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How Rhove Came to Be

The inside story of a game-changing idea.

January 4, 2021

Our story begins with a frustrated renter.

Rhove Co-founder and CEO Calvin Cooper was weighing the pros and cons of renting and owning. He didn’t particularly like either option. 

When he calculated how much money he spent on rent over the previous decade, the number surprised him. After further research, he found out that he wasn’t alone. The average millennial will spend more than $200,000 in lifetime rent with no financial return to show for it. The alternative wasn’t much better. To buy a home, he’d need to make a down payment of tens of thousands of dollars, then spend tens of thousands more paying down interest before building enough equity to just break even. He’d also have to hope for stability in the value of the home—Calvin says he’ll never forget his mother losing her home after the 2007-08 recession. Calvin found the binary choice between renting and owning really just left him without a choice at all.

Then, he had an epiphany: Every renter should be an owner. 

A venture capitalist at the time, Calvin put together an investment thesis and searched far and wide for a passionate, visionary Founder/CEO to turn this market insight into a reality. 

Calvin met and recruited Co-founders Jonathan Nutt, Jon Slemp, and Scott Sumi, and went to work, subleasing a windowless room the size of a closet from another Columbus-based startup. Rhove was born. 

Meanwhile, Calvin was still searching for his Founder/CEO to run the business.

Everything changed when he met Brett Kaufman, who loved the concept of Rhove but wondered who Calvin was really waiting for. Brett got Calvin to look in the mirror and realize that he was the passionate entrepreneur who could upend real estate, create a new category in housing, and turn every renter into an owner. Brett believed in Rhove so much that he too became a Co-founder, with an angel investment, advice, and resources that could help the Rhove team bring their idea to life.

Calvin Cooper, CEO and Co-Founder of Rhove, talks about how Rhove started and where the idea for Rentership came from.

Rentership: A New Category of Housing

We were fed up with the status quo. At the onset of the pandemic, and the outbreak of the civil rights protests, we decided enough was enough. The binary choice between renting and owning left most of us without any choice at all. The institution of real estate remained largely unchanged since Medieval times, and acted to exclude most of us from owning a stake in our communities. We believe that our democracy is stronger when we all own in our communities––and we saw many of the issues in the world stemming from a lack of access and opportunity. It was time to bring a new category in housing into the world, one that empowered everyone to own a stake in our communities. 

We knew the world needed Rentership, but we didn’t realize how quickly the world would agree.

We took a look at renting and owning, combined the benefits of each, and created a new category in housing:

  • Renting: Flexibility and quality of living, but no ability to recoup value of monthly rent payments.

  • Homeownership: Financial benefits of ownership, but a massive barrier to entry and a long term commitment.

  • Rentership: Flexibility, amenities, location, and financial benefits with zero barrier to entry. The best of both worlds.

In addition to the potential financial benefit of ownership, it’s a way of life. It defines your relationship with your community.

Renters who own a stake in our communities deepen their sense of belonging to that community. Like they have a seat at the table. And that’s good for property owners, who want renters to be true partners and not just tenants.

More broadly, it’s clear that democracy is stronger when everyone owns a stake in where they live. That’s why, in a nod to the formation of a more perfect union, we launched Rentership at Gravity on the 4th of July.

Since then, many visionary property owners have joined Brett in embracing this new category of housing, allowing respect and empathy to flow both ways and create lasting value.

Where Rhove's Headed

There were barriers to making Rentership a reality. 

Naysayers believed the status quo was too entrenched to be changed. Then forward-thinking property owners stepped up to make a better system for both themselves and their residents.

Years ago, the technology just wasn’t there to make it happen. Then Rhove introduced an easy-to-use mobile app that allows renters to automatically claim—and grow—a stake in their home.

Now it’s about spreading the concept far and wide. By bringing Rentership to communities across the country and around the world, Rhove is out to turn every renter into an owner. To make sure everyone knows they deserve to own a stake in their home, even if they aren’t a homeowner.

It’s the future of housing.