In June 2015, former NYIT management student Ajay Yadav launched Roomi—an app that lets people find roommates and search for apartment listings.
The app quickly became a hit and, in 2017, Yadav was selected as one of Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30. At the time, The Box spoke to the entrepreneur about his new-found fame.
One year later, Roomi has grown to more than 20 cities worldwide. The Box recently caught up with Yadav who talked about the changes to the company, why he thinks Roomi is so popular, and what NYIT students need to know before choosing a roommate.
What has Roomi been up to in the last year?
We have been extremely focused on growing Roomi. We launched in more than 20 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Mexico City, and Barcelona. And the team has grown from more than 20 to now more than 60 [employees] around the world.
We acquired StudyAbroadApartments.com (SAA) at the start of this year to help students find housing when they travel abroad. With SAA, Roomi can now confidently serve users when they first enter the roommate market as college students. With Roomi, existing SAA customers can enjoy the same trusted room and roommate finding service.
We also acquired DADAroom this summer, which extends our service to an additional 800,000 users in Latin America. The deal contributed to doubling Roomi’s user base to 2.4 million in just nine months and reinforced our commitment to transforming shared housing into a more reliable and positive experience around the world.
Additionally, we acquired [roommate-finder services] The Room Ring and Symbi and launched our android app and a new website.
Why is there such a demand for an app like Roomi?
Very few decisions are more important than selecting your home environment, whether that be the physical space or people you chose to live with. Where you live and with whom is important to who you are and also extremely important to your quality and enjoyment of life as well as your wellbeing. It’s a decision that should never be taken lightly and more should be done to ensure truly amazing living experiences. But the process of finding a suitable roommate is still for the most part a journey into the “wild wild West” and the odds of having a good living experience together with said roommate are still not as high as they should be. This is why demand for services like ours is so high.
What improvements have you made to the app?
We launched “online book,” a secure way to collect the first month’s rent and hold it until you move into the apartment. We have also been testing RoomiPay (for a wider launch this month), which helps users pay their monthly rent on a recurring basis and create their rent payment history on Roomi.
Roomi is now available in more than 20 cities worldwide. What is your ultimate goal?
I truly believe we can connect the world by focusing on the 20 biggest cities in the world with a few million people each. We can use our technology service to solve renting problems in these places but also eventually to transfer your rent history and accrued trust from city to city.
What makes Roomi unique? How does it stand out from other similar apps?
At the heart of Roomi is our verified community—that’s what makes us so unique. We help you rent rooms and find roommates in a verified community.
When looking for somewhere to live, you can go to other platforms or classified listings to find a place but how do you make sure the place is what it says it is and that you’re renting with the right people?
We take roommate compatibility and matching the right people very seriously. We match people based on compatibility as housemates: Can you pay bills on time? Are you a night owl or an early riser? Are you a party animal or a gym rat? Essentially, will you take the bins out and get on as housemates because this is a very unique relationship.
We also incorporate features, such as secure in-app messaging and background and ID checks, to ensure that users can trust us and our community. We are 100 percent committed to anything that adds further levels of verification for our community or helps to ensure a smoother move-in experience.
How do you vet potential renters and those looking for roommates?
Both listings and roommates have their own associated vetting protocols. On the listings side, there is a string of criteria the postings must meet, including quality and number of pictures posted, property description, and verifications.
On the roommate side, we apply the safety measures mentioned before, such as secure in-app messaging and requests for background and ID checks. Plus, the community also self-regulates with a flag feature on suspicious profiles, which our trust and security team then investigates.
Additionally, our dedicated customer experience and security team work around the clock along with our AI [artificial intelligence] provider Sift Science to monitor and respond to any suspicious behaviour on Roomi. These can be anything from over 100 messages being sent from the same IP address in two minutes to irregular pricing.
As a business, we take having these processes in place very seriously. And as we continue to grow and new user experience [feedback] comes in, we develop new safety procedures to protect our userbase as quickly and efficiently as we can in order to build trust amongst our community.
What’s your advice for NYIT students when choosing a roommate?
- Start by being specific about the “house rules” and what you deem unacceptable living behaviour.
- Spend enough time to get to know each other and discuss the logistical details of day-to-day living.
- Try and find something in common with your roommate so that you can do things together.
This interview has been edited and condensed.