Favor Cofounders Zac Maurais and Ben Doherty Launch Sunroom for Renters

Ben Doherty and Zac Maurais, co-founders of Sunroom, courtesy photo.

Zac Maurais and Ben Doherty’s first startup, Favor, had a pretty good outcome.

Favor, which launched in Austin in 2013, to deliver food to people’s homes, sold to H-E-B earlier this year.

Instead of taking time off, Maurais and Doherty are back at the startup grind, launching Sunroom, a company that helps people rent apartments and homes.

Maurais knows the pain of finding a rental and moving firsthand. He has rented apartments and homes eight times in the last ten years and he continues to rent today.

“It was hard to find a place in a lot of circumstances,” Maurais said. “Moving is a stressful time. You are up against the clock. You are trying to find a place that checks all of the boxes for you.”

That’s when they came up with the idea for Sunroom.

With Sunroom, renters can view as many apartments or houses as they like with Sunroom’s in-house licensed agents, which they call Tour Guides. Then when they find a place they like, they apply online through Sunroom. The service is free for renters. Agents and landlords pay Sunroom if the company places a renter with them.

Sunroom can help people rent properties in the Greater Austin and Round Rock area initially. Then it plans to expand statewide in Texas and eventually nationally, Maurais said.

And they have raised $1.5M in seed funding from investors including Founders Fund Angel, Tim Draper of Draper Associates, Joshua Baer of Capital Factory, Active Capital, and Boost.VC.

Rentals are a big market with the average person spending 33 percent of their income on housing, Maurais said.

“It meets one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, everyone has to find shelter,” Maurais said.

Favor also met Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for food because everyone needs to eat, he said.

“Both Ben and I are interested in how we can build really big companies,” Maurais said. They tackle basic needs everyone has and provide a seamless way to get them with complex logistics and technology at a large scale that is all behind the scenes, he said.

And Tim Draper, an angel investor in Favor, is on board with the new venture. He helped Maurais and Doherty think big when they were crafting Favor, which was initially called NeighborFavor and they dropped Neighbor at Draper’s suggestion. He wanted them to think about how they could deliver burritos around the world.

“Draper has lofty goals that sound a little bit crazy to the average person but he’s totally serious,” Maurais said. He challenges Maurais and Doherty to tackle big problems and to create solutions that scale.

This time around, raising money for Sunroom was a bit easier than raising money for Favor, Maurais said.

“All of the investors did really well from our last company, so it was really easy to go to the people we like working with and say we’re back at it again,” he said.

“They just wanted to get behind us as entrepreneurs,” Maurais said. “They know we might not have it all figured out on day one. But we’re going to make the right iterations and pivots and that it is going to work.”

But the grind is still the grind.

“Adam Draper, Tim Draper’s son, lovingly calls us cockroaches because we persevere through the most challenging of times and we’re capital efficient. We just keep going. We can live through anything,” Maurais said.

In fact, when Favor first came to Austin, the company was almost out of money, Maurais said. Doherty was living underneath his office desk to save money just, so the company could survive, he said.

“That is one of the things we’ve had to do to make Favor successful,” Maurais said. “We still have that drive more than ever.”

And Maurais and Doherty are big believers in doing every role in the company.

At Favor, they made hundreds of deliveries. They would code during the day and make deliveries at night.

This past year, they each got real estate licenses. Maurais has done hundreds of showings with renters already.

“You have to get on that front line of defense and talk to customers and do the activity, so you can figure out how to make it better,” he said.

Sunroom has nine full-time employees and seven tour guides, which are contractors.

Sunroom launched a pilot program a few months ago. It is now available to everyone in the Austin area. Renters can sign up at SunroomRentals.com.

Sunroom Team, courtesy photo.

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