Most recently, TigerStartups sat down with Roomaloo co-founder, Fleming Au. Born and raised in Chicago, Fleming gave us some insight on his new roommate-matching startup, suggestions for emerging entrepreneurs and encouragement for the path forward. Let’s get started!
What was the inspiration for Roomaloo?
The true inspiration and concept of Roomaloo came when my co-founder, Patrick Yoon, and I recognized that the current roommate matching space was antiquated. And due to some of our own personal roommate nightmares in the past, we wanted to find a solution to end bad roommate experiences.
Can you give us a little bit of history for Roomaloo?
The start of Roomaloo began around early 2012. After Patrick and I identified the need for innovation in this space, we recognized similar elements from online dating could be leveraged to help push the roommate matching space further. We put a small team together and developed additional strategies to give our users extra peace-of-mind that they can trust their next potential roommate (e.g. full Facebook integration).
We’ve come a long way since early 2012. We are now a team of four, running on an extremely bootstrapped budget, and doing our best to learn from our mistakes to provide a great service.
What have your biggest challenges been with Roomaloo?
Honestly, the biggest challenge for us has been acquiring resources and executing on certain marketing strategies. Since my co-founder and I are bootstrapping this project, we have to be stricter on what gets funded.
However, I’m actually amazed at what we were able to build so far on just a shoestring budget. I guess you can attribute that to our ability of being creative with less.
How do you see the start up landscape? (Chicago vs Austin vs New Orleans and San Francisco). Do you think that will change?
Undoubtedly, San Francisco is currently the hottest city to form a startup. There’s plenty of technical resources, venture capital institutions, and angel investors. However, I believe cities like Chicago, Austin and New Orleans are on the uprising and will continue to receive more attention.
I am proud of having been born and raised in Chicago, so I may be biased, but the startup community in Chicago is growing stronger by the minute and it is being recognized by established entrepreneurs/institutions.
Being that this is Tiger Startups, do you see any trends in startup culture and diversity?
The startup culture still continues to revolve around being challenged while doing something you enjoy. However, one trend I have noticed is that startups are more focused on doing social good and reaching the masses, rather than just maximizing profitability.
Startups have always welcomed diversity, I can see it continuing its growth by convincing well-established employees in lucrative positions to pursue their dreams instead of a paycheck.
What do you see for the future of startups overall? Any industry/ macro-trends?
I believe we are currently in a resurgence phase for startups. Though this time around investors are entering more cautiously thus preventing the bubble from bursting. In the future more cities across the country will be aware of this and city programs to support startup communities will develop.
From an industry standpoint, I can see the peer-to-peer marketplace will continue to grow.
What is the one piece of advice you would give any potential entrepreneurs out there?
Don’t fear failure. Become smarter and stronger from them.
Any closing remarks you'd like to add?
Being Asian-American, I’m happy to see a site like TigerStartups in existence. Having been raised by immigrant parents with traditional expectations for their children’s careers, it was a tough decision to pull the trigger and join the startup world. It was even tougher announcing it. But my family has been extremely supportive and simply amazing.
I urge everyone who has been raised to believe there’s only one path to success to look for new perspectives and be willing to take calculated risks.
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