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Five questions answered by KLR’s featured startup, JumpOffCampus

June 21, 2012

The easiest way to find student housing . . .

At KLR, our support of entrepreneurs and start-up companies goes well beyond our accounting and business consulting services. Our “Five Questions” blog series will highlight the best and brightest emerging and start-up companies in New England.

Five questions answered by KLR’s featured startup, JumpOffCampus.

Mark Abramowicz, CEO & Co-Founder
Kyle Nichols-Schmolze, CTO & Co-Founder

What do you do?

JumpOffCampus solves the off-campus housing issues faced by universities and students across the country. The reality is that universities can’t guarantee housing for all their students, yet they also don’t provide the necessary resources to help them find safe and affordable accommodations. Unfortunately, these students are left to their own devices to avoid scams and slumlords.

We know what our students want, and we keep them educated with best practices around apartment search. Our map-based apartment finder allows students to find suitable matches while keeping track of where apartments are located in relation to campus, academic buildings, popular hotspots, and public transit. Students can also save their favorite listings, send messages to all of them with a click of a button, and easily share their progress with friends, roommates, and family.

JumpOffCampus also handles other aspects of the off-campus housing ecosystem; we have a fully functional roommate finder, a great feature for graduate and international students. Our classifieds section allows students to post and search for goods from their peers. Students can also post and search for sublets both locally, and across the growing JumpOffCampus network!

How did you come up with your idea?

JumpOffCampus was conceived at Tufts University, where we were frustrated by the inefficient process of finding off-campus housing. An abundance of misinformation and ill-conceived expectations led to problems… you could say that unresponsive landlords (quickly termed “slumlords”) were a common theme for us and our friends. In doing more research, we were shocked that this was the case at the vast majority of institutions across the country.

Ever since then, we have aspired to be industry experts in the off-campus housing space. We approach university-housing issues from a unique perspective, acknowledging that off-campus housing is a viable, efficient solution. JumpOffCampus offers transparency into a fragmented marketplace so that students are empowered to make educated decisions about where to live by providing them with a one-stop-shop solution.

What gives you confidence that your business will be successful?

We are a talented team that works very well together, but we’re also self-aware and have surrounded ourselves with mentors and advisors who have tons of experience in their respective industries, ranging from enterprise sales to real estate. We make sure to learn at every step, and challenge ourselves in order to get better. With this approach, and our never-ending desire to provide the best product possible for our customers, we feel that we’re in a good position to succeed.

We have also experienced market validation and significant traction already. Currently, we’re partnered with 15 schools (and growing!) and because we have taken the time to truly understand what our customers want, we have been able to continue building a great product for students, administrators, and landlords. We hope to continue this in the near future and beyond.

What has been your biggest challenge?

As first-time founders, we faced a lot of challenges in getting our company to this point. The biggest challenge, however, was to learn how to work together effectively as a team. We have always held a very high standard to the work we do, bordering on perfectionism. Unfortunately, this can be extremely inefficient. Delegating responsibility and trusting the work of others was a challenging process, but it has also been extremely rewarding and established an open line of communication within the company.

What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

This question is loaded, and there isn’t one specific piece of advice that trumped all others. To start, we were told very early on that it’s incredibly important to be self-aware. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses has been imperative in putting our company on a path to success, especially when it comes to building the team through hiring as well as recruiting a great group of mentors and advisors.

Another philosophy we subscribe to is that entrepreneurship requires an “all in” mentality. We have a deep-rooted passion for the company and our mission to help students with their off-campus housing issues all across the country.

Finally, we absolutely subscribe to the Lean Startup mentality. Ever since reading (and re-reading) the book, we have adjusted a lot of our product development and other internal processes. Some major takeaways included using the feedback loop to test hypotheses. In fact, this has been an integral part in the refining of our business model as well as a key element to how we approach product development and customer validation.

Find out more about JumpOffCampus on:

KLR, one of the leading accounting firms in Providence, offers a wide range of services to assist startup companies create business models and navigate through the early stages of development. Benefits include bookkeeping services and financial statement preparation, talent recruiting, business valuations and general consulting and assessments from trusted advisors.

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