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Michael Tobin was eating breakfast in Buffalo last year with his friend, Ofo Ezeugwu.
Ezeugwu, the founder and CEO of WhoseYourLandlord, was talking about the new round of funding his startup was raising.
“I told him,’If there’s an opportunity, I’d love to be part of it,’ ” Tobin said.
He became one of the angel investors who contributed to a $2.1 million seed-plus raise, led by Black Operator Ventures.
WhoseYourLandlord is a web-based platform that seeks to foster better communication between property owners and residential tenants.
The company came to Buffalo in early 2020 after winning an award in the 43North business competition.
It was around that time that Tobin befriended Ezeugwu. They bonded over plans to use their respective businesses – Tobin’s restaurants and Ezeugwu’s tech startups – to make a bigger impact.
“We’ve had plenty of long nights over too many bottles of wine, talking about what his vision is and what he wants to do,” Tobin said. “There are a lot of similarities with our morals and what we want to do for our community.”
Not to mention Ezeugwu likes Tobin’s food: The latter walked into his own restaurant one time to find Ezeugwu and his girlfriend eating.
“He said, ‘Hey, you know I love you, but I love your food, too,’ ” Tobin recounted.
WhoseYourLandlord’s purpose resonates with Tobin on a personal level. He sold his house to open the first Fresh Catch Poke in January 2018.
His business has become successful and expanded — Fresh Catch now has locations in Williamsville and downtown Buffalo and Tobin also runs the Shuck Shack oyster bar on Ohio Street. He’s also been a renter ever since.
“WhoseYourLandlord makes it possible to communicate with your property manager and get things addressed more quickly and effectively, versus leaving a voicemail and hoping they respond,” Tobin said. “It’s those little things that happen every day between the landlord and the tenant that can make the experience so much better.”
Ezeugwu has run early-adopter projects with Buffalo developers such as s Newmark Ciminelli and Savarino Cos. With cash from its recent raise, it plans to dramatically expand its customer base.
Tobin said he’s not targeting angel investor opportunities as chances to use his platform to make meaningful contributions in the community. He pointed out that Fresh Catch has a scholarship program with the Buffalo City School District students interested in a culinary career and said his company is working with Noco on their growing list of sustainability initiatives.
“The social aspect of what we’re trying to accomplish involves trying to be a resource for the community,” he said. “We want to align people and get them rooms with others who have similar interests.”
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