Or rather, matchmaker.
We all know how stressful it can be looking for the right roommate. To make things worse, you’re usually under some time constraint while you’re undertaking this impossible task.
Symbi is a roommate-matching service for NYC residents, and they’ve got the dot nyc domain to prove it. Symbi matches roommates based on compatibility and provides an interactive experience for users to rate, match, and message each other.
Always good to get to know someone beforehand, and haven’t we learned the hard way that a great roommate fit leads to happier homes and happier people.
Symbi cofounders Simone Berkower and Peter Kalmakis are recent New York transplants, so they’ve lived the experience and have a tale to tell – and a company to help address the problem.
Tell us about the service.
Symbi is a free-to-use online roommate-matching service. Symbi users come in three categories: individuals listing a vacant bedroom in their apartment; individuals seeking these vacant rooms; and individuals who want a roommate to go apartment hunting with.
Rent is a New Yorker’s greatest expense. Living with a roommate reduces living costs by 30%. Well-matched roommates move less often, saving time and money. A great roommate relationship also leads to better mental and emotional health. Symbi finds these compatible matches that can make it to the next lease.
How is it different?
Today’s roommate seekers resort to inefficient sources, such as social networks and Craigslist. These come with big challenges. Social networks are ill-equipped for discovering others with compatible budget, timing, and preferences. Craigslist posters receive hundreds of emails and viable roommate candidates get lost in the noise. As their leases run out, people are forced to lower their standards.
Symbi solves the roommate-matching problem in three ways:
1) Matching Algorithm. We match roommates using compatibility algorithms developed through our own research and user data. This cuts out the noise for our users and allows them to focus on finding roommateswho could actually work out.
2) Complete Information. Instead of anonymous emails, roommates can view others’ profiles with all the information they need to evaluate a roommate fit.
3) Rating Experience. Rather than looking through endless listings, we’ve built an innovative user interaction model that is engaging and fun to use. Users can evaluate potential roommates as easily as rating movies on Netflix. We’ve had thousands of user ratings in the last three weeks since our launch.
Symbi is like a very helpful and well-connected friend during the most stressful time in your year.
Finally, co-founders Simone Berkower and Peter Kalmakis have the technical skills necessary to create a best-in-class large-scale matching service. Before co-founding Symbi, Simone gained expertise in machine learning and data analysis while working on Bing’s core relevance engine. Peter built large-scale cloud services for Xbox LIVE and its 50M users.
What inspired you to launch the company?
The idea for Symbi was born after seeing Simone’s college roomie unable to find a roommate with her lease ending and stress levels ever-rising. There was no overarching solution that could connect her to someone she’d live well with. Our vision is to match roommates together based on compatibility using data, much like what OKCupid has done for dating.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
We target young professionals in their 20s and 30s who are looking to save money and create friendly relationships with their roommates.
In New York City, our total market size is 1.4M people. According to US Census data, 900,000 people in NYC currently live together with non-family roommates across 263,000 households. An additional 1M NYC residents (32% of households) live alone today and could potentially benefit from the reduced costs and camaraderie introduced by shared living.
At the national level, 22M people live with non-family roommates today (9%) with an additional 34M (14%) living alone, for a total of 56M potential roommates.
Data from the Census Bureau shows that 71% of roommates are between 18 and 35 years old. This puts our target market at 1.4M people in NYC and 40M people nationwide.
What is the business model?
We partner with companies that offer services to people who are moving. Moving is one of the biggest expenses of one’s year, from physical moving costs, to furniture, to storage, and more. This audience and their timing is incredibly desirable. This allows Symbi to offer discounts to our users, and we take a referral cut as well. And yes, we have a preference for fellow NYC startups!
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
In the next six months, we hope to grow our user base by 100x. We plan to start rolling out discounts from our partners to our users. We also hope to find our next roommates through Symbi (our lease is up next September!).
If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community who would it be and why?
There are many impressive investors we’d love to meet and learn from in NYC, but Ben Sun from Primary Venture Partners (formerly High Peaks Venture Partners) stands out to us. His joint expertise in e-commerce and social networking relate well to what Symbi does. We also admire his strong commitment to promoting diversity in the workplace.
Why did you launch in New York?
NYC has the highest cost of living in the US. This makes it prohibitively expensive to live alone for many young professionals. It is also the densest city in the US per square mile. This makes NYC a “perfect storm” for roommating.
You’re new to NYC. What’s your favorite part about living here, so far?
Coming from a large tech company, we are loving the diversity of backgrounds, occupations, and personalities that we get to interact with each day in NYC. Oh, and New York bagels.Definitely the bagels.