By GREGORY ZELLER //
Anyone who’s experienced Bad Roommate Syndrome knows how uncomfortable it can be. The unpaid bills, the 2 a.m. screenings of “Apocalypse Now” in Dolby surround sound, the tomato sauce splashed on the kitchen cabinets. LiveWith is an app for all that and more.
Founder Steven Abd El Hamid, a Swedish national who came to the United States as a student in 2010, has himself suffered various rental-related angsts, mostly during his studies at Berkeley College’s New York City campus, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing communications.
Abd El Hamid bounced from sublet to sublet, sometimes lingering in an apartment for only a few weeks, and finally decided there had to be a better way.
That led to his first business venture: a boutique NYC real estate agency through which founder Abd El Hamid and his partners manually matched roommates and rentals. He ran that business for four years, giving him professional apartment-hunting experience to temper his personal frustrations.
“I have experience with the pain that people go through finding long-term housing that’s safe and secure and affordable,” the entrepreneur noted. “And I have real experience from a professional’s point of view.”
Adb El Hamid first conceived years ago an app that could do, faster and better, what his boutique agency was doing. But he didn’t get serious about it until early 2015, when he incorporated Brooklyn-based RoomThat Inc. (dba LiveWith) in Delaware.
“I wanted to create something that accomplishes these searches in the easiest way possible, through an online platform that’s flexible and safe for users,” he told Innovate LI. “Something that could handle the entire process of finding your ideal roommates and finding the perfect apartment to rent together, with all the tools you’d need.”
There are other players in this space, Adb El Hamid acknowledged, including roommate-finders and a healthy supply of online apartment locators. But LiveWith is “the only app designed to help you find your ideal roommate and also to make it simple to find an apartment you love together, all based on your combined preferences,” according to the innovator.
“There are a bunch of apps that offer roommates, but then you have to go to another website to find an apartment,” he added. “And there are websites and apps that match you to sublets, which are really short-term solutions. What we’re doing is combining the best of all these worlds.”
After listing the specific features he wanted his app to include, Adb El Hamid created a business plan and started pitching digital developers, looking to put some programming muscle behind his business hustle. The first to board was cofounder Jean Silva, a professional programmer who’s become “an integral part of this process and this app,” according to the CEO.
A $7,000 self-investment allowed Adb El Hamid to incorporate and start coding a minimum viable product for iOS and Android systems, as well as an online version; it also facilitated partnerships with rental database managers, securing the for-rent data at the heart of the LiveWith effort. The company is now beginning to explore outside investments, according to its founder.
The LiveWith team – including Silva, two other programmers, a real estate specialist and a marketing ace – plans to formally introduce the app this summer, but it’s already building momentum through a new website and its Facebook and Twitter accounts, with an Instagram push coming next.
In addition to gathering likes and followers, the plan is to connect with social media influencers “who have the target audience or follower base that we’re looking to help,” Adb El Hamid noted.
Online advertising and content marketing are also in the cards, while the founder plans to form partnerships with housing officers at regional colleges and universities, including schools on Long Island. Adb El Hamid has already started planting some Island seeds,
attending a recent IdeaHUb gathering at Hofstra University specifically to meet with regional venture capitalists and pick their brains about “the amount of money we should be looking to raise and the kind of VCs we should be going after, or whether we should be looking instead at individual angel investors or investors at different stages.”
The entrepreneur is also thinking rapid expansion – a second city “within a year,” he said, with San Francisco “logically coming to mind” – though first, his team must get its inaugural NYC version up and running.
When it goes live, one of LiveWith’s strongest selling points will be security. Its programmers have already built in social media-based verification protocols and are busily preparing new credit- and background-check tools to bolster the application’s safety chops.
Adb El Hamid is also considering creating a customizable written agreement that “really clarifies the arrangement between the two parties and outlines what’s important to all: how the living space should be treated and how rent and utilities should be paid and so forth.”
In addition to helping individual renters secure their best-possible housing situation, Adb El Hamid also envisions LiveWith as an empowering tool for an entire generation of professionals who can’t quite yet make it on their own, but want to be in this general region and aren’t interested in moving back in with Mom and Dad.
“As rents rise and incomes stagnate, there’s a unique opportunity to empower individuals to enter leases together to make renting more affordable,” Adb El Hamid said. “This not only takes you through the entire process of finding a roommate and an apartment, but it helps to solve the problem of high rent – and it does it while steering people away from the short-term impermanency of subletting.”
What’s It? A mobile app that matches roommates and apartments based on various factors
Brought To You By: Steven Abd El Hamid, entrepreneur and former frustrated renter
All In: $7,000, self-invested by Abd El Hamid, mostly to buy access to rental databases
Status: Scheduled to start making matches in New York City this summer