‘Tis the season for apartment hunting in Greater Boston, which means the likelihood of having a memorable and possibly downright sketchy Craigslist experience while searching for a space or roommate rises dramatically. Can you imagine if dating sites operated like Craigslist? Creep city. A new locally built app, though, is helping match prospective roommates with apartments through personal profiles, searchability and tranparency.
Sumu – translated from Japanese to mean to live or to reside – was founded by Daniel Tewfik and Ethan Setnik after, yep, discussing Craigslist horror stories between themselves and others and how simply ridiculous it is that the site is one of the primary places to locate a roommate or apartment.
The foundational problem, they realized, is that platforms like Craigslist offer users anonymity, which isn’t great when living with potential strangers requires some kind of knowledge beforehand in order to determine if the situation will work or is even safe.
Is preferring a woman roommate inherently sexist? Do we want equitable access for all or the best possible match?
Sumu allows users to create personal profiles that can be used to discern if another user is poised to be a compatible roommate. It’s a similar model employed by Airbnb and dating sites. Users can sign up as a seeker or poster, that is, someone searching for a roommate or someone soliciting a living space.
Tewfik and Setnik launched Sumu two weeks ago and have already enlisted about 250 users. They’ve built their application for desktop with mobile usability and expect to launch mobile apps for Android and iOS soon.
“Both sides have profiles, you state a little bit about yourself and have a photo,” Tewfik said. The profile feature was actually just released and the duo hopes to roll out with new updates and features on a weekly basis – users can expect the ability to sign up using a third party social media platform, which will seamlessly help bolster user profile and accessibility.
Tewfik describes himself as the legs of the operation while Setnik is the brains. The two play off each other in collaborative fashion with Setnik working as the front and back end developer and Tewfik as the user experience designer.
They’re not actively seeking outside funding for their venture and want to build out the product as far as they can before they bring in an outside money source and all the while they’ve been working out of public spaces – District Hall, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, libraries, cafes and other various places where Wi-Fi is free, Tewfik says, have been unlikely sources of inspiration for the Sumu.
In fact, chatting up passersby and engaging with locals has helped catalyze new ideas and important discussions for where Tewfik and Setnik will navigate Sumu in the future, for example how to balance safety without sexism.
“A lot of women are saying ‘I want to live with women,'” Tewfik said. “Is preferring a woman roommate inherently sexist? Do we want equitable access for all or the best possible match? Do we just hide those posts from men entirely? Is that kind of behavior sexist? if we don’t do that, are we providing the best possible service?”
In that respect, the pair will try and strike an apt balance between the two, concentrating their efforts to providing an experience that allows users to find a suitable roommate match while upholding the most secure possible safety measures.
Be sure to sign up for Sumu today to kickstart your roommate search and receive email updates on new developments here.