Aside

Announcing New User-Room Profile and Group Discussions

Hey Symbi readers!

It’s been a great month over here at Symbi, filled with record numbers of new users, matched roommates galore, and lots of new feature work. We’d like to let you know about two big improvements we’ve made to the Symbi experience.

When Two Become One

(Extra points if you caught the Spice Girls reference.)

The first big feature change is combining the user profile and room profile for people posting an open room in their apartment (what we call a “roomholder”). When we started Symbi, a roomholder had a user profile separate from their room profile. We had hoped this would allow roomseekers to make unbiased roommate/room evaluations independently, but we learned that it hindered users more than it helped them. Many thanks to those of you who sent us feedback on this, as it alerted us to the problem and allowed us to prioritize solving it.

roomholderProfileMacbookBigger
Now when you go to the Rate Users experience, you’ll find roomholders’ profiles contain information about them as a roommate as well as their room, all in one place. Roomseekers can filter between seeing roomholders and other roomseekers, depending on whether you’re looking to move into an open room or seeking out someone else to go apartment-hunting with.

We also took this opportunity to revamp the Symbi profile with the help of our design intern Sara! The new profile fits more information and allows you to message a user before moving on to the next. Lookin’ good, no?

roomseekerProfileMacbookBigger

Group Discussions

The other big feature we’ve added is Group Discussions in our messaging experience. After building Symbi messaging, we’ve seen a high interest in groups forming organically. We get that – living with more roommates certainly brings living costs even lower. According to one study, living with one roommate brings one’s living expenses down 29%. Adding another roommate creates an additional savings of 13%, for a total savings of 42%!

In order to meet this need for multiple people messaging together, we’ve now created Group Discussions to get everyone on the same page. You can add up to four potential roommates in a discussion. In order to prevent message overload, you can only start a Discussion with people who have messaged you 1:1 before.

You can start a new Discussion from the Messages page:

newGroupDiscussion

We hope you enjoy these new additions to the Symbi experience. Give us a shout anytime with suggestions, feedback, or puns at hello@symbi.nyc. And please keep in touch by liking us and following us, and help us spread the word!

Best,

The Symbi Team

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New York City Roommates By The Numbers

Hey Symbi Readers!

Two key things you should know about us? We’re proud data nerds, and we’re big on numbers.

Why do we like numbers so much? Well, in an earlier post, we mentioned that New York City, population of 8.4 million, has been growing at a rate of around 1% a year — far faster than the national average of 0.7%. Tied with San Francisco for the auspicious title of “most expensive city,” NYC is, by necessity, a city of renters, and the number of households with non-family roommates has increased dramatically over the past decade.

If you live in the city that never sleeps, you likely share an apartment with others. We also get that your roommate relationship — whether good or bad — has a mental, emotional, and psychological impact on your day-to-day life here in NYC.

And when it comes to finding a great roommate or apartment match, data helps us help you! The more data we collect, the more stats we research, the more New Yorkers we talk to, the more Zabar’s bagels we eat (because food helps us think), the more we learn.

But, hey, we don’t want to keep it all to ourselves. We’ve compiled some of our favorite datapoints and tips for you. Read on for some research tidbits:

Single? Renting? You’re not alone.

According to Census data, about a third of NYC’s population is single, which, combined with nationwide numbers, tells us a lot. The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University  (JCHS) claims that uncoupled folks account for about 35 % of renters in the U.S. today.

In this sweet infographic from New York City Economic Development Corporation, you can see the breakdown — by neighborhood — of single men and single women between the ages of 20 and 34 living in the Big Apple. Washington Heights and Flushing are among those areas with the most single men. The Upper East Side is a hub for single ladies.

There’s a reason OkCupid is headquartered here, right? Right.

Single Men vs. Single Women

If you’re a Millennial, you dominate the roommate market. For now.

NYC has long been a magnet for 20-somethings. The top areas for Gen Y include the West Side, the Upper East Side, Yonkers, and Forest Hills, according to Curbed.com. And, yes, to make the city’s sky-high rents work, most Millennials share their living space with others. The New York Times notes that 46 % of Millennials who moved in from out of state between 2006 and 2008 found themselves with 2-4 roommates in NYC apartments.

However, the demographics of Big Apple renters with roommates present some surprises. For example, according to a recent survey, 27% of NYC renters are over 35 years, and 20% are past 40. A recent report echoes this, stating that42% of New Yorkers aged 23 to 65 live with roommates!

So the number of middle-aged New Yorkers living with roommates is on the rise. Why, you may ask? Some of them seek to stay close to family. Others, like this Boomer Roomie pair, find comfort in companionship after divorce or death of a spouse. And conveniences like public transit definitely don’t hurt, either.

Young Adults in NYC

Got a furry friend as your roommate? Move here.

The Huffington Post names Manhattan and Brooklyn — in particular, Stuyvesant Town, Dumbo, and Brooklyn Navy Yard. Urban Edge also has a list of the top 10 dog-friendly neighborhoods in NYC, which includes the Upper East Side (Manhattan) and Park Slope (Brooklyn).

As revealed by this urbanite’s apartment search, chronicled by the New York Times, even advertised pet-friendly buildings have their limits. Pet size and behavior — loud barking in response to a doorbell, for instance — often pose barriers. But they don’t have to! Terri Karush Rogers, founder of Brick Underground, offers tips on how to get your dog past a co-op board here. (Number one? Skip the interview.)

Feel smarter?

Glad we could provide you with some new facts for your next cocktail party (or roommate night!). Curious about how we’re putting research into practice? Sign up for Symbi for free today, and benefit from our unique roommate and apartment-matching service!

Also, check out this interactive map of how NYC will look in 15 years, because it’s really awesome.

Happy reading!

-Lily Barrett

Symbi Contributor


May Roommate of the Month Contest

As the voice of roommates everywhere, we at Symbi are excited to announce our first-ever Roommate of the Month contest! We’re on a mission to find the best of the best in shared living.

We get it – being a great roommate isn’t always easy. (#DirtyDishes) Symbi appreciates you making it work, and we want to reward you.

Are you or a friend a spectacular roommate?

Have you ever:

  • Brought a hungover friend a coffee and bagel in bed?
  • Trekked into a snowstorm for a TP run?
  • Driven to the airport at 7 am to deliver a roomie’s forgotten passport?

YOU just may be Symbi’s Roommate of the Month!

How it works

Nominate yourself or a friend by submitting your/their most roomie-tastic deed for the chance to win a Seamless gift card!

  1. Just post your story:
  2. Get your friends to vote for you by liking or retweeting your post.
  3. Most likes/retweets at the end of May wins Roommate of the Month!

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Prizes

The post with the most votes (likes/retweets) will win a gift card for Seamless.com:

  • 25-75 votes = $25 gift card
  • 76-150 votes = $40 gift card
  • 150+ votes = $50 gift card

Looking for your own roommate of the month? Start your Symbi search today for a roommate you can brag about!

Got a question?

Shoot us a line anytime at hello@symbi.nyc or using the Feedback button on the top right of Symbi.nyc.

Happy roommating!
-The Symbi Team

Introducing our first #SymbiSpecial!

At Symbi, we’ve been working hard to build an experience that makes it easy, fun, and efficient to find great potential roommates and start the conversation. That said, when it comes to assessing roommate fit, nothing beats meeting up in person for the final say. You wouldn’t agree to be in a year-long contractually-obligated relationship with someone you only ever talked to Match.com, would you? (We would like to see someone try though. Marketing campaign??)

A great roommate relationship is based on communication and shared interests. So we are excited to announce our first-ever #SymbiSpecial! For a limited time only, every time you meet up with one of your Symbi Matches in person, coffee’s on us! Simply take a selfie with the two of you and post it to our Facebook wall or Twitter, and send us the receipt at SymbiNY@gmail.com.

coffeeTurq  coffeeNavy   coffee

Meeting up at the apartment in question? No problem – grab your potential roomie’s coffee to go! (Trust us, this makes for major brownie points. And brownies are delicious.) We’ve now added “coffee preference” as a question in your Symbi profile, to make sure you get it right. Go ahead to symbi.nyc/users/me to update your own!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Symbi. We wish you and your future roomie many great times ahead!

Best,

Simone & Peter

Symbi Co-Founders

Symbi has launched!

We are proud to announce the official launch of the Symbi service, at http://www.symbi.nyc. Symbi matches Room-Seekers with Room-Holders (people trying to fill an empty room in their apartment). We pair roommates together based on compatibility, leading to happier homes and happier people. The launch is a big first step toward that vision!

There are three main problems we are trying to solve with Symbi.

1) Informed decision-making

InfoScreenshot

One of the biggest pain points we hear from roommate hunters today is incomplete information. Apartment posts on Craigslist are sorely lacking – even if a room’s description is adequately filled out, sufficient information on the roommates themselves is hard to come by. Roommate hunters are forced make decisions with little to go off of. Is it any wonder this leads to poor matches and tense living situations down the line?

One reason behind this lack of information is privacy -Craigslist can be a big, scary place. Another is simply not knowing the right questions to ask, and the New York City housing market is full of unique quirks.

Symbi solves these problems in a few ways. Through thorough research we have identified the most important factors that lead to good roommate matches. We ask users to populate a profile answering these questions. This ensures users are making informed decisions about their future homes. We also verify all our users so that people can feel more comfortable sharing pertinent information about their lives.

2) Efficient Communication

One of the reasons people find roommate hunting so darn painful is because of the sheer inefficiency of the current process. Room-holders have to sift through hundreds of responses (yes, you read that right, hundreds!), while Room-seekers can do little but cross their fingers that their carefully crafted emails don’t get lost in a sea of noise.

RoomRatingScreenshotUserRatingScreenshot

Symbi can do much better. We allow users to quickly go through compatible users and rooms and rate how much they would like to live with them. Mutual interest between potential roommates unlocks messaging. This process allows users to quickly and informedly prune down the list of candidates to only those with whom it could actually work out. (Plus we’ve been told it’s pretty fun.) They can then focus their time and efforts on these compatible matches, and take it from there.

3) The Whole Picture

A happy home is where three things line up: you, your roommate, and your apartment.

matchesRoomseekerScreenshotCraigslist centers around the apartment alone: “Yeah, I guess I’d live there.” Reaching out to those in your network focuses on the personality fit: “Sure, I’d live with her.” Symbi synthesizes the two, bringing together roommates who can feel at home together.

So check us out at http://www.symbi.nyc, and tell all your apartment-dwelling friends in NYC. Here’s to happier homes and happier people in 2015!

Best,

Simone & Peter

Top 3 Lessons We Learned From Our Customers in 2014

Happy New Year from Symbi!

We are looking forward to an exciting 2015 full of learning, building, and discovery.

With 2014 having come to an end, we’d like to share with you what we’ve learned so far. Over the last few months, we held over 35 hours of in-depth conversations with potential customers. We learned about what makes for great or terrible roommates, what typically goes well or poorly using existing processes, and the New York City real estate market in general. (We also have many great roommate stories to share at cocktail parties! One word: bedbugs.)

Below are a few of these learnings.

#1: NYC Moves Fast!

The biggest thing we learned very early on was the sheer speed of the New York real estate market. Listings only come available within a month of the move-in date, and are snatched up instantly. Roomseekers have to decide within a day or two on an available apartment, or risk losing it. Sometimes an hour or even a few minutes can make all the difference. Is there any wonder why the room hunt is so stressful?

#2: An Asymmetric Market

NYC is truly a roomholder’s market. With a vacancy rate of under 2% at any given moment, rooms are in high demand. This gives those in posession of a room all the power, while those looking for rooms are in tough competition. This has a few important implications. Roomholders seeking roommates get too many responses, and have to prune them down with incomplete information. Roomseekers, on the other hand, struggle to stand out and get low response rates from roomholders. These are some of the challenges we now focus our efforts on.

#3: Focus on the End-to-End Solution

We also learned which customer segments to focus on first. You can categorize the roommate market into three groups. First, there are the room holders. They have a room to lease, but need a roommate. Maybe a former roommate moved out and needs to be replaced. Maybe a group wants to renew a lease but one person’s not on board. You get the idea. Then there are the room seekers. They need a place to live, but can’t afford to live alone. There is also a third group: those who want to find a roommate to go apartment-hunting with. We call them free agents.

In 2014, we’ve been thinking about the roommate problem every which way. We realized we need to zero in on where we can provide a complete solution. Symbi’s initial focus was on the third group, the free agents. We aimed to match them together, person-to-person, a la online dating. However, at the end of the day, this matched pair still needs a roof over their heads. How much have we really helped them if they still have to resort to Craigslist apartment listings?

For this reason, we have shifted our efforts toward the first two categories of roommate seekers: room holders and room seekers. This means our matching will occur between three actors: a person posting a room, a person looking for a room, and the apartment itself. This three-part matching, and how to solve the unique problems each side faces, have been our focus for the last month.

Utilizing these customer learnings, we are now working hard on developing the initial version of our product. We hope to launch within the next few weeks. Wish us luck, and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop!

Best,

Simone & Pete

happynewyear

Presenting www.symbi.nyc

Greetings, Symbi readers!

We are happy to report that we have made some big strides this last week – notably:

1) Moving from Seattle to NYC, in order to get closer to our users and immerse ourselves in the NYC rooming environment (We have a new roommate ourselves!)

2) Working on the launch of our website

And here it is – check it out at http://www.symbi.nyc.

Symbi logo as hexes

Sure, our website may not look like much at the moment, but don’t worry – that’s by design! This website represents our MVP, or Minimal Viable Product. This means it passes the minimum bar for our goal, and no more. Staying focused on MVPs means that we can be agile and build no more than is necessary before checking in with our users. This approach is great for businesses of all size, but startups in particular because you have no resources to spare and you are operating in an area of extreme uncertainty. You want to be constantly testing assumptions and learning from your users in order to avoid wasted work that doesn’t solve any real user needs. (For more on this, see http://theleanstartup.com.)

So, what is our goal with this website? The phase we’re entering now is hands-on customer research. We aim to interview 100 NYC residents by the end of the year! A bit ambitious, but that’s the idea. We have developed a discussion guide full of questions to ask our users. These include going through the customer’s roommate history of the last few places they’ve lived and what went well/poorly, as well as getting to know the customer more and what they’re looking for in a roommate. We are also asking about the methods they’re currently using to find roommates and where these break down, in order to focus Symbi on solving the most valuable pieces of the problem.

Here’s where you come in, dear Readers! If you or anyone you know currently lives in Manhattan or Brooklyn or has very recently, we would love to talk to you/ your friend. Please sign up at http://www.symbi.nyc, leave us a note in the comments, or message us at SymbiNY@gmail.com. We are looking for all the help we can get to rustle up 100 customers to talk with, so we’d really appreciate it!

We look forward to learning from you. Follow our blog below to stay connected.

Best,

Simone & Pete

p.s. The biggest difference between Seattle and Brooklyn? The lack of coffee shops with decent wi-fi! This makes us miss our old haunt of Roy St. Coffee quite a bit. Let us know if you have any good recommendations for the Carroll Gardens area!

All About the Roommate Market

Hey folks, Simone here! We’ve been doing a lot of market research on roommates these last few months, and wanted to share with you some of the stats we find most interesting.

In this post I will go through some of the key decisions we’ve made and the data that helped us arrive at these conclusions – namely, focusing Symbi on:

  1. 1-1 roommate matching
  2. New York City

and understanding just how big our market opportunity size is.

Shared Housing in America

We wanted to size the opportunity in shared living all-up. Let’s start with some general shared housing trends in the US.

First, let’s talk about how many homes in the US are apartment complexes in the first place. According to the US Census Bureau, 7% of all homes in the US are condominiums, and 11.8% of homes in the US have 10 units or more in the structure. In fact, 3.8% of US homes have 50 or more units in the building – this number was much higher than we expected!

What we’re really after, though, is how many homes are on the rental market. We learned that 3% of US homes – that’s 9.4M households – are for rent at any given time, on average. Of all rental homes, only 17% are currently rented out, leaving 83% – or 7.9 M homes – currently up for rental at any given time.

Next we wanted to know how many roommates we should match together at a time. Here are the homes on a rental market broken down by number of bedrooms in the unit.

Number US rentals by bedroom

This data shows that 2-bedroom rentals are the most common, comprising 3.9M households currently on the market in the US. We listened to data like this to focus our efforts on 2-person households (you + a roommate).

Okay, so those are the households, but how about from the people perspective? For instance, some roommates are also homeowners, so households don’t tell the complete story. What about the stats on the number of potential roommates?

The People

A common roommate-finding scenario is someone who has just moved to a new place. According to the Pew Research Center, a whopping 11.9% of Americans have moved to a new community in the past year (known as the “annual migration rate”). Of these, 40% of these new residences were apartments – that is, 4.3% of Americans (13.6M) move into a new apartment in a brand new community each year. That’s a lot of turnover!

Why do people move? The biggest single factor is for better job opportunities (44%). Education and current geography of the people themselves are the largest differences between who moves and who stays put. College graduates and those who dwell in cities, suburbs, and small towns are more likely to move, and move farther away. What’s more, 26% of Americans have no extended-family members living within an hour’s drive of them. This drives the importance of friends and roommates as a surrogate “family,” with true relatives far away. Finding the right roommate is a high-stakes decision!

How many people are we talking about here? According to Census data, 6.5 M Americans (2% of the US population) live with non-family platonic roommates. From a household perspective, 6.8% of all homes in the US are made of non-family roommates, and this number is growing. Below we show household breakdowns over the last two decades. As you can see (green highlighting), this percentage is up from 5.2% in 1990. (Note that this household view below groups platonic and non-platonic roommates together.)

Census nonfamily households

New York City

With all this moving around and shared living in big cities, New York City in particular is a top spot for roommates. The city crams 8.4 M people – and growing at a rate of ~1%/year! – into 305 sq miles, within the confines of 3 M households. US Census data shows that the number of households with non-family roommates in NYC increased over 40% between 2000 and 2010, compared to 30% for the US population at large (see chart above). And the population moves frequently: 11% of all NYC residents have lived in their current home for less than a year. The highest roommate rate in the City is Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where 9% of households are made up of roommate arrangements.

In addition to the huge population, roommates are a necessity for New York City due to its expense. After holding the title of “most expensive city” for many years, NYC has recently ceded the title to San Francisco for small apartments, but on average, NYC still wins for priciest bedrooms. Check out the top 5 most expensive US cities below:

Median Rent - Top 5 Cities

With such high prices and a booming (and ever-growing) population, New York City stands out as the perfect storm for needing a compatible roommate you can stick with. That’s exactly what we’re trying to build with Symbi.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into the world of housing, populations, and costs, which have informed our decision-making in the early days of Symbi.

See you soon!

Keep checking back here for more updates. We have some great data to share with you on all the influences your roommate has on your life – psychological, mental, and financial. Please follow our blog to stay up to date with us.

Happy roommating!

-Simone

Well hello there, world!

IMG_0007

Today marks our first day of full-time work on a new service to change the way people find roommates. What better way to commemorate the occasion than with our first blog post? We have a few things to tell you!

First things first: What is Symbi?

Symbi presents a different way of finding roommates. Here’s what we’re learning about how people find roommates today:

Step 1. E-mail any friends in the area.

Step 2. Blast it on Facebook.

Step 3. Pray.

Step 4. Resort to Craigslist and hope for the best.

Step 5. Buy a tub of ice cream and a box of tissues.

Let’s say this actually works out, and after weeks or even months of struggles, you do end up signing a lease. These solutions focus only on the apartment (Craigslist) or the timing (reaching out through friends), leaving the whole question of roommate compatibility to luck! As we all know (some all too well), your roommate can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Roommates who are compatible and sign another lease together also save hundreds of dollars they would be spending on moving costs and furniture – not to mention the significant amount of time and stress required in moving.

Isn’t there a better way? In a big city (we’re starting with NYC), there are a huge number of people looking for a similar apartment whose personality and behaviors would be compatible with yours, but you have no way of finding them and trusting them.

Enter Symbi. We aim to build a trusted network of verified users and ask them questions. This allows us to use data-driven algorithms to match people up based on compatibility and behaviors. We aim to find you a roommate that won’t make you want to kick them out of the apartment within the first ten minutes.

We believe roommates should be symbiotic… like this!

False percula clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris), Indonesia (photo: Eric Cheng)

Cool. So who are you, anyway?

We’re Simone and Peter, the founders of Symbi. Simone was a Senior Program Manager Lead at Microsoft, working on Bing’s web result relevance using machine-learned and rule-based algorithms. Peter was a Software Engineer at Xbox Live, building large-scale distributed services, powering social interactions, real-time experiences, and big-data analytics.

We came up with Symbi after hearing the struggles of so many friends trying to find a decent roommate. We envisioned a match.com for roommates, using the power of big data to match people together based on compatibility. We’ve been working on this idea ever since, and eventually became convinced that we wanted to work on this full-time!

So now you know who we are and what we’re up to. Check back here for more posts about our journey as a new start-up and what we’re learning.

See you soon!

-Simone and Peter