Shared housing startup launches in Austin

Cassandra Jaramillo

College students looking for roommates and subleases typically search through Craigslist and Facebook advertisements, but a startup called Roomi, available in Austin as of March, is trying to streamline the process for tenants with a mobile app. 

After raising $2 million in funding, the company launched its app’s services during summer 2015 in metropolitan cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and now Austin. Users can download Roomi on Android or iPhone and can search verified listings, roommate preferences, rent budgets and can send messages within the app.

Chief Executive Officer Ajay Yadav said when he moved from India to New York City he had a hard time finding a place to live with roommates. He said he created the company to help people find flexible and affordable living arrangements in cities with high demand and found Austin’s growth an opportunity to expand his company.

“Austin is an amazing city because it’s a college town, and it’s become a startup hub,” Yadav said. “We are seeing a lot of people living there, and as the people move, there’s more of a demand.”

Steven Bowers, a lecturer at the McCombs School of Business, said in the last 10 years the West Campus area saw increased development after new rules allowed developers in the district to build higher structures to support a denser population.

“Because they are nice units, it would seem like college kids need to live together to be able to afford these apartments,” Bowers said. “This kind of online concept could be very lucrative or successful.”

When journalism senior Jan Ross Piedad found out she got accepted into the Archer Fellowship program for the spring 2016 semester, she had two months to sublease the apartment where she had signed a 12-month agreement.

“I think one of the biggest challenges of posting your sublease has to do with timing of when you’re getting out of your sublease,” Piedad said.  

After posting on Craigslist and Facebook, she found it tedious communicating with interested prospects on the different sites.

“There’s so many groups for subleasing, and you actively have to look in those groups and see what people prefer,” Piedad said. “And there’s that strange part of Facebook where you can’t always message people you aren’t friends with, so then you have to add the strangers.”

Yadav said he hopes to make the apartment search easier for people from college students to entry-level employees in Austin.

“In this new generation, people are moving more often and wanting to find flexible and affordable housing,” Yadav said. “We believe anyone should be able to move anywhere in the world.”