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Yadav started the service after getting robbed by a roommate in NYC. Today, it boasts over 1 million users.
If you've ever had to search for roommates, you've probably found yourself scouring Craigslist, scrolling past the shady posts, and taking a chance on people you know nothing about. Well, Roomi founder Ajay Yadav, a notable Forbes' 30 Under 30, is looking to change that process – for good.

Roomi, a peer-to-peer marketplace launched in 2015, is a free-to-use website and app (iOS and Android) that makes it safer and easier to search for room rentals, list your empty rooms, and ultimately, find a roommate you can not just tolerate, but perhaps, even like? Users are prompted to create a detailed profile, with the option to link to Facebook and Linkedin, and can use in-app messaging to communicate with a potential roommate. Clear house rules and preferences (no smoking, pets allowed, females only, etc.) are posted on the listing, meaning you can avoid those awkward conversations.

Best of all, unlike so many of these new companies that reel you in with a fantastic solution to your problem but don't deliver the goods, Roomi walks the walk and talks the talk. Its community is already set up with over 1 million users across multiple cities, 4x more listings for 1+ month rentals in NYC than Airbnb, and 1,200 active verified listings versus Craiglist's 1,500 unverified listings every day.
A 2017 report found that nationally, 54% of adults between the ages of 23 and 29 have roommates, up from the 39% recorded in 2005. With this clear trend of shared living among millennials, in part due to rising rent prices and student debt, a powerful service like Roomi is almost a necessity.

Recently, CityRealty had the opportunity to chat with Yadav about Roomi and its future.
Roomiapp.com

How did you come up with Roomi and did you have some support early on?


I came up with the idea for Roomi after living in NYC for a few years and experiencing how difficult it was to search for flexible housing and find compatible roommates. Once I rushed into living with someone without really knowing them, or having any way to verify their background, and I was robbed of my all belongings and security deposit. I knew there had to be a better way to find a room to rent and people I felt safe living with.

When I first started working on Roomi, we were completely boot strapped. I’ve always believed it’s important to build a really basic version of your big vision and start testing it. Once I began testing an MVP and saw the interest it was receiving, I started to look for support.

Including Craigslist, you have many competitors. What makes Roomi stand out from the crowd?


Trust. We have designed features on Roomi that enable our users to make sure they are talking to people they can feel safe sharing a living space with. When you use our platform, you can request potential roommates get a background check which enables everyone to feel safe with their living choices.

What's been the general feedback of the service so far?


People love Roomi! We frequently get requests for Roomi to expand to more cities. Our users also really love how safe and easy the entire process is when they use Roomi. Not only is our app user-friendly and designed in a way to enable users to easily navigate it, but we also provide them with all of the information they need to make better decisions about who to live with.
Cities Roomi is available in. Other cities, including Miami, Portland, and Philadelphia are currently in beta.

What are the challenges and rewards of launching a crowdfunding campaign for a startup such as Roomi?


For various reasons like regulations, usually not everyone can invest in a company which is why we decided to host an equity crowdfunding campaign through Republic. One of the big rewards of equity crowdfunding is opening this up to everyone. It’s an amazing opportunity to allow anyone to invest and become part of the Roomi story. While there are a ton of benefits, we found a challenge of crowdfunding is the amount of work it takes to maintain the campaign and how long the crowdfunding process can take.

Roomi’s typical user is a millennial, but with people of every age now getting priced out of major cities like NYC, do you think co-living will be the future for a broader demographic?


Co-living will definitely be a common trend in the future! The majority of our users are millennials with a growing increase of Gen Z-ers, but we are definitely open to making Roomi available to other demographics, as well. In fact, about 4% of our current users are Baby Boomers who are choosing co-living options – their children have all moved out and they have all this empty space, so they are using Roomi to safely rent out the empty rooms in their apartment for young people looking for short-term or long-term rentals.

What's the next step for Roomi? And is there a limit for you as a "serial entrepreneur"?


The next step for Roomi is continuing global expansion. Roomi is available in major cities across the US and Canada and I’m excited to launch Roomi in even more cities across the world. And no, there is no limit for me. I love building stuff and solving problems, but Roomi is my focus.

Lastly, since you live in NYC, is there a favorite neighborhood or hangout spot of yours?


I live in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and love the area. There’s so much going on but my favorite thing to do in Fort Greene is taking my new puppy to the park.
Fort Greene Park (CityRealty)
Content Specialist Sandra Herrera Sandra Herrera is a writer, editor, and graphic designer based in Brooklyn, NY.
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