What’s the best way to find compatible roommates when in a city with sky high rents: Craigslist?
As one college grad discovered, there had to be a better way.
Elien Becque moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Tufts University. Despite having a solid gig writing for Vanity Fair among other publications, she still couldn’t afford to live on her own. And, as she found, posting an ad on Craigslist meant a veritable tsunami of respondents.
“[I was living in] a four-bedroom, so every time someone moved out, we got 200 or so emails from people wanting to move in,” she said. “We knew that out of all of those emails, two or three were perfect, but it was a time consuming process to email them asking questions.”
Not only does it require a lot of time to deal with the deluge of inquiries, but there is no shortage of horror stories about Craigslist roommates. Most famous is the young, innocent looking con-woman Hope Ballantyne who scammed scores of people whom she found by answering roommate advertisements on Craigslist. How do you screen out the Hopes?
Becque was frustrated and knew there had to be a better way. So she got to work writing an algorithm to revolutionize the process of roommate hunting.
In May, 2013 Becque launched RoomZoom. Described as an “eHarmony for roommates,” RoomZoom uses a profile system to match people with simpatico mates. The app employs a proprietary algorithm which takes personality and lifestyle data, then provides those looking for a roommate with a list of matches ranked in order of compatibility. An added bonus: it’s free.
The startup has become so popular that Becque left her job at Vanity Fair to run RoomZoom full time. “I realized it’s helping a lot of people in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but I want it to help people in London, San Francisco and other cities. I want the product to be widely available across the world. And I was like, ‘If I don’t do it, I’ll regret it forever.’”
The app is making a big splash even though it’s still in beta, and at this time, only available in Boston and New York City areas. But Becque expects it will go international very soon.
“There’s no way this isn’t how people will find roommates in the future,” says Becque.