By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. That maxim is certainly true for Milwaukee-based startup, Portfolio Bay.
Founder and full-time software engineer Meng Chen began dabbling in investment properties several years ago. As a new landlord, he found he was spending more time than he anticipated on administrative tasks.
That is when he turned to technology for a solution.
“I started to work on a system and a process to develop those kinds of things. As a software engineer, the first thing I thought was ‘what can I automate?’ I started to write some of my own (code) for handling accounting and handling a turnover. Over time, I have (created) a really great process. I don’t really have to spend a ton of time and I still get good results,” Chen said.
When Chen decided to expand the tool he created to process online rent payments, he ran into a problem.
“The payment processor told me I have to be a company in order for them to work with me. I thought ‘if I have to be a company, then it better not just be like a registry of a company for my own thing.’ I started to think of how I can market this to others. That’s why I went through the FOR-M program because they helped me to go back and review it (using) a business perspective. I asked myself ‘how should I approach this, instead of just looking at my own problem but also looking at it as everyone’s problem,” Chen said.
The FOR-M program was a success for Chen. Portfolio Bay was one of the four winners of a $10,000 grant in the first quarter of 2023. The win helped bolster the bootstrapped company’s access to capital.
The revenue-generating company has two income streams. Property owners can choose from a tiered monthly plan with the cost determined by the number of features the user wants to access. Additionally, Portfolio Bay charges transaction fees on payments accepted with the software.
The company is in growth mode. For Portfolio Bay, growth is measured by the number of rental units being managed with the product rather than the number of users that subscribe to the platform. Chen describes the plan for growth that included an increased marketing effort, coupled with strategic partners with both real estate agents and organizations like the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin.
To learn more about this emerging business, connect with Portfolio Bay here.