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Founder's Letter 2021

By: John Kobs
February 5, 2021

To the Apartment List team, renters, clients, investors, Board of Directors, partners and loyal supporters:

As we embark on the next chapter for Apartment List, I want to reflect on how far we’ve come, and yet how early we still remain in our company story. We're at an inflection point, where the need for mobility, acceleration of technology, and the right team of relentless and passionate people will meet.

2020 was a pivotal year - in the world and at Apartment List - a year mired by immeasurable heartache and challenge, and also a year where the significance of home has grown even more meaningful. At Apartment List, our vision has always been to deliver everyone a home they love. And this vision took on new importance, as our homes became our place of refuge. Every time I walked through the door of my home, I felt a sense of relief and safety. Life felt more normal inside those four walls.

Last year marked many important milestones for Apartment List. We became profitable, we completed a Series D capital raise with preeminent investment partners and, most importantly, we surpassed a half million homes found for families across the United States. We've come a long way since helping 183 families our first year in 2014; it's been a wild and wonderful journey since the beginning.

A few 2020 highlights:

  • 175,000+ families found home
  • 5.5 million units are available on our platform (13% of all inventory in America)
  • 170 teammates are dedicated to building our renter experience, with several original team members playing critical roles at the company today!

And we’re just getting started. As we look at the large and growing market of renters, we know there is so much more to do.


2020 was by no means easy. Yet, against the backdrop of a once-in-a-century pandemic, families grew closer, businesses persevered, neighbors checked on strangers, and first responders earned the standing ovations they deserve. While we wouldn’t wish 2020 on anyone, it has shown us just how resilient and committed our community is.

If last year was defined by resilience, a cornerstone of 2021 will be mobility, and we’ll be there for our renters at every move. The world has changed, and this next year will bring the opportunity to adapt. Whether moving cities, accelerating romances, or creating that dream home office, many renters are looking for something completely different than when they last moved.

The macroeconomic conditions are leading to musical chairs in the housing market, exactly the setting in which a data-rich marketplace is needed most. Renting becomes more popular in difficult and uncertain economic times, and renter mobility will rise in coming years as both remote work and urban recovery accelerate. The rental construction pipeline, meanwhile, has been robust, so we expect to see continued liquidity that requires flexible solutions. We’re building a platform to deliver exactly that, joining forces with both sides of the marketplace to meet renters and clients where they are, and be there with and for them throughout the process.


We pride ourselves on developing new solutions to persistent challenges. Our success-based business aligns incentives between property managers, owners and renters. LIFT, our auction-based pricing model, allows properties to name their own price and dial up exposure as needed, providing the marketing resource that best suits each unique community. Equally important, we’re able to deliver qualified renters through organized search results. Taken together, our goal is to meaningfully improve the experiences for renters and clients alike.


From the earliest days of Apartment List, we have been committed to building a team of problem solvers - those who see challenges as opportunities, and who are committed to leaving the world better than they found it. For better or worse, 2020 presented a year of problems ready to be solved. And while we’ve made merely a dent, this mindset continues to drive and propel us forward, strategically, technically, personally, and intellectually.

It requires the determination of 170+ undaunted executors, bold engineers, visionary product managers, unstoppable sales and go-to-market leaders, finance and growth marketing mavens, behind-the-scenes operators, people and company builders… and above all else, kind and compassionate teammates who care about each other more than anyone I’ve ever worked alongside.

When I reflect on the successes of our company to date, I know with certainty it’s the direct result of a passionate, bold and relentless team, of which I am exceptionally proud to be a part. As many business role models have taught me, hiring and retaining top talent is the single most critical thing to get right. We’ll continue to prioritize world-class, diverse talent, and ensure our team is motivated by the mission and shares in the company’s success.


We know that building an enduring company requires making an impact in the places where we live and work. Clients, renters, employees and communities have come to want - and rightfully expect - companies to show up where it matters most. Whether young children undergoing medical crises, families evacuating from devastating wildfires, or young adults striving to overcome the opportunity divide, we believe everyone deserves a home they love, no matter the circumstance - even when it’s not easy. We’re committed to reinvesting in our Home Bridge program, which provides a comfortable, short-term home for families who’ve endured an unexpected hardship. Together with a network of generous partners, we’ve provided over 6,000 nights of donated housing to families in need, and this is just the beginning.


Since the start, we have been fortunate to partner with the best in the industry. Our very early partners challenged us to think differently, to place renters first, to embrace technology and to truly revolutionize renting. From the first time our community came together in 2014 to spark innovation and dream about the future, to the present day when our partners guide our product evolution and surface market opportunities, we are grateful to work alongside those who expect, challenge and support us in delivering a better world of renting. We believe the highest impact partnerships join together around a shared vision, a win-win mentality and a commitment to holding each other accountable to results. We take the responsibility of fulfilling our collective vision very seriously.


As always, we will continue to measure the effectiveness of our investments with rigor. We’ll build and iterate as we learn, and invest to play the long game. We will operate with bold confidence, yet never lose our underdog mentality - a cornerstone of the uniquely Apartment List culture that has come to define us. In combining high ROI strategies with a lean and cost-conscious mindset, we will continue to balance growth, profitability and capital efficiency, allowing us to control our own destiny.


The world of renting has continued to evolve and it’s up to us to set a new pace. We want to win the category, and believe renting is ready for revolution. Our goal is to move with conviction and urgency to reinforce our position while expanding the opportunities.

Now is the time for extreme focus. We know the levers to expand our business and will accelerate investment in our core marketplace while delivering better insights that surface deals for renters. We’ll invest in supply growth, to ensure our renters have more options, and we’ll build tools to give properties even more flexibility in pricing. We’ll also move to a fully automated, self-service auction for property managers.

We have a lot of room to grow in our core business, and our data and technology capabilities open up exciting peripheral opportunities down the line as well. No matter the environment or circumstance, Apartment List’s core - delivering every renter a home they love - will remain the central rallying force for the team.


2020 will be a year for the history books, a year I try to explain to my daughter, now 10 months old. And, when I look back, I will of course think of the tragic illness, ruthless hardships, and social injustice. But I will also remember our resilience as a family, as a team, an industry, and a community. I’m filled with overwhelming gratitude and unrelenting hope.

From a business perspective, 2020 has been a banner year. But it’s about far more than the metrics and financials - what gets all of us out of bed every day is the power to really change renting, and create an experience that helps everyone own that feeling of home. While emboldened by optimism, we will never rest on our laurels and continue to operate with conviction.

I am fortunate to work alongside a dedicated team who continues to make our company - and me - better. And I am buoyed by the millions of renters who trust us to guide them on their journey to find, arguably, the most important purchase decision they must make. I’m grateful to our clients for partnering alongside us, and to our investors and board for guiding, pushing, and believing in us.

We’re just getting started, it’s time for our tenacity to take center stage.

John Kobs

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Apartment List

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John Kobs is the CEO and Co-founder of Apartment List, the fastest growing rental marketplace in the United States. John believes that everyone deserves a home they love, and has built Apartment List on a foundation of trust and transparency for renters and owners. Read More
Meet the Founder

John Kobs
John Kobs is the CEO and Co-founder of Apartment List, the fastest growing rental marketplace in the United States. John believes that everyone deserves a home they love, and has built Apartment List on a foundation of trust and transparency for renters and owners.
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