July 6, 2008

Following Family Footsteps Leads to Surging Web Service

By Greta Guest, Detroit Free Press

Jul. 6--Like many teens, the last thing Jeremy Schneider wanted to do was go into the family business.

But it just kind of happened.

Now, 27, Schneider went on to get not one, but two computer-science degrees -- both from his parents' alma mater, the University of Michigan -- and has built a Web-based business with annual revenues approaching $100 million.

Schneider is president of RentLinx, a rental housing multi-listing service based in Ann Arbor. He started the service in 2003 with a different name while working on his master's degree.

He was designing a Web site for an Ann Arbor-area property manager and decided to package and resell his idea for searchable property portfolios online.

In 2005, RentLinx was born. It started with 200 properties representing 500 units and now has 16,000 properties listed with 400,000 units in 47 states.

It partners with associations and government agencies such as the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The housing authority's site, MichiganHousingLocator.com, is part of the network and launched in December 2006. Renters viewed more than 1.2 million property detail pages in the past year.

Last week, RentLinx also added REIArentals.com, a nationwide Web site featuring National Real Estate Investors Association members' rental properties. The site helps renters find housing and gives investors a place to market their properties online. It is the 58th Web site to join the RentLinx network. RentLinx also advertises listings on other free Web sites such as GoogleBase, ShowMeTheRent, HotPads, Vast and Oodle.

Schneider brought in Amanda Schneider, his mom and a software industry executive with 25 years of experience, to help run the business in 2005. They are looking to hire one more employee this year.

Amanda Schneider was on a sabbatical from her company when Jeremy Schneider started RentLinx.

"It seemed like a fit for her. I was using her to consult on ideas and business strategy anyway," he said. "We have so much work. There is an unlimited amount of work to do. When you are hiring the first person who is not related to you, you have to take your time."

They are looking to add one computer programmer this year to keep up with the workload brought on by rapid growth.

"We've been doubling our number of listings for the past two years. Our revenue doubled in 2007 versus 2006," Jeremy Schneider said. "Hopefully we will become the de facto place to list a rental in the United States."

While listings and searching the site are free, RentLinx makes its revenue by selling advertising on its public sites, optional services to property managers and creating customized housing searches for property managers.

Schneider, the youngest in the family, also has a brother who studied computer science at Michigan and is working in Grand Rapids. His father worked at IBM for 30 years.

"When I went into college, I did not want to study computer science. But it was so easy and natural for me," he said. "We had a computer since I was 5 years old. I was programming in middle school."

Contact GRETA GUEST at 313-223-4192 or [email protected]


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