2023 Most Disruptive Business School Startups: RoomMe, University of Virginia (McIntire)


University of Virginia, McIntire School of Commerce

Industry: Mobile Applications, Property Technology

Founding Student Name(s): Sebastian Oliver, Brian Bernard, Dmitry Telemtayev

Brief Description of Solution: RoomMe revolutionizes the college housing landscape. We empower students with autonomy in their roommate choices, offering seamless filtering, chat options, and match-making capabilities. As we collect live, high-quality datasets, we pivot this intelligence to power real estate decisions, optimizing property and resident interactions for the future.

Funding Dollars: $17,000 (From Audience Choice Award and UVA Darden’s iLab Incubator)

What led you to launch this venture? We all had bad roommate experiences and found that we were not alone. There is a glaring gap in the market for college students to find compatible roommates and housing. We sought to leverage technology to bridge this gap, enhancing the overall student housing experience.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Helping over 6,000 students find roommates has been our proudest achievement. The positive feedback and success stories we receive from these students reaffirm our purpose. Additionally, being recognized with the Audience Choice award at UVA Launch indicates that our initiative resonates with users and within our collective community. This acknowledgment, alongside our engagement with Darden’s iLab Program, fuels our drive to continue improving and innovating.

How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? Attending the McIntire School of Commerce provided the academic foundation necessary to identify and address RoomMe’s market opportunity methodically. We identified a prevalent issue, deeply assessed its extent, and crafted a tailored solution. Our coursework and internships in Equity Research, Consulting, and Investment Banking sharpened our analytical prowess. This blend of theoretical knowledge and practical experience has been instrumental in shaping RoomMe’s strategic direction and operations.

Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Beyond Managing Innovation, the Strategic Value Creation course in ICE equipped us with skills in business valuation and crafting financial projections—crucial tools when engaging with potential investors. By delving into the operations of various businesses and discerning optimization strategies, we’ve been able to design a cost-efficient model for RoomMe, ensuring sustainable growth and value creation.

What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Eric Martin positively influenced our journey with RoomMe. Enrolling in his Managing Innovation class, Brian and Dima consistently benefited from enriching post-lecture discussions, which offered valuable insights and challenged the ways we thought about RoomMe ideas. Beyond traditional learning, experiences like listening to Stuart Weitzman speak at McIntire significantly broadened our perspective. Overall, his guidance and the opportunities presented in his class played a meaningful role in our venture’s development.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? From a young age, Shark Tank captivated me. Watching founders from diverse backgrounds realize their dreams was truly inspiring. Daymond John’s journey, from crafting FUBU shirts in his mother’s house to elevating it into a billion-dollar empire, resonated deeply with me. As a minority, his story wasn’t just inspirational; it was a testament to the possibilities that lay ahead. Then there’s Mark Cuban: an entrepreneur who transitioned from founding multiple ventures to owning the Dallas Mavericks. Being a sports enthusiast and a proud Texas native, their successes are not just tales of ambition; they serve as fuel for my own aspirations.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our vision for RoomMe extends beyond the college environment. We aim to be a trusted housing companion, from college roommates to urban subleasing, for every stage of life. As we aggregate more user data, we foresee RoomMe influencing large-scale real estate decisions, positioning ourselves as a pivotal player in the housing sector and property management.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? Charlottesville’s startup community wasn’t just a support system; it was a catalyst. The invaluable mentorship, countless iterations with groups of students, and talent invested in our vision have been vital to propelling RoomMe to help students nationwide.


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