The Real Deal Chicago

Cedar Street founder teams up with former WeWork employee to launch amenity and property management platform

App-based Livly is already being adopted by firms including the Related Companies, Golub & Company and CA Ventures
By Joe Ward | March 12, 2019 08:00AM

Alex Samoylovich (red) and Jacob Rynar (blue) with a Flats Chicago gym (Credit: Facebook and LinkedIn)

In developing 8,000 apartment units over 15-plus years, Alex Samoylovich learned quite a bit about the demands of renters and the inefficiencies in multifamily property management.

Now the founder of Cedar Street Companies and Flats Chicago is using that knowledge to launch Livly, a property management system that streamlines the apps and technology that renters and landlords use.

Launching Tuesday, Livly is an operating system and smart-phone app that seeks to be a central platform for paying rent, logging maintenance requests, booking amenities and fielding tenant inquiries, among other services.

The product will help landlords reduce property management expenses while unlocking “ancillary” revenue through the more efficient use of building space, Samoylovich said. It also seeks to create a more seamless tenant experience, he said.

The increasing demand for rental units and the corresponding rash of new deliveries have made the multifamily market hyper competitive. A system tying together a building’s amenities and services can be a huge leg up for landlords, Samoylovich said.

“In apartments, people are trying to keep their tenants,” he said. “In the future, it won’t be about the amenity races. It will be about the experiences and services that will help keep and retain tenants. By retaining and increasing your retention slightly, that increases the value of your property significantly.”

Livly already has some big backers and early adopters. The company is backed by $10 million in seed funding from Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Navitas Capital and JLL Spark, the $100 million fund launched last year by JLL to back real estate tech ventures. It is being rolled out at properties controlled by industry giants the Related Companies, Golub & Company and CA Ventures, according to the company.

Related Chief Operating Officer Matt Allen said it will be rolled out at Related’s Miami properties to start.

Livly offers additional revenue streams to property managers, such as affiliate revenue from renter’s insurance and credit card transactions, Allen said in a statement. The company also helps properties “gain new revenue from rethinking and transforming shared and dead space in their buildings into monetized spaces,” he added.

In the multifamily market, developers have increasingly turned to amenities and services to attract tenants. Often those services include digital components like smart phone apps. As a result, some renters are juggling multiple apps and accounts for things like package delivery, building access and maintenance requests, Samoylovich said.

Samoylovich sought to streamline the digital experience for renters, and in early 2018 he hired Jacob Rynar to help him out. Rynar previously worked for Microsoft’s big data and cloud solutions efforts, and later worked for WeWork.

“Renters were typically working with a slew of third parties and they were having a really disjointed experience,” Rynar said. “That experience was not great. We really want residents to be able to utilize this app in a seamless way … to enjoy their time in the building.”

A growing number of office landlords are turning to tech to enhance tenant’s experience. WeWork has its own tenant app, and Tishman Speyer last year began rolling out the Zo app at its commercial properties, and its functions included setting up recreational pig petting at 30 Rock in New York.

Brookfield Property Partners and Silverstein Properties use the app hOM, and SL Green Realty has its own SL Living Green. Convene’s roll out of its Elevate app has been slow to launch, meanwhile, leading the firm to acquire tech startup Beco to produce it last year.

Samoylovich said Livly not only will benefit tenants but will also help pad multifamily landlords’ bottom lines. Data collected by the app will tell landlords which spaces are being used, and it will help in the “activation of dead spaces,” or repurposing underutilized space to make it more valuable, he said. The data collected will be owned by the landlords, he said.

“You’ll have live information to understand what are the things that are working within a building based on utilization and engagement,” he said.

Proptech is a growing field within the technology and real estate industry, with millions being poured into new products. Still, Samoylovich and Rynar said their product is unique.

“It’s not just the growth of the popularity of multifamily, but more of what you’re seeing is the merging of the physical and digital world,” Samoylovich said. “It’s kind of the perfect storm of opportunity.”