2019 SVP Startup Profile: Hoamsy
For young professionals moving to new cities after college, renting an apartment can be an intimidating task made even harder by inefficiencies in the brokerage system. For every pair of best friends that first met as roommates in a dream apartment, there is at least one horror story. SVP entrepreneur Richard O’Brien MBA ‘20 and his founding team are tackling this problem by building Hoamsy, a platform which increases efficiency and peace of mind in the search for rental properties and roommates. I recently spoke with Richard to learn more about his experience developing Hoamsy in the Summer Venture Program. Here are the highlights of our interview:
Tell me a bit about yourself and Hoamsy!
I came into Babson from a tech background. Prior to founding Hoamsy I worked on two startups: one was a social media app and the other was in the digital entertainment sphere. Hoamsy is designed to help students and young professionals with the entire rental process by creating efficiency, aiding them in finding both roommates and apartments. During SVP, we are focusing on the roommate side of Hoamsy. We match roommates in a human and holistic way by having users get two or three of their friends to write recommendations as to why someone should be their roommate. We’ve gone through a few different pivots to get here, and we are now building the third prototype of our matching system. The other side of Hoamsy’s platform is designed to help you find homes and apartments because you never just need a roommate, you also need a place to live with them. We want to crowd-source property reviews from previous tenants, and we hope to integrate some machine learning so you are not starting the search from point zero like you would on most housing sites.
How did you start Hoamsy? What specific experiences led you to pursue this venture?
I have been living with roommates since I was 16 and have had 12 different roommates since then, so the problem Hoamsy aims to solve is one I have personally experienced. I’ve gone through the apartment search three or four times now, and I had a particularly bad experience moving to Boston before starting at Babson. The process took me three months and, weeks before school started, I gambled on a roommate I had barely talked to and an apartment I had never seen in person. That experience was what catalyzed the development of Hoamsy, as I did not want anyone to have to go through the same nerve-wracking experience I did in trying to find a roommate and an apartment.
What activity or resource from SVP has helped you the most so far?
Customer discovery has been the most important part of SVP for us so far. Our SVP mentors have strongly encouraged us to hone in on our understanding of the customer and of the problem. We’ve been challenged to think about how exactly our business model meets customers’ needs, and how we can differentiate Hoamsy from the ways potential customers are already trying to meet their needs. This has been the ongoing focus for Hoamsy throughout the entire program, which has been really good because it caused us to pivot towards a better product twice. Customer discovery wasn’t easy for me because, coming from a tech background, I’m inherently product focused. SVP has helped me get my head out of the product and start understanding what the customer wants and then returning to the product based on their needs.
In what ways have your SVP peers and mentors supported you and your venture?
The mentors have done a really good job of looking at my business from a bird’s eye view, helping me envision Hoamsy from 500 feet up and 20 years down the road based on their experiences. Their insights contributed to Hoamsy’s recent pivots. My peers are really excellent because they’ve been an incredible resource for ideas and feedback. Having a group of entrepreneurial peers in the program with you really helps alleviate the so-called loneliness of entrepreneurship. When you see that you’re grinding it out alongside twelve other teams, it builds a strong sense of camaraderie.
What major milestones or accomplishments do you hope to achieve during your time in SVP? Or have you reached any already?
During the program we’ve made great progress by launching two prototypes, and it has been really exciting to get feedback on those. We’ve finished most of the outward branding of how Hoamsy will look and feel, and we’ve finished some of our early marketing materials.
By the end of the program, we want to finish developing the latest iteration of the roommate matching system based on our recent pivot to a more human approach. We will have launched the first marketing campaign and started to get our brand message out there to users. Our goal is to reach around one hundred users from three different schools.
What is a valuable challenge or learning experience you have faced as a founder?
The most valuable challenge for me has been team building and team management as a founder. One of the big reasons I came to Babson was because I wanted to learn how to build and manage teams. I’ve definitely made mistakes along the way as I manage the people who work for me remotely on Hoamsy, but I’ve been correcting the mistakes and learning from them. I’m sure there are many more mistakes to be made, but it’s been extremely rewarding to learn how to be a team leader.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My biggest advice would be to find a co-founder because entrepreneurship can be a lot to handle alone. If you are able to find someone that’s as committed you and whose passions match yours, it will go a long way. They will be alongside you in the trenches for the difficult times, and you’ll benefit from thinking about how you are doing things as a team rather than just what you are doing as an individual.
Where can we find Hoamsy online?
Our website is www.hoamsy.com. We recently launched our social media presence, so be sure to follow our pages on Facebook and Instagram.
If you enjoyed learning about Richard’s progress developing Hoamsy, be sure to stay tuned for more SVP team profile blogs! To meet the entire SVP cohort, join us for the Summer Venture Showcase on Thursday, July 25th. RSVP at this link. We can’t wait to see you there!