This summer and fall, a new crop of students will be arriving in Chicago to start their studies at the city’s various law, medical, and other postgraduate programs—and each of those students needs a place to live. Leave it to two recent grads of Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management to see a splendid business opportunity in that situation.
Darshan Desai, who graduated from Kellogg in 2006, has partnered with Martin Claure (Kellogg, 2004) to start stusview.com. At that site, the pair hopes to provide a student’s view of the housing options near a university: Which are the good, quiet buildings that rent to mature grad students? Where are the hot deals on rents? Who are the landlords students should avoid?
Desai and Claure, along with their two-person marketing staff, are spending the spring compiling answers to those first two questions at stusview.com. Answers to the third question will come as renters post their own comments on the site. That kind of input will likely improve the site, as successive groups of grad students sign on to such features as “rate my place” and “refer my landlord.” Over time, the information can build up into a thorough housing profile for each graduate school that will make picking housing from a remote location more feasible.
For the time being, Desai and Claure are getting ready for the arrival of grad students enrolling at Northwestern, the University of Chicago, Loyola, DePaul, and the University of Illinois at Chicago—not to mention the U. of I.’s downstate campus at Urbana-Champaign, as well as 49 other campuses around the country. Desai says that the site is currently strongest in Chicago, with 90 listings as of early this week. “It’s our home base,” Desai explains.
Claure and Desai are funding the start-up themselves for now, but they hope to see it grow to the point where they can attract venture capital or some other source of funding, Desai says. Until then, the Kellogg grads are busy introducing the concept to landlords so that they can boost the number of properties represented on the site. “These [students] are good, high-quality, credit-worthy tenants [landlords] can reach,” Desai says.
While nobody has yet rented in Chicago via stusview.com, anyone who does will get a small cash reward. Of the landlord’s $375 fee paid to stusview.com, the renter gets $125. There is a component on the site where the renter can choose to donate $25 of that to one of a small number of charities. “It’s a little bit of a feel-good component,” Desai says.