[Ajay Yadav, CEO of Roomi. | Photos Courtesy: Roomi]
Living in a place of your choice is hard enough in the big city without the hassle of finding someone you truly get along with to co-habit and help split costs. If Ajay Yadav has his way, that won’t be the case much longer. His start-up, aptly called Roomi, makes it safe and convenient to find a compatible housemate in New York and San Francisco—and if the company’s growth is anything to go by, cities across the world should soon be boasting of Roomi too.
Finding a great roommate in a new city is something Yadav feels very strongly about. He cites it as the key part of a successful shared living experience. He is candid about his own experience and the inspiration behind the company: “Roomi was founded upon the idea that you could live anywhere in the world and truly have it feel like home,” Yadav explained. “After moving from India to America, I experienced first-hand how finding a secure living situation enables you to embrace the adventure, to build new friendships or relationships and fundamentally connect with the city—but that wasn’t always my experience.”
“My first roommate in the U.S. stole most of my belongings and savings from the apartment when I was in India visiting family,” he elaborated. “It was really devastating. Later, when I was helping a friend look for a roommate, I realized that not only was it a tedious and inefficient process, but that she had serious security concerns about going to knock on a stranger’s door to view an apartment. I knew there could be a safer way—and I wanted to help people find roommates who were compatible based on lifestyle preferences.”
The idea for Roomi came to Yadav when he was just 24 and it has been quite a journey since then.
“One of the biggest hurdles for me was moving to America without speaking English and going on to found and grow my own company,” Yadav said. “Getting customers and early traction was a huge initial obstacle, as was pitching to important investors for desperately needed early stage funding. I can’t emphasize how important the right mindset is to being able to achieve your goals. We knew Roomi would take off based on our early traction, so we selected a fantastic grassroots team to help us build and grow our reputation in the city.”
[Screenshots of the Roomi app. | Photo Courtesy: Roomi]
Referring to himself as ‘just a guy from India with a big dream,’ Yadav also shared how relentless he was in the pursuit of his goal: “I had no network. I had to be strategic and build the network. I sought out the best people who would add value for my company and give me the best advice, and I reached out to them until they got back to me. And they would connect me to other people until I built a bigger network. Additionally, getting featured on AngelList really helped us to get more attention from other investors. It’s also been really rewarding to gain the backing of Indian investors like Arihant Patni who want to help bring Roomi to the Indian market.”
Given all that it offers, it is no surprise that Roomi is expanding rapidly, having just launched in San Francisco this month. More than just a rental listing, it helps users to pick out the best possible roommate based on lifestyle choices, shared values and common interests, complete with security checks—and it does all this without a fee.
“We’ve created a system of multiple checkpoints to give users the most information possible, empowering them to make an informed decision,” Yadav said in reference to how Roomi screens potential renters. “We vet our users’ profiles by verifying them through their social media accounts. Our in-app chat allows people to connect without giving away their personal information. Lastly, our profiles allow users to make their own choices about potential roommates based on their preferences. Ultimately, we advise our users to exercise reasonable judgment and caution. We also try to educate our members about safe practices and give other important information out to our community on a regular basis through our blog.”
Driven by the goal to help people live better, Roomi is on the path to becoming a household name in the near future. Yadav summed up the success of the start-up by lending sound advice to budding entrepreneurs: “Roomi’s mission is to help people find flexible, affordable co-living solutions that feel like home. I truly believe that’s possible, and I think that’s the key to our success. You have to believe in your mission because at some point, you’ll need to make sacrifices in every area of your life–your salary, your sleep, time with your friends and family–in order to achieve it. But helping people live happier is a huge reward.”
This post is a part of our Start-Up Series on India.com. If you know of a South Asian entrepreneur living in the Diaspora, who is ambitious and innovative, let us know! We would love to profile and connect with them for our series. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with their information.