Roommatefax.com Steve Wolf’s New Venture
In the winter of 2013 while searching for business opportunities (like I always am) an idea came to. I wanted to start something new and since I had been out of the CEO seat for a couple of years, I really wanted to make a splash. I was looking for a BIG idea, and guess what, I found it!
I was in my car driving on the freeway thinking very hard about new business ventures (I like to go out for a drive to think). Then it hit me, initially the idea I had was doing something like a dating website/app but specifically for the purpose of finding a roommate. BING, lightbulb. I immediately called some people I respect to get their opinion of my idea, one of those people was my friend and now business partner J. Candace Covington. She loved the idea and helped me vet it out more adding some innovation to the mix by adding the idea of combing background and credit checking to the profiling system giving us a complete one-stop-shop for a “rooommate-finding/vetting” system. It was gold, now the next step was to see if someone had created this before us.
My initial reaction was that someone would have had thought of this before because it was so simple and right in front of us. “Who wouldn’t use this?” I kept asking myself that over and over again. Knowing the pain we have all gone through living with a bad roommate(s) or renting a place to a bad tenant(s), I would have paid hundreds or thousands to avoid that painful process. So, we starting researching, and sure enough, no one had done it yet! That’s the crazy thing about a great idea, some descent ideas become great simply because no one has done it yet. Have you ever thought of an invention or business and then saw your idea on an infomercial years later? That’s happened to me before, and more than once too. If you are anything like me, you are a methodical person with a dash of crazy. You see, to run with an idea and try build a company around it is no easy feat. Although this is not my first rodeo when it comes to start-up’s the environment changes daily, especially if you’re in Tech. What I have learned over the years is that some can get lucky once, rarely do they get lucky twice, and you pull it off a third time, it’s not luck, it’s a learned skill and habitual.
So, knowing we had a solid idea, and no one else was doing it, we ran with it. Filed all the paperwork, raised a little seed money, wrote a business plan and starting building a team. We needed advisors, a development team, an attorney, and most importantly, we were going to need some investors! The amount of work and sweat equity that go in to the beginning stages of a company are dizzying, and most people can’t imagine doing it because the name of the game is work for free and ask a lot of people for help your first year, and then maybe you will get a shot at the big time. Remember that 95% of small business fail, and you don’t even want to know the percentage rate for start-up ventures! I eventually brought Dr. Jim Hamerly the idea. Jim started the entrepreneurs track at the CSUSM (my Alma Matter) and helped “reform” the school of business there. He was the former VP of AOL Time Warner and former VP of Netscape (He has so many big accomplishments, I could write a blog about it 😉 )I met him while I was giving a lecture the CSUSM Entrepreneurs society 4 years ago. We quickly became friends and shared many of the same business philosophies. I would run ideas by him, but I had never seen him as excited as he was when I ran the Roommatefax.com idea by him. I immediately asked him to be our lead advisor to the company and he accepted.
Armed with a small team and a little bit of capital, we picked up an attorney advisor Eric Morton. We realized quickly that if we were going to make this happen in a big way we would need to team up with a law firm that could advise us on any problems that could arise in the future. Although I have owned and operated several companies, we quickly learned that if one day we were to go public there were many things that needed to be taken into consideration and that it is best to tackle those things early on. Eric Morton has played an integral part in helping us set up the business properly and filing our trademarks and copyrights to protect the hard work that everyone has put forth to get this project going along with user agreements among other necessary documents.
We had spent countless hours researching the market place and now we knew what we needed to have to make us stand out from rest. The next step proved to be the most difficult. Who was going to help make this dream a reality? We knew time was not on our side but it was extremely important that we picked the right development team to build the Roommatefax site and app. We began a checklist of things that we were looking for in a development team and began interviewing teams across the country. Some of the criteria most important to us included the development team believing in the idea (like it was their own), be in the United States, willing to work closely with us and have successfully launched websites and apps on all platforms. So after meeting with several firms, we were introduced to Prakash Chegu. Prakash was really excited about the project, and met all the criteria and best of all, he was local and really easy to work with. We did some wire frames, cut a couple checks, and the development of our dream commenced.
Finally we were going to need some awesome design work for the company. My good friend Shaun Briggs answered the call. I have known Shaun for over 6 years now and his design work is so good, that as a designer myself I feel like I stand in his shadow. I was always told by my mentor that you should look for people better than you, and then work with them. In a strange turn of events, it turned out that Shaun actually used to work with Prakash 10 years ago when he was running his brokerage firm in San Diego, that was fate, and in the start-up phase of a company, you need all the help and good luck you can get! Its been a year and a half since we started out on this mission and a lot of blood sweat and tears have gone into this project. And I knew this was going to be a lot of work putting all the pieces together. Although it is nice to know that we are on the home stretch of the development process, the real hard work is about to begin. So where are we at now? We are currently seeking investors while getting ready to close out our seed round of funding that will continue until about mid-late July. Then we plan on launching our beta versions of the site and app (on IOS and Android) by late summer. Currently we have a profile on crowdfunder.com where we can seek investors from friends, family, and supporters of us. We know we are in the toughest phase of the start-up process and are ready to take it on. So if you or anyone you know is interested in getting involved in our company as an advisor, investor or member of the team, please get in touch with us here.
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