Maybe you’ve had a bitter fight with a best friend. Perhaps you broke up with a long term partner and are leaving the home you shared together, or you might have just moved to a new city to pursue your dream career, but don’t know a single soul there.
If any of the above sound familiar to you, you're probably on the hunt for somewhere new to live or a new housemate, but the odds of finding a great apartment and a great roommate in a city like New York or LA are possibly worse than your chances of finding a million dollars on the street!
Enter MatchPad.com, the site trying to make the search a little less stressful; this rental website takes a dab of real estate listings and a sprinkle of online compatibility technology (a la Match.com) to help you find both the perfect roommate, and a great apartment.
This week, I chatted with 28 year old Waterford woman Anne Kavanagh, CEO and Co-Founder of MatchPad about easing the stress of moving apartments for thousands of people in the US.
Anne, what was the inspiration behind MatchPad.com?
I think anyone who has ever lived or moved to New York or any big city can relate to the struggle of finding a place to live but even more-so: the right roommates for a comfortable and enjoyable living experience. Going through the process of moving here, I was welcomed by all the usual suspects in my apartment search and I thought “There must be a better way to do this.” 10 million people a year live with roommates in the US and on average people will have 15 roommates in their lifetime, our short term goal is to make the process easier that these 10 million people encounter. MatchPad’s long-term goal is to create better roommate experiences that will enhance the lives of its users.
How much does it cost a user to sign up to MatchPad?
Unlike some of our competitors MatchPad is free for our users, we generate revenue from brokers and real estate professionals who are looking to access leads in this market. Aside from providing pre-qualified leads to brokers, we also offer other cool services such as listing agents and photographers.
What kind of changes did the company/product go through in early stages?
Since we launched 6 months ago we’ve learned a lot. I think you will see a lot more changes in the next 6 months. We’ve been gaining insight into how our users engage with the product, who our users really are and how we need to adapt to their needs. I think we’ve been really lucky to date we have a great team who are extremely talented and dedicated individuals, we are excited to unveil the next stage of MatchPad as a company and a product.
How is the company funded?
To date we have self-funded the company. We are currently partaking in a seed round and will hopefully be closing in the upcoming weeks. We are always looking for further investment, strategic partners and advisors.
What kind of growth has your MatchPad experienced since its launch last year?
Since we launched we have had over 10,000 users sign up to use MatchPad and over 100 brokers. MatchPad has a transient market. We have a 7-30 day window with our users, we count our users on ‘Active Dailys’; users older than 15 days who have not logged in will automatically not show in the match results. Right now we have over 1300 active daily users.
Who are your biggest competitors?
Some of the staples in the roommate search space are Spareroom.com and Roomster. 3 things that differentiate us from them are:
1. We are completely free for the user.
2. We also include full apartments for people who want to look together.
3. We use a matching algorithm rather than a listing service.
There have been apps and other sites pop up since we launched which we are not too concerned about - it just shows there’s a real need in this space for a reliable service.
When did you know it was time to grow the team, and how did you go about hiring?
This has thankfully been pretty easy for us. The other co-founder owns several other businesses so we have been able to alleviate financial pressure on the company by allowing our team to have alternative streams of income while still working within our overall structure. I’m a firm believer in “Investing in people not positions”. I think it’s a matter of putting the company out there as much as possible and treating your team with respect and gratitude, hiring becomes easy when people want to work with you because they believe in your vision and passion.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced so far? The greatest victory?
I think start-ups in their entirety are a challenge and I don’t know if that ever goes away.
For the company’s greatest victory, we got an article in the New York Times in November that was pretty surreal, the entire team had just got back from LA for Techweek and we were standing at a newsstand in JFK reading about MatchPad. For me, my greatest victory.. waking up everyday to be surrounded by great people and to see that we created something from nothing, a product that people engage with.
What's been the most important lesson since you started the company?
Keep an open mind, listen to feedback and pivot if you need to. As a founder you are one person with one perspective. The more perspective you have the better your product and company will be. Start-ups are no place for egos.
What are your plans for 2015?
By the end of this year we plan on being in all the major US markets, we also have plans to launch some new user features like online apartment applications, soft credit reports and online rent processing to make the application and rent process even easier and more cost effective.
What advice do you have for other people/companies starting out in your industry?
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is “Be patient”. This isn’t an overnight process no matter what you read about all these huge start-ups, there was probably 1-2 years of planning and production before they saw anything happen. Your network is gold, never say no to anything - you never know where it might lead and finally make as many mistakes as you can, it’s better to make them early on than later in the cycle.
If you’re looking for a roommate or a shared apartment, head over to MatchPad.com now to find the perfect combination!