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Detroit, MI

Max Nussenbaum

Success in the startup game isn’t just about coming up with a great idea and raising as much money as possible. A lot of it is about the team assembled and how they build the new venture. The group at Castle definitely has an eye for the latter.

"We want to build not just a great product but a great company," says Max Nussenbaum, co-founder & CEO of Castle. "We want to be a success."

The Detroit-based startup is creating software that brings property management process into the 21st century. Three Venture for America fellows are behind it are building it from the house that inspired the company.

The 20-somethings are rehabbing a tax foreclosure in the Motor City’s Virginia Park neighborhood to serve as a home for future Venture for America fellows. They want to streamline what it means to be a landlord by integrating more software efficiencies. The company launched last spring with two of the three Venture for America fellows quitting their day jobs to focus on building the startup.

"One of the things about the way technology has progressed is the cost to get something going are really low," Nussenbaum says.

Cost is an interesting part of Castle so far. The startup is operating on a lean budget and has only raised a few thousand dollars. Each co-founder kicked in $1,000 of their own money. Castle also raised $30,000 from the Venture for America Innovation Fund. That bit of seed capital is a convertible note that is billed at a discount, meaning it converts to a higher value when the startup raises it angel round.

"It makes sense because Venture for America is an investor and hopes to make a return on its investment but these are also our co-workers and friends," Nussembaum says.

While its popular for new software startups to raise millions of venture capital first and develop a product later. Castle is taking an opposite approach. First it assembled its team, which consists of the three members of the first cohort of Venture for America fellows in Detroit.

That trio did interviews with landlords to figure out pain points in their management lives. They conducted dozens of interviews to compile a comprehensive view of the landlording landscape. They didn't start thinking about what kind of software to build until this summer.

The Castle team hopes to bring a Beta version of technology to market later this year. In the meantime it’s creating a workplace where its team conducts controlled experiments of its product.

"These things are all experiments," Nussenbaum says. "We'll only find out if they work by doing them."

That's part of the culture the co-counders are trying to building. The idea is that creating a quality company culture will aide the startup in case it needs to pivot its business plan or capitalize on a new opportunity. The idea is to create a culture that fosters this organically.

"You can do your best to build it but culture also comes about best organically," Nussenbaum says.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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Related Resources

  • Venture for America
    Venture for America will provide a program for young, talented grads to spend two years in the trenches of a start-up with the goal that these young graduates will become socialized and mobilized as entrepreneurs moving forward.