Playing key drop-off tag is almost as painful as trying to solve the problem of digging through socks to properly match pairs, it drives you crazy but for some reason you deal with it. Vancouver company Keycafe has had enough of the former and has developed a dead simple and innovative way to fix the problem of letting someone into your home while you are not there.
1. Who are you? Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it.
Jason Crabb, co-founder of Keycafe, which is a Vancouver based startup that solves the problem of letting someone into your home while you are not there. The idea came from a personal pain point of the co-founders using Airbnb to rent out their homes on a regular basis but having many hours of lost time in trying to get the keys handed over to guests. We knew there had to be a better way.
2. What kinds of competitors or substitutes are in your way and how do you plan to stay ahead?
There are many companies offering manual key exchange by having staff collect and manage keys, this model is expensive for the host and difficult to scale. Another solution is the rise of the digital locks, allowing homeowners to assign access through smartphones. This technology is promising but expensive to purchase, requires installation and setup. Our core users are in high density urban neighbourhoods where there are many buildings with front door fob entries. Keycafe uses homeowners existing technology, keys, and so there is no upfront cost, no installation, and no issues with front door fobs. Our competitive advantages are speed, low cost and rapid ability to scale.
3. How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Keycafe?
We have met and shared knowledge with a lot of fantastic startups in Vancouver. There is a great excitement with the local community as everyone feels very positive about the city and it’s ability to become a hotbed for innovating companies. Gastown in particular is a real hub for startups and we have sourced all of our resources, from our engineering team, to our software development team all within a few blocks of our office.
4. What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
The core problem Keycafe has solved is remote home access. The main value is peace of mind when a homeowner is away and gets a text message each time their keys are accessed. Now, you can be on that winter vacation in Mexico and follow along as your guests check in and check out, know that your cleaning service has arrived, and even let your mother in to water the plants. One surprising market is for realtors, they like this solution over the traditional lockbox as it allows them to assign access to other realtors and track who has shown their listings in real time.
5. How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
Early on I was lucky in having jobs that were very self directed and I really liked the feeling of being in control of my own destiny. Even though startups are often on the edge, I feel more secure in knowing the path to success is based on the abilities of myself and my team. The challenge for me was in making sure I take time out for family and friends. You can really lose yourself in a startup and work endless hours as there is no such thing as your own time.
6. What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
Henry Ford because he was the quintessential entrepreneur. He went bankrupt twice before founding the Ford Motor Company in 1903. He knew the commitment it took to pursue what he believed in.
7. What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite as he has fought hard to keep his company in Vancouver and his depth of knowledge would be invaluable in helping us work through some growing pains faster.
8. If you could tell your younger self something what would it be?
You don’t have all the time in the world. Make every day matter.
9. What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
As a small team you have to wear many hats and that can be stressful. Make sure you track your tasks and remain accountable to the group. We use the software called Asana to manage our team.
10. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Fail forward. Don’t spend so much time trying to perfect things before showing the world, just put it out there and keep iterating.
*End of interview*
Jason seems to have a very strong grasp on how to best execute as an entrepreneur and that’s number one when it comes to growth. It’s always smart to not have to re-invent the wheel and it’ll be interesting to see how people start to use the product. An example of something unexpected seems to be the fact that real estate agents are finding a good use for it. Nothing is more interesting when customers start using your product in a way you didn’t think was possible, you just need to hope it’s the right customers who are going to keep pushing you to iterate your product to make their lives easier.
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.