The coronavirus pandemic could have made 2020 a terrible year for a startup focused on disrupting the way commercial real estate leases are managed. But instead, the opposite happened, according to Taj Adhav, the co-founder and CEO of Leasecake, which recently secured $3 million in seed funding that was made possible, in part, by its participation in Tampa business incubator Embarc Collective.
The Covid-19 crisis accelerated what was already a long-term decline in the need for brick-and-mortar retail space, but it also wrought havoc on the office space market, as companies emptied out cubicles and sent workers home to reduce the spread of the virus. With commercial real estate vacancies on the rise, landlords and tenants found themselves at odds about lease agreements, rent payments, insurance and other devil-in-the-details matters.
“Now more than ever,” Adhav told the Catalyst, “people need to keep better track of their stuff. Good enough is not good enough anymore. What Covid exposed was a very real risk in business that obviously commercial real estate leases needed to be renegotiated or worked on, but when you don’t know where that information lives, you don’t know what the key dates are, what the rent rates are, who the landlord is, it starts to show that there’s an incredible hole in your organization. You thought you had your act together, you thought you had a system that was good enough, but in fact, you didn’t.”
Leasecake is designed to be a one-size-fits-all, cloud-based software-as-a-service platform that can be used by landlords, tenants and brokers to track cash flow, lease expirations and renewals, critical clauses in lease agreements and many other time-sensitive, mission-critical aspects of one or many commercial properties. It’s available in a mobile app as well, and replaces outdated business and accounting software that’s not specifically designed for property management.
“It takes the place of lots of other systems that don’t quite meet the needs of a traditional business,” Adhav said. “Obviously, Excel spreadsheets, but we also see Google and Dropbox, and Outlook and calendar reminders. But even if you look at project management systems like Salesforce or Monday.com, those are systems that aren’t built in ways that are easy to manage, and that are scalable very quickly. So we take the best in class of each of those solutions and provide it in a very consumer facing, customer-centric application.”
Leasecake is headquartered in Orlando but some of its biggest customers, like Ideal Image, are based in Tampa, and Adhav said he plans to increase the firm’s involvement with Embarc Collective as its workforce doubles from 10 to 20 this year. A certified public accountant by training, Adhav knows the ins and outs of business management thanks to a decade spent managing a $2 billion portfolio for Walt Disney Co., but he’s also no stranger to the high-risk, high-reward world of tech startups: He was an early hire at Channel Intelligence, which in 2013 was acquired by Google for $125 million.
“I just love business development,” he said. “Even though I was always a finance guy, successful exits help you start to understand what you’re capable of and what makes you tick.”
Adhav said Leasecake’s successful, $3 million round of funding — led by Las Olas Venture Capital in Fort Lauderdale — would not have been possible without Embarc Collective. The seed round also included investment firms from New York, Cleveland and the U.S. West Coast.
“We’re one of their first companies outside of the Tampa market,” he said, “but I have nothing but amazing things to say about how supportive they are and how much of a great value-add they are — not only in the Tampa market, but the central Florida corridor as a whole, because of the resources that they bring to bear in ways that are completely organic to how companies grow.”
Mark Volchek, founding partner of Las Olas Venture Capital, said in a news release that Leasecake is an ideal fit for what his firm looks for in startups.
“What excites us about Leasecake is that it provides a competitive advantage beyond real estate events,” Volchek stated. “Customers use the platform for tracking renewal options, expirations and critical clauses buried in a commercial real estate lease. Leasecake is also their tracking tool for everything from business licenses and insurance renewals to fire extinguisher inspections and maintenance contracts. At Las Olas, we focus on investing in vertical software solutions to these types of industry problems — mission-critical areas that legacy solutions ignore.”