More than just an innovative idea, starting a company takes dedication, hard work, and the right team. We caught up with Mike Reinheller, founder of JUNKR, to learn more about what it takes to build a tech startup and some of the lessons he’s learned throughout his entrepreneurial career.
A: I was born and raised in Medicine Hat, AB. I went to the University of Alberta and completed my Bachelor of Commerce, quickly leading me to my entrepreneurial journey, which has included startups in construction, self-storage, and now tech with JUNKR.
My Dad was an entrepreneur and built some large companies, kids camps, and charitable organizations. I was always surrounded by this entrepreneurial spirit, and I guess I was wired with a similar DNA. I’m always pushing myself and I love the challenge of creating something tangible from an idea. I want to leave my mark on this world, and I thrive on the excitement of building and growing something new.
My first start-up was a condo development company called Trimount Developments. My partners and I had an opportunity to purchase a great land parcel in the exploding small town of Estevan, SK. After securing investment and financing, we moved out there to start the new venture.
The project turned out to be a massive success and we built and sold out 3 buildings, 117 units total, in just 18 months. We then rolled our profits into the next oil town up the road, Weyburn, SK, to repeat the process. Everything was going well until many other developers entered the market and the price of oil started to plummet in 2014. I was then looking for an exit and way back to Alberta for my next venture. My experience with Trimount really taught me the value of having a good mentor for guidance and support, as well as some of the limitations that come with investing in smaller markets, which can rise and fall quickly.
After condo development, I moved back to Medicine Hat to try my luck with some commercial real estate investments. It was not long until Self Storage caught my attention as a lesser known real estate segment with big opportunity. I saw technology opening doors in the industry with kiosks, online rentals, and automation. Tenants could now rent and move-in all with the power of a smartphone. I wanted in!
I started Rhino Storage with the mission to automate and leverage tech and forego the traditional business model. We’ve built and operated multiple unmanned facilities by trusting our onsite wifi, security cams, website and systems. I believe embracing tech is going to seperate us as we move into the future. We have leaned heavily into what is possible in the industry and we’re excited to see what comes next.
A: My current business, Rhino Storage, sometimes involves cleaning out abandoned units when we can’t auction them. I dreaded this part of the job and was curious if I could pay someone with a truck some cash to come and do it for me.
After observing the fragmented “guys with trucks” side of the junk removal industry in contrast to the expensive businesses already out there, I thought there must be a better way. I created a Facebook group called “JunkrBoys” and quickly saw the demand for work from guys with trucks, who were lining up to do the junk pickups. This gap in the market led me to seek out a tech solution and begin building a team to create JUNKR.
A: My days vary and I find myself wearing many different hats. Sometimes I am meeting with banks and investors and collaborating on how to grow and expand. At other times, I am rushing out to our storage facility at 11PM in the dead of winter to help someone get out of the yard when their gate code doesn’t work!
What I’ve grown accustomed to is being flexible and doing my best to focus my energy and effort on the bigger tasks that move the business forward. It’s easy to get caught up in the details but sometimes you have to step back and focus on the macro, find ways to automate the micro, and get the right people to support the vision day-to-day.
A typical workday for me is to come into the office, make my to-do-list for the day, and try to tackle the hard tasks right away, when I have the most energy. I try to clear my inbox and call list in the mornings and then support my team later in the day with any help they might need.
A: I believe JUNKR fills a gap for junk removal jobs that cost anywhere from free up to $100. Existing junk removal businesses offer a range of options and provide a very polished and professional service. The challenge for the customer is the pricing and scheduling. JUNKR allows the customer to set their junk outside and determine their own pickup price. The JUNKR platform allows the Lister to set the price of their junk that is relative to them.
JUNKR is perfect for people who might have trucks and trailers and want to make a few extra bucks too. They can get notified of pickups in their area, complete them, and get paid. They are also in control of the jobs they want to take and when they want to work, so it is a perfect side gig opportunity.
A: I think the junk industry just hasn’t tapped into the power of smartphones and the gig-economy wave yet. The people-power and tech are already there. Users are willing and trusting of new ways to make money. Bigger junk removal companies are expensive and cumbersome, dictating what the customer pays, and currently there isn’t much alternative.
I believe now, more than ever, people are hungry for new opportunities and already have the tools necessary to capitalize on them. Recycling, reusing, and selling old items online are all gaining popularity, at the same time, people are gathering more and more stuff every year. So, disrupting the junk industry with a tech solution that can benefit both user sides is prime for the taking.
A: I would say just go for it! Whatever your dream is, explore it, study the market, and put in the work. The journey can be hard, lonely, and trying at times. But, the joy and excitement of complete strangers using your product and seeing that first $1 hit your account is worth it all.
It is so much fun to share your big ideas, rally a team around your vision, and ultimately see it all come to life. Surround yourself with good people and chase after mentors who have been to the promised land before and glean everything you can from their successes.