Patrick Yoon graduated with a BA in Economics from the University of Chicago in 2008. He did the finance thing for 3 years after college (trading and investment banking) and decided to trade in the suit for a hoodie and join the start-up world. He recently helped grow a friend’s tutoring company Becerra Consulting in Chicago and have been working with his team at Roomaloo since the beginning of 2012.
Can you tell us about Roomaloo?
Roomaloo is trying to revolutionize the way people search for a roommate in Chicago. A lot of people have had bad roommate experiences so we wanted to help people avoid those situations by adding an element of compatibility to a roommate search. Whether you are looking for a short-term/long-term roommate or room in Chicago, our free service will easily find you great compatible options.
Where did the idea come from?
The idea originally came from early discussions with my co-founder, Fleming Au, about helping international students find great housing options here in the U.S. We both had friends and family members come from foreign countries to the U.S. to either work or study and they always had trouble finding a housing situation.
We were trying to match up internationals with students or graduates from top universities but as we kept building and iterating the business model month after month, we started to realize that the main problem we were trying to solve was to end bad roommate experiences for everyone.
We realized that the roommate/room search market was extremely dated and Craigslist still dominated as the way to find a roommate (outside of friends/family) which solidified our overall vision for Roomaloo.
Can you tell us a little bit about the technology behind Roomaloo?
Roomaloo is coded in PHP and MySQL, leveraging a custom framework developed by our technical co-founder, Fleming Au. We are currently using a shared host, but will most likely move it onto Amazon Web Services once we outgrow our current environment.
How did you get into the world of technology and startups? What draws you to the industry?
I have always been interested in startups and technology but didn’t become personally involved until I met my co-founder, Fleming Au. His passion for startups and his will to succeed really made me feel comfortable and pushed me to create something amazing with him. The thing that draws me to the industry is that you can truly change the world and solve problems through a great idea coupled with everyday technology.
What do you think Chicago's greatest strengths are for entrepreneurship and what do you think is its biggest area for improvement?
Chicago is just an amazing city for entrepreneurship because of the friendly startup environment and it really seems like everyone is willing to meet or help each other out. With 1871 becoming such a large hub for startups, people have so many great resources to start a company here in Chicago. I think the biggest area for improvement would be to increase the number of Chicago tech blogs and giving new entrepreneurs more access to press and publicity for their startups.
You come from the finance business. Have any of those skills transferred over to the startup world?
A lot of skills have transferred over but I do not think that they are exactly necessary in early stage startups. While business/financial knowledge is important, it does not translate to success in startups. Having the knowledge of financial modeling and being an absolute nerd in Excel/Powerpoint helped me with pricing out our services and backing into conversion numbers but those skills will only help so much early on.
What other skills and experiences would you recommend to would-be entrepreneurs?
The greatest things I believe new entrepreneurs need to be successful is the time to devote to your startup and the mental strength to not fear failure. Having the right amount of risk appetite will help entrepreneurs succeed. Choosing the right team is also extremely important but everyone already knows that.