Tech City: Entrepreneurs create Tinder-style flatsharing website
- Credit: Archant
Anyone with experience of flat-hunting in London will know just how difficult it is to find a decently-priced cupboard to rent – let alone flatmates with whom you have anything in common.
Few know this better than Jack Archer, 29, who had to stay with a friend for over a month while flat-hunting after he moved to the capital from Bournemouth in 2009.
He eventually found a flatshare in Tufnell Park - “It was more out of desperation than anything else,” he says - through the website Spareroom. But he failed to bond with his flatmates and moved out eight months later.
Eventually, he and his girlfriend found a small one-bedroomed flat. But then, when his girlfriend’s sister moved to London in February 2014, she encountered similar problems.
“She had to stay with us for over a month, while trying to find somewhere,” he says.“Of course I didn’t mind, but she was with us for a month in a tiny one-bed flat and the sofa bed was down pretty much all the time – it looked like a drug den.
“She had some pretty bad experiences: there were lots of last-minute cancellations, or else she’d turn up on a doorstep and find out that they really weren’t the kind of people she’d want to live with.”
By then, Archer, who has a background in business development and marketing, was starting to realise that there was a big gap in the market when it came to helping people find somewhere decent to live. So he set about thinking up ways to create his own website for flat-sharers.
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“Originally, I thought about making an app like the video-sharing service Vine, where people could record 30 seconds of video about themselves that people could look at,” says Archer. “But then that idea evolved a bit more.”
Teaming up with a former colleague Pete James, 27, who has a background in content generation and affiliate marketing, Archer ended up creating “Ruumi” - a website which matches users based on interests, lifestyles and living preferences.
Their objective, according to the founders, is to “put people back at the heart of the process [of looking for a flat] by building a community of happy renters and making it fun, free and easy to connect with the right people.”
Archer says he was particularly inspired by the dating app Tinder and the holiday-letting service Airbnb.
“Just like Tinder, you can only start chatting when you’re matched with someone – so there’s no wasting time messaging people who aren’t interested,” Archer explains.
He also wanted to incorporate the user-friendliness of Airbnb.
“They’ve done such a good job in terms of marketing and the value they place on their customers. It’s all about the user and their experience.”
His website is simple: anyone seeking a flat-share signs up through Facebook and creates his or her own personal profile - which includes photos, interests, and household or flatmate preferences and references. Equally, if you have a room to rent out, you can list the details, upload photos and specify what kind of flatmate or tenant you’re looking for.
The website will then automatically bring up any results that match what you’re after. To notify anyone of your interest, you click on a smiley-face button. If the other person does the same, then you can start chatting and arrange a viewing.
Archer says: “People want something that’s quick and easy - and, in my experience, the other sites out there at the moment are clunky and difficult to use .”
Last week, the website was launched in Hackney and Tower Hamlets.
“We did quite a bit of research beforehand, using our competitors to look at where most of the flat-shares were popping up - and those were the most popular boroughs,” he explains.
“Our target audience is students and young professionals, and there are lots of young creatives in that area.”
The site, which is available on desktop, tablet and mobile devices, already has around 40 flat-hunters plus six properties up for grabs.
At the moment, Ruumi is free to use and self-funded, but Archer and James are hoping to attract investment for expansion in the next few months .
“We have lots of plans, but at the moment we’re focusing on this area so we can get to understand the people who use it, why they’re using it and what they’d like to see,” says Archer.
“Then once we get feedback, we’ll expand across London and afar.”