Editor’s note: Startland News selected 10 Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list, now in its seventh year recognizing founders and startups that editors believe will make some of the biggest news in the coming 12 months. The following is one of 2022’s companies. Click here to view the full list of Startups to Watch — presented by sponsors Husch Blackwell and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Four years ago, Bo Lais and Will Parrish began a journey with Lula they hoped could make property maintenance smarter.
Two years into their quest an unwanted visitor showed up on the world’s doorstep.
Elevator pitch: We’ve developed a platform to streamline the maintenance process for property managers and their tenants, thereby reducing the time the property manager spends on maintenance by nearly 60 percent. We provide a fully-vetted, large network of contractors to do the work on top of that.
- Founders: Bo Lais, Will Parrish
- Founding year: 2016 (went to market in 2017)
- Current employee count: 11
- Amount raised to date: Just under $1.2 million
- Noteworthy investors: Undisclosed
- Programs completed: Pitch Perfect at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County, Pipeline Entrepreneurs, programming offered by KC Collective
“The pandemic was a challenge for us. We started to hit some growth in 2020 and then there was a memorandum that came out that told our customers, ‘You can’t enforce rent and you can’t enforce evictions,’” recalled Lais, founder and CEO, detailing a three-month dip reflected in the company’s finances in the early days of COVID-19.
It pushed him and Parrish to rethink the way Lula, an on-demand property management platform, serviced its customers.
“We were still serving homeowners in early 2020,” he said. “[The pandemic] allowed me to step back from the business and think, ‘Where is the biggest opportunity for Lula?’ and it’s in the property management space — specifically in single family rentals.”
As the front door swings open on 2022, the pair is confident they’ve finally hit their stride, Lais added.
“We’re doing top line revenue of close to half-a-million dollars a month right now. We’re in eight cities — we might even get to the ninth before the end of [2021.] … Our growth in the last two years has been crazy,” he said, noting the new year is expected to bring even more momentum for the well-known, but quiet Overland Park-based startup, better known for its ability to execute than push out press releases.
“It can be fun reading the headlines. But what are [companies] accomplishing with that? We see [funding] raises announced all the time. There’s a lot going on and that’s great — that’s a milestone. You need capital to grow. But we don’t see as many exits as we should,” Lais said candidly, offering insight into the way he’s approached his position as founder, informed greatly by his experience as a veteran of Kansas City’s startup community, having served as founder of Brazen Web Design, CEO of UpShot Media Group, and CTO and partner at Rx Saving Solutions.
His focus instead: building a company Kansas Citians can be proud of (and that can simplify their lives.)
“I like to just put my head down and get to work,” he continued.
Lula has operated in stealth mode for so long, passive watchers of the local startup space might have forgotten all about the company, Lais joked, noting that if his suspicions are correct — and the startup hits all its marks — 2022 could prove to be its loudest year yet.
“We’re going to staff up. We’re going to hire. We need butts in seats,” Lais laughed, noting the sprawling to Southcreek Office Park was needed to accommodate the expected hiring spree Lula is about to go on.
“We were in Serendipity Labs for a while and we enjoyed being there and around a bunch of other entrepreneurs, but ultimately, we needed a lot more space,” he said, noting the company will go from 800-square-feet of space to 7,200-square-feet. Its new headquarters will also draw collaborative inspiration from coworking sites and remote work setups.
Once occupied, Lais said he predicts the company could add some 30 positions in the coming year, including key leadership and sales positions — or necessary drivers of Lula’s expansion, potentially paving the way for the company to onboard 16 new cities, he added
“We think we’re going to [multiply] what we’re doing right now, four to five x next year. And we’re super excited about that.”
With the year’s headlines yet to be written, Lais is hopeful Kansas Citians (and startup champions far and wide) can, for now, take Lula for what it is: a leader in proptech that makes lives easier and workloads lighter, without fail, every time a customer uses its platform.
“There’s a lot of other things that we could solve in this industry. There’s a ton. But maintenance is the most challenging, so that is all we focus on; streamlining that process and delivering an experience — not just to our customers, but to our tenants and our Lula pros — that has never been seen before in this industry,” he said, touting Lula’s verified network of contractors and its guarantee of every job for 30 days.
“That really sets us apart in the industry. When you tie in the experience and the value props for all of them — that’s gold,” he continued.
“Say you’re a property manager with 100 doors. Your biggest pain point is maintenance. Lula can solve all your pain points, free up about 60 percent of your time — and you know what it costs you? Nothing.”
Such disruption is precisely why Kansas Citians should keep any eye on Lula in the year ahead, but it’s also why they should consider taking on a role with the company, Lais said.
“We have a great culture. We have great leadership. We have a great team. Our work environment is phenomenal and we’re going to do some exciting things in this industry that haven’t been done before. We want great team members that want to make a dent in this industry — and have a lot of fun doing it,” he said.
“We’re essentially a rocket ship right now. We’ve accomplished some great things, but we are just the beginning of exponential growth.”
Click here to connect with Lais on Linkedin.
With its headquarters in Kansas City — and more than 800 attorneys across 25 U.S. locations, including its virtual office, The Link — Husch Blackwell’s industry-centric approach and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion work give the firm a deep understanding of what its clients face every day.
For more information on what Husch Blackwell can do for your business, visit www.huschblackwell.com/capabilities
Startups to Watch is now in its seventh year, thanks to ongoing support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.