Three years ago Zane Jones was managing apartments when he decided to take an IT innovation class at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“[The class] wasn’t about coding or doing technology, it was more about figuring out the right things to build and being more creative,” said Zane Jones, founder and president of Hookline. “As I was going through that class I started thinking about how technology can optimize the leasing process and solve problems within the property management industry.”
When asked about what motivated him to build Hookline, Jones explained his frustrations with old technology in the industry.
“I hate data entry and technology getting in the way of connecting with people,” said Jones. “I think I really value that personal time with clients, and this technology will help salespeople spend less time doing mindless data entry and allow them to spend more time with clients.”
How Hookline works
Hookline is a software platform that helps salespeople lease more apartments.
“We’re building mobile leasing software. It’s a CRM and marketing platform for leasing agents and property management companies,” said Jones.
The software will help salespeople manage their contacts, remember the details of showings and connect with apartment hunters via messaging through the app.
“It will automate follow ups and generate custom landing pages for everyone who comes in and looks for an apartment,” said Jones. “It will automatically generate a landing page that the apartment hunter can go back and look at, converting more apartment hunters.”
Prioritizing design and finding partners
“User-friendly design is one of the core things about the company,” said Jones.“Grain and Mortar did a great job leading that initiative.”
When it came to building his power team, Jones didn’t pick the team strategically. They chose him.
“I knew Mike, Kristin and Eric were excellent designers, and I was looking for feedback from them,” said Jones. “I met with them for feedback on my business plan, and they loved it. Then they decided they wanted to partner with me and eventually connected us with Dave from Agape Red.”
Learning to ask for feedback
When asked what his biggest piece of advice was for new entrepreneurs, Jones explained that asking for feedback during every phase of building the product was a major lesson he learned.
“Ask for feedback constantly from customers and people that are smarter than you, but never let that feedback deter your passion or have it affect you emotionally,” said Jones. “If you don’t get feedback you’ll be in your own bubble and you won’t have any context.”
Connecting with beta users through Twitter
Hookline will soon be launching their beta version of the app with three customers from Nebraska, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
“We have the product built and the beta version is complete, it got accepted into the app store, and we have three properties that have signed up to be beta testers as well,” said Jones.
Jones explained that he connected with the users from Indiana and Pennsylvania on Twitter.
“I was looking up hashtags about property management and seeing what people were talking about in the industry, and I actually found some property managers, and just started conversations with them through direct messaging,”said Jones.
Jones explained that he told the users about his product, originally just asking for feedback, and they ended up signing up to be beta testers. He said that getting people to want to use and test the product is probably the most exciting part of the project for him.
“There’s nothing like having an idea and a year or two later seeing it in someone’s hands and using it. It’s incredibly satisfying,” said Jones.
What’s next for Hookline
Jones explained that the team has a lot of ideas for how to use the software in different ways in the future.
“We want to take the data that comes through Hookline and create a marketing analytics platform so that executives can make better decisions in their marketing efforts,” said Jones. “We also would like to do live video streaming so that people from anywhere in the world can see potential places they’d like to move.”
Jones explained that he’d also like to gamify sales within property management companies.
“[We] could create gaming applications within Hookline so salespeople could see how they measure up against other co workers,” said Jones.
“We’re also going to integrate it with Pokemon Go so that they can go on hunts throughout the properties,”Jones added with a laugh.
When asked about the future of the industry, Jones explained that Augmented Reality (AR), live video and mobile-friendliness are all going to be a big deal in the next few years.
“The focus of Hookline is getting people away from their desks and out meeting people, so we want to be able to put that software all on your phone,” said Jones. “Mobile leasing software will help make that happen.”
Editor’s Note: Zane Jones is the Director of Business Development for AIM Careerlink. Silicon Prairie News is a service of AIM.
Melanie Lucks is a communications intern for Silicon Prairie News and AIM Careerlink.