Meet the student founder climbing the proptech ladder

11 Jun 2024

Co-founder Aaron Devitt. Image: Marc

Aaron Devitt and his team at proptech Marc have been making some big gains since the platform’s formation, including winning the Irish Student Entrepreneurship Forum grand final in April.

Around the time of his Leaving Cert a few years ago, Aaron Devitt used to stay up until 2am most nights thinking about ideas to start his own business. “Obviously I was doing a bit of study, but I probably should have done more,” the 22-year-old entrepreneur says.

Having spent most of his secondary school years trying (and failing) to start something, Devitt found his breakthrough in December 2022 when his mum and siblings had no heating for over a week due to technical issues that had to be relayed to the property management.

“They got really poor communication. They would fill out request forms, make phone calls, send lots of emails and hear nothing back,” he says.

Recognising an opportunity to find a market problem, Devitt interviewed more than 70 other tenants and learnt that almost all tenants had either faced similar issues or knew someone who had. “I then eventually got to speak to property managers and found out that they were under a huge amount of pressure – managing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of tenants is no easy job.”

How it started

A student of marketing at Technological University Dublin (TUD) at the time, Devitt soon realised that almost all the most time-consuming tasks revolve around “repetitive, back-and-forth” between tenants and contractors or landlords.

Taking inspiration from this experience, he went on to create Marc, a platform pitched as an “estate agent in tenants’ pockets”.

Using the AI-enabled residential management software, tenants can communicate with management at any time without needing to wait to get an agent or the phone or being trapped in long, plodding email threads. “Marc’s job is to ask qualifying questions, offer solutions and then summarise all this information for the stakeholders involved: landlords, contractors and agents,” Devitt explains.

The idea is to reduce the time it takes to get a response. “Oftentimes, when agents have to give solutions to tenants, it might be that they need to go and find a user manual, which could take 20 minutes to go and find, whereas Marc’s functionality allows us to scrape user manuals from the web and from our own database and give instant solutions straight to tenants.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Marc. But the process of building the tech behind the start-up was made seamless thanks to co-founder Sagar Kale, a lead developer in a UK-based proptech company where he has worked since 2019.

“I met him on Y Combinator’s co-founder matching platform back in September [2023] and we got on really well,” Devitt says. “Since then we’ve had at least three to four calls a week and we’re very fortunate to have some money coming in through our door.”

How it’s going

Since its establishment, Marc has secured contracts with paying customers and is in talks with some of the biggest property managers in the country (who can’t be named yet). The start-up has also recently made its first hire, a junior developer, and brought on board an AI expert who has a PhD in machine learning and has previously worked as an engineer at the Adapt research centre based in Trinity.

But perhaps the strong validation of Devitt and his team’s progress in such a short time is winning Irish Student Entrepreneurship Forum (ISEF) grand final in April, where he bagged €10,000 for Marc and was declared the Irish Student Entrepreneur of the Year.

Now, having finally achieved his goal of embarking on a life of entrepreneurship with an idea that works, Devitt wants to devote all his time and effort in growing Marc. At the risk of being a young-entrepreneur cliché, he has deferred from his course at TUD to join Marc full-time. After all, it wasn’t studying at 2am that got him here.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic