Years ago, Salim Zeitoun’s brother had the idea to create an online system that would handle rent payments and simplify the process for both renters and landlords. It was definitely something that was needed in the industry, he and Zeitoun agreed, but it wasn’t the right time for it.
Then, after earning an accounting degree at ASU and spending four years as an auditor at Ernst & Young while the tech industry boomed, Zeitoun was ready to commit to the idea. With his brother’s blessing, he founded Renterspace and has been developing it for the past four months.
“The idea started from my brother 12 years ago,” Zeitoun said. “He started getting things together and the timing just wasn’t right. I’ve been meaning to do it for a long time.”
Renterspace allows any renter in the Valley to pay their rent by check or card, even if their landlord is not signed up with the website and doesn’t take cards. The company plans to extend its reach nationally in the next two to three months, and it will be launching an app in the next 60 days.
The company is also working on a “pre-screening” feature that will allow future renters to apply for a background check and provide personal information just once – this is how Zeitoun says he hopes to “disrupt the market.”
After Renterspace cross-checks that information against databases from apartment complexes, it will let renters know which apartments they qualify for. Ideally, this would cut out the hassle of having to put in applications at a number of places and pay the associated hundreds of dollars in fees.
Other features in the works are the ability to place maintenance requests from the Renterspace website as well as a bulletin board-type communication system where residents can talk about community events, coordinate a lost and found, post classified ads and more.
Zeitoun’s ambitions don’t end here. He is also in the process of creating a coworking space out of his office – something in high demand in the Valley. Renterspace operates out of the The Wayne Smith building off of Rural and Broadway roads in Tempe and in the 1960s was the home of the Arizona landscape architect it was named for. Zeitoun purchased the building, beating out many developers who wanted to get rid of the house, and he plans to renovate it while keeping its unique, historical features intact.
This is not Zeitoun’s first stab at a startup – he gained entrepreneurial experience from his time at ASU, when he worked on a startup that sold bicycles made from bamboo. He helped the social venture earn a spot within the Phoenix Warehouse District’s incubator SEED SPOT.
After focusing his post-grad career on accounting, he realized he missed the feeling of being an entrepreneur. It’s something he felt he was born to do: “I was built for this,” Zeitoun said. “I enjoy the high stress.”