When recent University of Wisconsin graduate Alec Slocum had a tough time finding an apartment, he took matters into his own hands, creating a website designed to help navigate the complex process of finding student housing.
Slocum, the CEO of Abodo.com and a 2010 UW graduate, launched the site in February 2012. He and his fellow UW graduate and co-founder were inspired by their desire to create an alternative to the frustrating and outdated process of searching for places to live in the upcoming school year.
He said the website makes searching for and finding an apartment simple and easy by putting almost every campus apartment online in one place.
He said the site provides a map of all of the available apartments around campus as well as their price range, number of bedrooms, whether the building has a laundry room or not, up-to-date photos and descriptions of the amenities the apartment provides.
Slocum said the first year and a half after starting the company was the most difficult. He and the other two co-founders, Adam Ollen and Chad Aldous, were all employed at full-time jobs while simultaneously working on the website.
It was a challenging time as the group was trying to build Abodo.com as a company while successfully establishing traction with paying customers, he said.
Slocum added the co-founders also found their age to be an obstacle. Being 25 years old and trying to figure out a structure for the company and how to manage people was a major obstacle to get over, he said.
Still, Slocum said finding investors and people to support him was much easier than he had anticipated it would be.
“Being in a city like Madison, there are some amazing entrepreneurs who are incredibly willing to take your calls and provide their experience and help,” Slocum said. “It’s been surprising and incredibly helpful.”
During 2013 alone, he estimated Abodo.com has about 25,000 customers in the Madison area. The website is working with almost every major landlord in the city, he said.
The company also recently received an investment of $325,000 from one of the co-founders of a similar site, Rent.com.
Slocum said the company now has eight employees and its own office space by Lake Monona. He added the company has expanded the website to five additional major cities in surrounding areas including Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Columbus and Minneapolis.
Slocum said students who want to create their own startups should start building their company as soon as they have an idea. Slocum said the business will morph as time goes on, even if it initially may be pretty bad.
“The first version we launched was nasty,” Slocum said. “It took 10 seconds just to load.”
Slocum said the important part of his startup process was that he and his coworkers had created something that they were able to grow and improve upon. He urged students to find friends and acquaintances that share their passion and start building.
Update: The print edition of this story did not acknowledge that Slocum was a Herald employee during his time at UW. We regret the error.