Rak Bhaskar is the co-founder and CEO of Hurdlr, a mobile business management application that is targeted at entrepreneurs and small business owners to help them bridge the gap between manual spreadsheets and complex small business accounting systems.
He is also the founder of Visual Homes, a leading real estate rental management platform designed specifically for subsidized housing programs. In 2010, he sold Visual Homes to Yardi Systems, a global leader in real estate software solutions. He also worked for Yardi for 2 years in a business development capacity. Raj holds a Business Administration, with honors, from The George Washington University
Current core revenue streams
Hurdlr’s core revenue stream is Mobile SaaS which users pay a small monthly fee to use.
Starting out in business
He was passionate about business from a young age and also grew up within a business-oriented environment. Was selling candy in the fifth and sixth grade after which he moved on to selling sodas at golf tournaments in high school. He also had a car detailing business and shovelled snow in the winters.
Always wanted to work for a start-up before starting his own business. After graduating college, he worked for a wireless software start-up for a year and then started his first business, Visual Homes which he sold to Yardi systems after 10 years. He worked for Yardi systems for a year and a half just to create value for the company while also gaining the perspective of being the employee of an established company.
Visual Homes idea
The idea for Visual Homes was based on helping local communities thrive through public and affordable housing. It also helped real estate agencies thrive in supporting the communities. The technology platform was primarily built to help in financial and compliance management of housing agencies. Visual Homes helps in determining who is eligible for public housing, among other things.
The idea for Visual Homes was not originally Raj’s. There was a business that had developed a similar technology so Raj bought it without paying for it upfront (had an agreement with the owner of the business to pay him later on) and derived the new technology from the old one. The old technology was targeted towards small agencies, but after Raj developed the new product, he targeted it towards medium and large agencies.
Growth strategy at the beginning
Raj looked up the top 500 housing agencies in the US and cold called all of them. Within 6 months, he landed his first contract, worth $500,000. That enabled him to meet all the financial needs of the business and build it up gradually. He initially outsourced the app enhancements to developers in India to keep his costs low.
Transitioning from a business background to a technical one
It helped a lot that Raj had started off his college education with computer science for three semesters.
Current growth strategy
Raj still uses cold calling while including demos and the building of long term relationships. That worked for the first five years of Visual Homes and within the second five years, the business started growing exponentially.
Tip 1: Know the market you’re in and understand what the sales cycles are like so that you can develop a realistic and achievable business plan
Tip 2: When you over-deliver on value, and provide your clients with exceptional unmatched service, they will always refer you to other clients
Knowing the Visual Homes idea would work
Raj persevered a lot and always made sure he over-delivered on value to clients which led to a lot of referral business coming in.
Released the Hurdlr app to the public more than a year ago. It took several years to develop the app because it is a real time income tax calculation engine which had to have mileage trackers and automated financial tracking. The app also needed to be connected to more than 15,000 banks and credit cards. Its development was based on modern entrepreneurs’ collective preference for seamless, mobile and diversely connected apps.
Tip: When you think you are making a lot of money compared to actually knowing it, you spend more money than you have which a recipe for failure
Benefits of Hurdlr to users
Hurdlr’s core value proposition is that it provides users with their real time profit or “true profit”, which is profit after taxes. It helps people manage their finances conveniently while also tracking their mileage, alerts them of valuable tax deductions, tells them what their quarterly estimated payments are, etc.
Hurdlr’s current market
Hurdlr currently covers the whole of the United States and plans to venture into Canada and Australia.
Selling Visual Homes
Yardi had half of all United States’ apartment buildings using their software and was therefore the obvious option for Raj to sell Visual Homes to. The exit from Visual Homes for Raj and his employees was smooth. He ensured that his employees and customers were well taken care of during the transition.
Raj’s leadership philosophy is founded on putting his employees first even before customers because he believes when employees are well taken care off then they take good care of customers. He firmly believes that employees and customers are both equally valuable to a business.
Raj co-founded Hurdlr with his younger brother sometime after he sold and exited Visual Homes. He first started by doing angel investing actively for four years before building an accounting platform in the cloud. That progressively led to the eventual development of Hurdlr.
Raj and his team marketed Hurdlr to Uber drivers and real estate agents. They used a consumer based approach with Uber drivers and an enterprise-based approach with real estate agents. Hurdlr partnered with Keller Williams Realty which has over 150,000 agents in order to gain considerable market share in the industry. Hurdlr currently has more than 100,000 users and is looking to monetise its service by the beginning of 2018.
Advice to aspiring app entrepreneurs
Tip 1: Determine your target market
Tip 2: Understand how you are going to acquire your customers
Tip 2: Interview a few potential customers to find out if they can actually pay for the product you want to offer
Though he is not as active in angel investing as he used to be, Raj has over 40 investments and expects to have a solid performing portfolio within the next 5 years. His current performing investments are in the loyalty space and commercial real estate technology. He avoids investing in consumer related technologies.
A day in life when starting Visual Homes Vs. a day in life now
He says it’s all the same with the only difference being that he was single when he started Visual Homes while now he is married with a child. Always plans his days and makes sure he has fun.
Faith, Fun, Family, Friendships and Finance
Family comes first, then friendships and finances while fun parallels with the first three. He doesn’t believe in faith much but he always tries to do the right thing as is dictated by religion.
Believes he should be investing more in mentors. He has had different mentors and coaches all through his entrepreneurial journey.
Book recommendation for entrepreneurs:
- The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – Gary W. Keller
- The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: It’s Not About the Money…. It’s About… – Gary W. Keller
To create successful ventures while concentrating more on positively impacting people’s lives and ensuring that he enables his children to become future entrepreneurs as is the family tradition – Raj.
Best way to connect:
www.hurdlr.com – Raj’s Business website
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