Startup Spotlight: PlaceMe

Feb 18, 2018

 

Startup Spotlight: PlaceMe

Feb 18, 2018

Meet Clara Arroyave, Co-Founder and CEO of PlaceMe, which simplifies the Boston housing market for the young professionals and graduate students by providing affordable, all-inclusive, flat monthly rentals at flexible lease terms.

GH: What is PlaceMe?

PlaceMe simplifies the Boston housing market for the young professionals and graduate students by providing affordable, all-inclusive, flat monthly rentals that include all utilities, internet, furniture and anything essential for a comfortable living, at flexible lease terms.

GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did PlaceMe get started?

I first came to Boston as an international student to pursue my MBA at Hult, which is located in Cambridge, MA. As soon as I arrived, I realized how expensive Boston is, even more so with a tight student budget and an unfavorable foreign currency exchange. The housing market was very rigid with your ‘first-last-deposit-broker fee’ mantra and the one year lease term. I dealt with the hassles of finding quality housing close to school and  transportation, the right roommates and everything I needed to settle-in  as soon as possible to begin my studies.
Several years later, the housing market has not changed. I’ve been working on tackling the issues related to relocation on previous startups, and now here at PlaceMe, we believe we are solving the problem the right way.

GH: How did you build/ are you thinking about building  your team?

Each of us have learned a bit along the way regarding the skills necessary to tackle almost every challenge about the product, process, customer development and building the company up from where it was a year ago to where it is now. We have an amazing intern now and all this experience is helping the team to design and craft every future role that we will be hiring for, a process that will start in the next couple of months.

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?

We wake up every day with two ideas in mind: how to provide the best and most complete living experience that we can to our customers, and how to increase our footprint. Both founders are board members of local non-profit educational institutions (Clara at Breakthrough Greater Boston, and Francisco at Uncommon Schools Roxbury Prep), so we are not only focused on our daily work tasks, but we also try to give back to the community.

GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

We were pretty excited about a property we wanted to close for a determined region in the Cambridge area. After a lot of back and forth between  all the parties involved, we hit a wall. We tried again, we did everything we were asked for and then faceD another hiccup; we learned that sometimes we need to cut our losses quick and move on. It all worked really well in the end, as we were able to deploy those funds in additional properties that are working amazingly.

GH: What did you learn from your first customers?

In our early days, we learned to stick to our policies regarding our product. We cannot be everything to everybody and when you bend and twist your product too much to adapt to customer demands, sometimes you end with no product at all.

Clara Arroyave, CEO & Founder of PlaceMe

A sample apartment you can find through PlaceMe

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

The local ecosystem has giving me access to invaluable mentorship, relationships, support and a great network of like minded entrepreneurs, that share their own experiences and have supported us along this journey.

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?

At this point I am not sure if something is missing, but there seems to be an almost exclusive focus on tech and bio-tech. It takes a bit more searching to find investors who are open to different business models like ours. Another thing I would like to see more is racial diversity. At most of the meetings I attend you can see gender diversity (among panelists, presenters, etc.), but we can certainly add more color to that palette.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

“You don’t need an MBA, you just need some accounting classes” I”ll never forget that one. From a former employer. I moved to Boston to get my MBA and never looked back.

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

Adding Francisco Marriott as CFO and Co-Founder. He truly understands the financial aspect of our business and compliments my skills very well.

GH: What does the future hold for PlaceMe?

We just were accepted to Gener8tor, one of the best accelerator programs out there (their acceptance rate is less than 1%!), so we know we are in the right path and we need to continue on our own learning and growing process.  We are quite thrilled and looking forward to expanding our footprint in Boston and explore opening in new cities in the future.

 

Francisco Marriott, Co-Founder & CFO of PlaceMe
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