College students don't typically enjoy the annual scramble to find a place to live. Sifting through exorbitant amounts of inaccurate listings with little to no pictures, contacting landlords who provide useless or no responses, all to end up viewing properties that are often in shambles.
It's this kind of frustration that has often served as inspiration for successful start-ups — think Uber and young Travis Kalanick's displeasure with car services in San Francisco.
Something similar stoked the entrepreneurial imagination of Tim Jones and his Cribspot co-founders. As University of Michigan students and friends, they struggled to find viable college housing. Cribspot was born out of an entrepreneurship class to streamline the rental process for university students.
Jones and his co-founders — Jason Okrasinski and Evan Dancer — launched Cribspot in the fall of 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, each of them turning down other job offers that would have sent them to different areas of the country. "We wanted to build a tenant-facing brand that tenants really love," said Jones.
Cribspot launched after receiving an $11,000 grant from the University of Michigan and a $40,000 award from winning Detroit's TechWeek. Originally, the application served as a search engine for college housing listings on seven different campuses, aimed at helping bridge the information gap between tech-savvy millennials and the archaic off-campus student housing process. The company quickly grew and expanded to 170 campuses nationwide with the help of Y Combinator, a company that provides funding for new start-ups.
Now Cribspot is going well beyond the original model, taking on the broader rental and property-management market. The start-up has raised $2.9 million in three venture capital rounds, with the largest investments from Huron River Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners and First Step Fund.
Throughout their growth the co-founders — now 26 — realized that in order to compete with other real estate applications and services, they needed to change the way consumers access the housing market. "It's very difficult for people to change the way they go about the [housing] process, [so we] decided the best way to do that was to take all of it in-house and do it ourselves," Jones said.