Konrad Koczwara is the CEO of Elevated Living, a property management software company based in Chicago that works with premier rental buildings across the country. Konrad is a Chicago native, having grown up on the city’s northwest side near Jefferson Park.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
As a first-generation immigrant, I was lucky to have amazing parents who exposed me to a lot of different experiences growing up. These experiences taught me the importance of hard work, problem-solving, teamwork, and other great values that I use on a daily basis.
I grew up in the Jefferson Park neighborhood in Chicago and spent most of my early years at the local park trying to figure out which tree to climb, learning about computers, and playing sports as a tri-season athlete. After attending St. Patrick high school, I was admitted to Loyola University Chicago. I decided I was going to do something in the medical field. I loved science and working out, so after college, I pursued a doctorate in physical therapy at Northwestern University to help people feel better, move better, and be happier. Oddly enough, this unique career path led me straight into real estate.
How did you get your start in the industry?
My start in real estate was super random and actually came from a side-hustle I started during graduate school in 2014. I built a company that connected personal trainers with people living in downtown Chicago who wanted to train at their home or apartment gym. My goal was to be the best fitness company in the city. Pretty soon, our company was noticed by two property managers, Daniel Garcia & Steve Burlingame from Lincoln Property Company, who were managing the luxury apartment building EnV Chicago. They asked if my company can run on-site fitness classes for their residents. I crunched the numbers and said yes. That was my first official entry into the multifamily real estate market. Within a few months, I had an additional 10-15 buildings that we were actively working with. From there, we branched out into doing fun wellness socials, events, and other tenant engagement activities.
After completing graduate school, I was faced with the decision of continuing to run my current business or going full-time as a licensed physical therapist (after spending over $140,000 on tuition). While working part-time and doing school every day from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., I managed to grow my business from zero revenue to $750,000 within two years. I decided to go “all-in” with my business as I loved working with property managers and helping residents get fit.
The big turning point for me and “Aha!” moment came when I decided to move downtown into a luxury apartment building for the first time. My expectations were super high, but I realized that the move-in, living, and move-out experiences were pretty terrible when it came to technology and services.
I needed to download one app to pay my rent, a second app to submit maintenance requests, a third app to attend fitness classes, a fourth app to sell my furniture, a fifth app to book a house clean, and last but not least, “go down to the pet spa and find a flyer with the groomers email on it and email them” if I wanted to get my dog groomed. It was crazy.
A disjointed experience? Very much so.
At that moment, I decided to completely rebrand my business and do an overhaul of the business model. This is how the idea for Elevated Living was born. I took all of the money I saved by living at home with my parents during graduate school and invested it into my business. My goal was to build an “all-in-one” software for residents and property managers living or working inside class A luxury communities. And so I did! Property managers loved it. We grew 80% YoY over the last few years and expect to grow over 120% in 2021. What started as on-site residential fitness classes turned into a property management software business for Class A luxury apartment buildings.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
Honestly, I didn’t have one specific mentor who helped me throughout the last few years. I was fortunate enough to make a lot of friends in real estate — especially with property managers. They were able to tell me the problems that they encountered, and Elevated Living would find solutions. Over time, that became my role. I was tasked with improving the resident experience and finding creative solutions to make things more efficient through technology.
What does an average day in the life of Konrad look like?
I love going on vacations at least 3-4 times per year. I love traveling. At the same time, I enjoy working. Sometimes a little too much. I love making a small impact every day to accomplish a long-term goal or prove a business strategy. It is very gratifying to see it through. Nowadays, there is a global pandemic, and I have a 3-month-old infant, so there isn’t much traveling going on. But I am sure things will be back to normal soon enough, and I hope to resume traveling with my family.
What do you like most about your job?
I love that there is always a new challenge for me. I get bored of doing repetitive tasks.
I especially love when someone tells me that something can’t be done, and I get it done. If it’s not challenging, it’s boring.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
My primary business goal is to learn everything there is to know about real estate technology and to offer my clients the best experience in an “all-in-one” system. My secondary goal is to continue to grow Elevated Living into an international software & services company for Class A luxury communities.
What kind of changes do you hope to see in the industry in the near future?
I think there are a lot of new technology advancements and money flowing into the real estate industry, and this will be a good thing for the industry as a whole. One thing that I hope to see in the future is a consolidation of proptech companies. The companies that are actually solving problems and profitable should buy out companies that are struggling. One of the biggest problems in the real estate industry right now is that there are way too many apps out there that offer minimal features.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
I workout 6-7 days a week, hang out with my family, explore Chicago’s restaurant scene, and most importantly try to get some traveling done.