One Room at a Time
Atticus LeBlanc, CEO of PadSplit, participated in the Techstars Atlanta program in 2019. Learn how PadSplit is addressing the affordable housing crisis and transforming communities.
Atticus LeBlanc has an iconic namesake to live up to.
The founder and CEO of PadSplit was named after literary hero Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, whose story of advocating for justice is something Atticus strives to imitate in his own life.
“My mother told me that she wanted to give me someone to look up to,” Atticus said. “I take that very seriously. I’ve always gravitated toward seeing what I thought was injustice and charging at those windmills.”
Atticus’ urge to fight injustice started young: he vividly recalls leading a neighborhood protest against KKK grand wizard David Duke, whose headquarters were located nearby, at age 9. His lifelong passion for addressing inequality is evident in his company, PadSplit, which aims to solve the affordable housing crisis one room at a time while leveraging housing as a vehicle for financial independence. PadSplit’s house-sharing service empowers people with low income to access safe and economical housing options.
A union of his activism and his real estate know-how, the idea for PadSplit was born in 2008 when Atticus started buying houses in southwest Atlanta.
“There was a rooming house next to me that was really poorly maintained – wires hanging out, tarp on the roof and five people living in the home,” Atticus said.
Two of the residents approached him and told him that the house was being foreclosed on and that they would soon be evicted. They asked Atticus if they could rent rooms in his house, and that sparked an idea: a moderate to lower-income housing model that would allow everyday owners to sublet spare rooms.
That was the “aha” moment, but Atticus explained that PadSplit came to life after a decade of research into the gaps of the affordable housing model.
“It was really based on this idea of ‘customer discovery,’ something that’s big in the startup world,” he said. “I spent 10 years doing customer discovery – understanding what the problem was and what people really needed. When I ultimately decided to pursue PadSplit, it was with those findings in mind.”
With his idea gelling, Atticus was ready to make PadSplit come to life. But where to start?
“My background was entirely in real estate,” he said. “To really make an impact on the affordable housing crisis, I knew the solution was not just in the real estate or development realm, but in technology. The vision was for anyone, anywhere to enjoy expanded access to affordable housing, so I had to figure out what was up with this whole tech startup thing.”
Atticus jumped into Atlanta’s flourishing tech ecosystem and found that Techstars was rife with resources to help make his dream a reality.
“There’s just so much to learn through the program,” he said. “And the camaraderie with other founders is understated, but enormous.”
He added that the support of Cox Enterprises was vital to his company’s success.
“Cox’s participation in particular – and the level of access that I had as a young founder going through the program – was unprecedented,” Atticus said. “I could not have done it as well or as quickly. It opened up so many doors that I wouldn’t have had any idea how to open. I loved the chance to sit down with Alex [Taylor] to get his personal take on any number of issues, both specific to PadSplit as well as how best to impact the world at large. I want to thank the people who have been instrumental in our success: Cox, Techstars and all the mentors along the way.”
“Just keep walking.”
Like his namesake, Atticus has a penchant for quotable sayings.
Of his commonly used adages (“You get more done when you have more to do,” “The truth is usually in the middle,” etc.), one particularly applicable to his current headspace as an entrepreneur is simply “Just keep walking.”
“You’ve got to put one foot in front of the other and just keep going,” he said. “Our company specifically deals with some controversial, but important, issues – affordable housing and equality. Knowing that Cox is there in the background to support these efforts? That’s just who Cox is. Having a voice like that to support the need for innovation and change is huge.”
What is Atticus walking toward right now?
“I feel like this will be a significant year for us, where we can finally demonstrate the viability of our model in multiple markets outside of Atlanta. That’s the thing that’s most exciting for me. We’re really forging ahead in a lot of different aspects and are at the bleeding edge of housing innovation. And I really appreciate being able to blaze some of that trail.”
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