Founder Spotlight: Vi Nguyen
Meet Vi Nguyen, our DivInc alumnus featured in this month’s Founder Spotlight series.
Vi Nguyen is an entrepreneur with a passion to improve the communities we live in. Currently, she is the cofounder and CEO at Homads, an online platform that helps people discover neighborhoods that feel like home. Whenever you’re moving to a new city, you can find a place that you love, regardless if you’re renting for a month or planning to live there forever. Homads aims to build online communities that strengthen real-life communities. The startup was named one of the top 50 startups to watch in 2017 in Austin.
Below, Vi shares with us a bit about her journey to building a company from the ground up.
Tell us about your company, what it offers, and how it’s unique.
Homads helps people discover neighborhoods that feel like home. Whenever you’re moving to a new city, you can find a place that you love, regardless if you’re renting for a month or planning on living there forever.
The biggest problem is that most people are unhappy with where they end up in a new city. And other rental platforms don’t match lifestyle to the person. Even when people have a relocation specialist, 87% of them wished they had more help. We exist for the 40M people who move every year in the US and are looking for a place, that makes the city feel more like home.
Rather than bombard you with excessive numbers and stats, we use machine learning to efficiently determine the most compatible neighborhoods and homes based on your personality and lifestyle. As you relocate, you’re able to test out your neighborhoods with medium term rentals. Our recommendation engine learns what you love, what fits your life and suggests current homes for sale when you’re ready to buy.
We like to look at Homads as the mix between Zillow and Nextdoor. We create a social aspect and combine it with reliable neighborhood and housing information. How we engage with our users is what differentiates us from our competitors.
What are your goals looking forward?
When we first started Homads, our goals were to get our firsts; our first sign up, first message, first booking, first international renter etc. Our goals were based on validating our product. Now, with repeat customers, we know that we’re ready to scale and test new markets. For this year, we aim to establish three new markets outside Texas. This is an exciting goal for us as a mainly bootstrapped company. We’ve rarely had the opportunity to put any real money towards marketing until now. The next three months will be exciting as we gain organic traffic during our peak season AND double down on marketing efforts!
What other resources have been helpful?
As a bootstrapped startup, we had to look for other resources outside of just funding to get us through the “valley of death.” They always say that a CEO’s job is to sell. You sell to your team. You sell to your customers and you sell to your investors. At the beginning, the best way to get traction was to build our team. Outside of the traditional way of convincing your skilled friends to build out your platform, we also found we could build faster and smarter by working with General Assembly’s Design School, MBA students from the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program and student organizations from local universities.
What are you most excited about with Homads?
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of why you started in the first place. You’re dealing with operational problems like a homeowner’s payment got delayed or we have a bug that keeps someone from listing their property. We’re now confident that users can go through our site, find a place they love and rent with a great homeowner all on their own. There are still many manual processes that we’ve held off on building but having the assurance that our product is at a point that we can scale is exciting! We’ve turned the corner and can take a step back to see the impact Homads has made on many people’s lives.
We spent most of our time head down building and heavily in operations that it took a moment to see the bigger vision. Our vision at the beginning was only an idea when we first started. Being able to meet real customers with real-life experiences is what fuels our team and reminds us of why we’re doing what we’re doing. When you hear about renters who become close friends with their Homads homeowner, it makes us realize that our platform can do good. Knowing that technology and online social networks have further isolated people and raised rates of depression, we’re motivated to building a product that strengthens real-life communities.
“I had my first Homads guest a couple of months ago. It went great! He found a place to live in Austin and we are now friends.”
- Happy Homads Homeowner