Scaling with Apartment List from 
Startup to Series D

We conducted a short interview with John Kobs, CEO & Co-Founder of Apartment List, an online marketplace with over 5 million rental units on their platform. Apartment List also happens to be the first client of airCFO.  

Apartment list believes that everyone deserves a home that they love, so John and his team’s mission is to help renters find that home. 

Below is what John has to say to airCFO Founder Justin McLoughlin about how airCFO helped his business grow:

John Kobs, CEO and Co-Founder of Apartment List Interviewed by Justin McLoughlin, Founder & CEO of airCFO

Q: Tell us about yourself and speak about your motivation for starting Apartment List and your vision for the company.

Our vision at Apartment List is to deliver renters a home they love at a value they deserve. For us, it was really important to align incentives between renters and managers across the United States, so we built a two-sided marketplace with a success-based revenue model where we only get paid when a family finds that home. Every time that happens, we make anywhere from 20% - 200% off a month’s rent. Property managers and owners across America looking to fill vacancies turn to Apartment List to have a success-based, fully aligned incentive marketing model, and it’s our job to go out and find that demand-side for those renters looking for a place to call home to help fill their vacancies. 

Q: Apartment List and airCFO were working together back in 2013 before Apartment List raised a Series A. What were some of the benefits of bringing airCFO on when Apartment List was a starting up back then?

The benefits of airCFO are numerous. We were fortunate in those early days because without airCFO, we would’ve had a lot of difficulties scaling up the accounting side of our company. As a founder of a business, you spend your time wearing a lot of different hats - sometimes you are hitting up sales, sometimes you’re building a user experience and sometimes you find yourself spending long nights and weekends in Excel trying to get the accounts to line up as it pertains to accounting. I think, as a founder of a business, you end up wearing those different hats and trying to do the best job you can in all of them. I am not that passionate about accounting and I’m not that great at it, so when you have an opportunity to find someone who’s world-class to take over your finance and accounting initiatives essentially at any scale, that is just an incredible opportunity, and that’s what we found in airCFO. Without airCFO, we would have had a lot of difficulties in scaling that up as our business became more complex. AirCFO was able to grow alongside that and deliver on its valued proposition consistently. 

Q: Fast forward to 2021, Apartment List is no longer a start-up and is now a thriving, scaling company with over 250 employees. In your opinion John, what does airCFO bring to the table now as your company continues to scale?

AirCFO has always been a part of the fabric of the success of Apartment List, and it will continue to be. Here’s the most critical thing that entrepreneurs overlook as it pertains to scaling, particularly finance and accounting functions at a company: It’s very difficult if you’re growing quickly to hire specialized accounting and finance operational folks that can understand the business and grow with the business. The great thing about airCFO is it acted as a perfect compliment when we were able to attract a controller to the business and eventually our own CFO, we still lack expertise in certain divisions with subdivisions within finance and accounting that we needed to be world-class at. An example of that would be account receivables. airCFO has been with us each step along the way to help customize the delivery of its product and services to where Apartment List was as a business. We could’ve not done it without them (airCFO) because those products and services really enabled us to run super fast and focus on what we know how to do best - helping families find homes. 

Q: What’s one of the things that you think other early-stage founders should know as they consider bringing on a fractional accounting and finance partner like airCFO?

Fractional accounting is the highest ROI way to invest in a start-up’s finance and accounting functions. You are going to be hiring individuals to join your team, and it takes a lot of time to hire exceptional people and teach them about your business. That’s a huge ramp-up. Then, you end up in the early days really needing generalists that don’t specialize too much in one area... you need people to do a variety of things. What airCFO allowed us to do is focus on still hiring specialists - people that were world-class in multiple things related to finance and accounting in places where we needed to supplement that knowledge base. We could turn to airCFO to give us a trustworthy and scalable solution that enabled us to focus on what was most important for us going through that growth, making sure we had a product-market fit and we were scaling the business and meeting the needs of our clients. 

Q: We really appreciate all the kind words and the continuous vote of confidence in airCFO. We can’t thank you enough for helping airCFO get started and putting us on the map.

The pleasure has been all ours, Justin and team. We’re honored to be your first client at airCFO and it’s been an honor to work with such high-horsepower, high-caliber, and amazing folks that you’ve attracted to the business over time, and it’s a small token of our appreciation to constantly name drop airCFO as the number 1 fractional accounting solution out there, so the honor is all ours. 

Apartment List is just one of the several businesses that kept airCFO as their accounting and finance service provider despite their tremendous success in the market. As Apartment List’s CEO John Kobs mentioned, it’s indeed very difficult to find a world-class, high-power, and high-caliber fractional partner to take over your finance and accounting initiatives at any scale and airCFO takes pride in being one of those business partners. 

Feel free to schedule a call with one of airCFO’s advisors for tailor-fitted solutions based on your start-up business’s accounting, tax, and finance needs. 

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