Student startup aims to make finding roommates simple
August 22, 2023
One of the most stressful aspects of college and post-college life is finding a roommate. With the help of the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs, the Hokie students and alumni behind the application Couch: Roommates Made Simple, are hoping to make finding roommates for college students and new graduates a safe, simple process.
Meet the team behind Couch:
- Anvitha Anumolu ’23; Industrial and Systems Engineering
- Ken Atta-Boakye ’22; Computer Engineering
- David Delacruz; Senior in Finance and Blackwood Department of Real Estate
- Abu Jalloh ’21, M.S. ’23; Computer Engineering, M.S. Information Technology
What is Couch?
Jalloh: Couch is a platform that helps students and new graduates find roommates and connect with communities in the user's area. Finding a roommate in college already has its shortcomings, as most students go on Facebook, join a housing group, and hope for the best. It’s even harder to find a roommate when you’re moving to a new place, because many people don’t know where to look and run the risk of being scammed or ghosted. That’s where Couch comes in.
We’re different from Facebook and the like because we are a platform made with students in mind – made for students by students. We provide an easy way to find a roommate that matches the user’s preferences, budget, location, etc. Furthermore, our business model includes partnerships with property managers that will enable users to find a place to live while on the app. We also have security measures to ensure that users stay safe and are talking to real people.
How did the idea for Couch come about?
Jalloh: The idea came up when I had a past internship but wasn’t offered housing assistance by my employer. As you probably know, the cost of living has gone up so much that it’s very unaffordable for many students. My co-founders also went through similar experiences.
Delacruz: Our team met through a brainstorming session held at the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs. Abu Jalloh and I had similar challenges finding roommates. We both experienced random social groups, low-quality interactions, and fraudulent accounts that made the process of finding roommates brutal. With our complementary backgrounds in software engineering and business, we thought we could build a solution that made roommate matching simple and easy. A user-friendly app helping people connect to people. We like to describe Couch as “Tinder, but for roommates.” Vitha Anumolu and Ken Atta-Boakye joined the team shortly after.
The Apex Center has been incredibly helpful in providing us with the tools to help us build a company from scratch. The center's resources have been essential in our growth. They have helped us hone our fundraising skillsets for our business plans.
What successes has the platform already seen?
Delacruz: We had the opportunity to pitch our company to a panel of Virginia Tech alumni and stakeholders at Startup Hokies Demo Day hosted by Apex Center for Entrepreneurs. The presentation was 10 minutes long and our team demonstrated how we are streamlining the roommate matching process.
The four presenting co-founders were awarded $1,000 to help support the growth of our startup at Demo Day. The feedback we received from the panel related to our go-to-market strategy, where we are focusing on acquiring users through an ambassador program marketing to students from all over the country. This approach has been used by leading marketplace platforms such as Tinder, Facebook, and now Couch.
The Apex mentors encouraged us to ensure that we find our “hair on fire” early adopters, a term used to describe users who are in immediate need of your product. This advice has been at top of mind for us as we are set to launch Couch this fall, with our ambassador campaign to follow shortly after.
What are your plans for the platform?
Jalloh: Our current plans are to launch on the Virginia Tech campus as well as other Virginia-based universities. Using knowledge from our launch we plan to then expand to other universities in the country with a focus on major metropolitan areas.