on very hard assets, right?

Steel, coal mining. So a lot of the people who’ve made their money. The would be angels in the tech companies and tech companies had made their money in other ways. So it kind of, for them, it’s like, Oh, I don’t want to, I don’t want to put my money into that. As opposed to what we experienced in the Bay.

Like we have people who experienced wealth through tech companies, they invest and they keep that ecosystem. So, you know, Pittsburgh is, is a good place. Um, personally, again, I came here, I told you the story about how I came here and I’ve stayed here for a reason. So I think there’s a lot of impact to be made. I want to be a part of making that [00:45:00] impact. Um, but I, I see a lot of growth happening here.

Dan: [00:45:02] Yeah. And it’s, it’s great to see, you know, so many funds coming to recognize this, this opportunity, right. To do follow on funding. You know, you, you, you got, um, you know, Brackeens in, Cincinnati with Lightship and, our mutual friend, Will Allen, uh, you know, working with the Draper folks and now this, uh, Black Technation.

So I, I think it’s great. I love to see it.

Patrick Paul: [00:45:27] Absolutely. Yeah. It’s been cool to see that again. Um, the evolution of time, you’re, you’re starting to see people get way more bullish. I don’t think not recently, but as of the past five years, people have grown big on the Midwest and specifically Pittsburgh.

It’s actually been pretty, pretty beautiful. I mean, all the big name brand, you know, VCs have made rounds to Pittsburgh here recently and they seem pretty positive.

Dan: [00:45:49] So one of the questions we like to ask is if you could go back to the time before you started your startup and give yourself [00:46:00] advice about either what to look out for, or what to do, or what’s a prioritize or be cautious about, or be excited about what kind of advice would you give the pre-startup version of Patrick?

Patrick Paul: [00:46:13] Oh man. So many pieces of advice, Dan, you know, the deal, I would tell myself a couple of things. One embrace the imperfections that you bring to the table and learn to love those and understand those. So you can unpack those. Um, I think for so long there was this. I need to prove my worth. I need to prove that I belong here when really mean itself was just kind of the beauty.

And it took me a while to realize that. Two, I would really really say progress over perfection. So much of time is spent on making things perfect. When in reality, it’s never going to be perfect. You just kinda gotta get things out. And then the last piece, which is, don’t forget about yourself in this journey, you’re going to go on, right.

Again, as identities become so much of who we are as people right early, I was the athlete in early hours, [00:47:00] this, and then it became Patrick, the founder, and you kind of have to separate those things and be okay to take a week off and be okay to invest in your personal growth and to learn about these things and to put yourself out there.

So that’s the advice I would give to myself and. You know, as I, as I connect with people who have gone through this journey, it’s the same kind of advice that I hear them given to themselves. So, you know, I’ll definitely get that to myself.

Dan: [00:47:25] I love that. And it’s so profound. It’s about being authentic, being in the journey and this idea that you’re in it for the long haul that having those times of personal growth or attention, um, you know, we’ve had other people talked about mental health and, you know, trying to gird yourself up for the long marathon.

That is, that is a startup. So that’s, that’s great advice.

Patrick Paul: [00:47:48] Absolutely. There’s, there’s just so many peaks and valleys and it’s such an emotional roller coaster and it could really, truly be all consuming. Like not kidding. Like I remember just times I’m just [00:48:00] working and I’m just like, what did I just do?

You know, you just kind of lose yourself in a moment and, you know, again, whether it’s, you know, what happened last year or, or whatever, but. It’s just like, I just had to snap out of it, you know, take a day out, spend time with my partner, spend time with my family, spend time on myself and not feel guilty about it.

So I would definitely give my, my, my younger self that advice.

Dan: [00:48:19] That’s terrific. So as we get ready to wrap up here, other ways we always like to leave a call the accident to the audience. Are there ways that we can be helpful  to Ikos or to you.

Patrick Paul: [00:48:28] Absolutely first, if anyone is in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, looking for help with rentals, looking to find a place, please visit us at ikos.rent.

Um, we would love to work with you. We’d love to learn from you. Second, if you’re genuinely just a person who owns properties, I would just love to connect with you and. And learn more about the industry and how you’re looking at looking at it going. Um, we’re taking a huge emphasis on just research and learning and just kind of like speaking deeply with our customers and clients and just understanding them.

[00:49:00] Um, Dan, I’m not sure if my information is going to be on here, but you know, Patrick.Paul@ikoshq.com. And then lastly, , you know, just the biggest help just in itself is just continuing to pass it forward. So kind of like listening to this, if anyone would like to connect or, or chat anymore. We could be helped to each other. Please let me know. I’d love to connect.

Dan: [00:49:20] Yeah, we do ask for, uh, there are any other URLs or social handles or ways to find out more about you and Ikos that you want to share.

Patrick Paul: [00:49:28] Yeah, the biggest is, is ikos.Rent. Social media is, um, going under and overhaul right now. So I’ll have those back for you all shortly, but  the best way is ikos.rent.

Dan: [00:49:38] Awesome. Well, Patrick, this has been such a wonderful conversation. Thanks so much for taking the time today. This was great.

Patrick Paul: [00:49:44] Thank you so much. , episode 31, I will be back one day.

Dan: [00:49:48] We’d like to thank our guests, Patrick Paul, and our sponsor, Dave Parker with his new book Trajectory: Startup.

This podcast was produced by yours truly Dan Kihanya.

Our music was arranged by Michael [00:50:00] Kihanya.

Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento. That’s listen T O. And follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn @foundersunfound.

Thanks so much for tuning in.

I am Dan Kihanya

and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.