Technology

Bob Matteson: ‘I’d love to see more risk-taking and innovation in real estate’

How a Groupon intern developed his own real estate tech business

Bob Matteson is the co-founder and CEO of Mobile Doorman.

Time at Mobile Doorman: 18 months

Describe what you do in one sentence: While I do a bit of everything, my focus is on three areas: (1) finding and selling to new clients; (2) looking for partnership opportunities with other vendors; and (3) overseeing product development.

Age: 32

College: University of Denver

Location: Chicago

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Social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

Bob Matteson's workspace.

Bob Matteson’s workspace

What do you do?

Mobile Doorman makes custom apps for apartment buildings so residents can manage all of their apartment living needs on their smartphone. With our app, residents can take care of simple tasks such as work orders and payments and also have a single location for all communications — management alerts, virtual community board, etc.

We are also growing the product to include features such as security (virtual intercom, your phone becomes your key) and special deals from local businesses to help our clients — the property owners and managers — provide the best experience possible.

As a result, we aim to impact our clients’ business by positively impacting their marketing (customized app for their property), retention (better communication) and efficiency (better organization).

How’d you end up in real estate?

I started my career in real estate as a broker for commercial properties. The crash of 2008 got me out of that and led me to the Internet/technology startup scene. I then spent three-plus years working on a few non-real estate businesses. In 2012, I started to see how much opportunity there was in real estate technology. After a series of conversations with people in my network, I went all-in on building the framework for what Mobile Doorman is today.

What aspects of real estate are you trying to make better?

1. We want to improve the resident experience by improving how landlords and tenants communicate.

2. Everything is mobile these days — except real estate technology. We want to bring this facet of technology that’s so ubiquitous everywhere else to real estate.

What products have you developed in the past?

My first startup was Groupon — I joined on before the launch and was the salesperson (I think I was actually referred to as the intern). It was me and a few others just trying to throw stuff against the wall, and it stuck.

After Groupon, I spent a year in the mobile payments space and learned quite a bit, both from the people I was working with and the struggles we experienced growing the business.

I’ve also done some seed investing in multiple industries. It’s a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs to share in the struggles of starting and growing innovative ideas.

What are you working on right now? What are the challenges?

We are currently trying to develop the security features we can offer in the app. Given there are so many different property types, there is no one set of features that fits well for everyone. So we need to figure out which features will be best received while also being manageable from a development standpoint. Additionally, with so much innovation going on right now in this particular category, it’s easy to get distracted by cool new products that may or may not jibe with our longer-term goals of growing the security component.

Favorite food?

Mom’s skirt steak.

Favorite video game?

“Zelda.”

Favorite city?

Outside of Chicago — Nashville.

Favorite band or singer?

The Boss.

What do you hate about technology?

The obsession to stay connected at all times. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, but I make a serious effort to put the gadgets away when I’m with friends or in a place that would be spoiled by too much technology.

What is one thing you would like to fix about the real estate industry?

The mentality of everyone wanting to be the second person to do something. We’ve heard this a lot whether for going to a new location adopting a new technology, or even changing vendors. I’d love to see a bit more risk-taking and embracing of innovation.

In or out of real estate, is there one problem you’d like to solve?

Education is a huge problem everywhere, and Chicago is no different. Many very deserving kids don’t have access to programs (at school or otherwise) that provide them an opportunity to develop important life skills and experience. I’m involved with an organization called Spark that enables junior high school kids from around the city to have “internships” at a variety of companies, which provides them exposure to a world they might not ever see and has proved to have a positive impact on their lives. I can’t wait until Mobile Doorman is a bit bigger so we can sponsor a couple of these interns of our own.

What motivates you?

My dog, Walter. There is a saying, “Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are,” and I really take this to heart. Of course, I’m making an important assumption about what he thinks of me. …

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