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May 27, 2016

Start-up to aid off-campus housing search

By Scott Ryder, News Correspondent 

Unhappy with combing through possibly disreputable apartment postings on Craigslist and tired of Northeastern’s Off Campus Student Services message boards, two students will launch a new apartment-hunting site in March they hope will be safe and easy to use.

Andrew Rodriguez, a junior history major, and Brandon Beneduce, a middler behavioral neuroscience major, said they came up with the idea for KeeWee Listings last year when they played on the same club hockey team.

“[Brandon] fit perfectly into my sublet need and I fit his sublet need perfectly, but there was no platform to facilitate that.” Rodriguez said. “I just realized that it kind of would work perfectly here – an online platform that would just connect people.”

The service will launch in March at keeweelistings.com. Although similar housing websites already exist, like Craigslist and even Northeastern’s Off Campus Student Services message boards, the duo said they think their service will provide a more personal and student-oriented approach.

“What we tried to focus on for KeeWee is college students; the connectivity between matching one college student with another college student,” Beneduce said. “You can kind of go on and differentiate yourself from other listings on the site. Compared to Craigslist, we wanted to create more of a social platform… There are other sites out there like Rate My Pad and Jump Off Campus, that are using a Google Maps-type interface, but we wanted to make a more user-friendly, personalized interface.”

The co-founders said they have plans to eventually bring the service to other schools after the Northeastern pilot program. They also plans to charge for enhanced features.

“Eventually, once we move and expand, we’re going to be working with package deals, so [the fees will be] mainly for the people posting listings,” Beneduce said. “The people looking through listings can pretty much go through the entire site for free.”

Users will be able to try out all of the site’s features before the paid packages are introduced at a later date, and basic listings will remain free. KeeWee will also integrate with Facebook and require a student email address to register.

Brianna Maranga, a middler music industry major, said she welcomes the addition of another way to find sublets, especially a service that would require users to identify themselves. She is trying to sublet her apartment for the summer.

“Having another source would be great,” she said. “I definitely love having the Northeastern site because it just feels safer than using something like Craigslist where you really don’t know who these people are. I think if a third site was to be used, then that would just heighten the chances of finding a place.”

Students also said trust was an issue when using established housing search websites. Middler pharmacy student Kristin Hong, who rented a room from someone for the summer, also cited trust as a potential issue when finding a sublet online, and said she would use a service that requires identification.

“I found my place through Craigslist, and I feel that it was pure luck. It seemed a little sketchy because you don’t know who that person is,” Hong said. “The [Northeastern] off campus website isn’t too bad. But I do know that there are realtors who are helping those people, and the realtor’s fee is quite expensive for some of them.”

Sarah Harrington, a middler music industry major, said she had doubts about the site’s usefulness, despite the security controls its developers are incorporating.

“I guess it is nice to be able to link to Facebook, but we already have Craigslist and the off campus housing website, so I don’t know [how useful the site will be],” she said.

Beneduce and Rodriguez have applied for GAP funding from IDEA, Northeastern’s venture-accelerator, a student created and run university program at Northeastern that helps students and alumnae organically create, develop and accelerate their own business ideas, according to its website.

“It’s pretty competitive, though,” said Rodriguez. “At NEXPO [the Northeastern Entrepreneurship Expo, where 25 ventures demoed their companies to more than 250 attendees] last Wednesday, they announced the last winners for the last round, and we’re currently applying now, so we’re waiting to hear back.”

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