At a school known for its startups, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. But with a name like “KeeWee” and a premise to stop the extensive problem of finding a non-creepy sublet, this new company has been getting plenty of buzz on-campus and off. Her Campus Northeastern interviewed junior history major Andrew Rodriguez and middler behavioral neuroscience major Brandon Beneduce about their new website, KeeWee Listings.
HC: How did the idea for starting a business come about?
Andrew: Around this time last year, I was reading the popular book Freakonomics and read a chapter on the economic incentives within the real-estate industry. I got an idea for an online platform that would allow people to showcase their real estate openings and realized it would apply perfectly to Northeastern’s real estate market.
Brandon: Andrew then approached me and we began working towards building KeeWee Listings. We realized the concept was perfect for the sublet problem here at Northeastern and, since we ourselves have had sublet issues, wanted to create a service that would give people control over their sublet openings and prevent them from getting stuck paying rent when they aren’t there.
HC: Where did the name KeeWee Listings come from?
Andrew: We struggled last spring to come up with a name and went through a bunch of different ones. Finally, one day I walked into the law firm I was working at and my friend, who was Harvard’s star Defensive Tackle, had about 20-30 kiwis on his desk and was eating them non-stop. The name just sort of came to me and we weren’t sure of it at first, but ended up settling on it and it’s become pretty popular.
HC: What are some of your goals for KeeWee Listings?
Brandon: We have a few specific short-term goals that we’re focusing on right now. The primary goal is that we’re hoping to be in nearly every major university in Boston by this fall. Northeastern has such a dynamic sublet market that it’s the perfect starting place, but a lot of kids at other schools have the same problem and we’re focusing on really capturing that need within the market.
Andrew: In the longer-term, we want to be the go-to website for college students when it comes to real-estate. Even kids in smaller schools have sublet problems when they go abroad and we’re working hard to get KeeWee in not just cities and major universities, but medium and small sized schools across the country as well.
HC: What are your roles in the business?
Andrew: Right now our roles are kind of blurred together. There are a few things that we each deal with primarily, but both of us are somehow involved in the decision making process 90% of the time.
Brandon: The third member of our team, Hannah, is our Chief of Public Relations and Social Media. She has the most defined role within the company right now, but like Andrew said we work together on most things. As time goes on, that will occur a lot less and I’ll take over certain things such as recruitment and day to day operations, but other things, such as product development, will always be a collaboration.
HC: What makes your site different from Craigslist or Northeastern’s Off Campus site?
Brandon: This is the biggest question we get and it’s a valid one at that. For starters, we’re the only sublet-specific service for college students. While the NU Off-Campus service does obviously target college students, neither it nor Craigslist are sublet-specific. That means sublets are simply an option, but not the focus of these websites.
Andrew: Beyond that, our service has a lot of really cool features that no one else, even apartment listings sites, have. We’ve worked really hard to take the word of mouth process and put it online in a user friendly way. For instance, we heavily leverage social media so that students can self-promote their listing on our site to their network of friends as well and don’t need to solely rely on the network of users we bring to their listing.
Brandon: We’ve also done a lot of user research on what really matters to college kids and then used that data to build features. Unlike our competitors, we aren’t just about the property. We know that living somewhere isn’t just about the dimensions of a bedroom, there are a lot of other factors involved and we’ve accounted for that.
HC: Is the website just for finding subletters? If so, do you hope to expand into other areas of real estate soon?
Andrew: When we launch on March 12, KeeWee Listings will be a Northeastern exclusive sublet service. Only students at Northeastern will be able to use it at first and it will focus solely on sublets.
Brandon: Once things get going for us, we’re going to focus pretty heavily on rapid expansion to new markets and, hopefully, new services. We think that our product and our brand can really change the way real estate is done and that’s the ultimate goal.