When starting a company, excitement and energy are bountiful. This creates the opportunity to get a lot done in a short amount of time. It is during the first three months of operations that we made the largest strides, developing a plan to build a comprehensive, user-friendly rental housing search engine and listing service.
While this energy is a large reason it is so rewarding to work for a start-up, it can often get misdirected.
The current Heat Wave we are experiencing in DC reminds me of one of HotPads’ largest boondoggles. In an effort to create a comprehensive database of rental housing to launch the site with, we decided we should take a picture of every rental property in DC.
Mainly on the weekends, we enlisted friends, parents, siblings, and unsuspecting computer engineers to schlep around the city taking pictures of every single rental house, garden apartment, apartment community, and many…MANY homes that probably have never donned the"For Rent" sign in the window.
We spent the two hottest months of the year working in this fashion. It was hot. REALLY REALLY HOT. We walked down each street with a clipboard and camera. If the homeowner was working in the yard as we snapped a pic, they would inevitable scowl and confront us about our activities. I don’t blame them, if I saw a bunch of sweaty sunburned people taking a picture of my house, I would want a question or two answered. There were a lot of uncomfortable conversations.
After completing about 20% of the city, we said to ourselves, "WHAT ARE WE DOING?!?!?" We finally came to our senses, we were torturing ourselves over something that really does not add much value to the site. There was no way to scale what were doing in DC to other markets and there was no reason to. Housing shoppers not only want a picture and location of available housing….but they need availability, price, and amenities.
Everything was not lost, we learned a great deal during the process, for instance, the need to develop a truly efficient means of gathering content on a large scale. Plus, we had plenty of pictures and addresses to plug into our prototype to test our software…and we all lost about ten pounds.
I have attached a map of all the properties we didn’t get to in DC if anyone has some spare time on their hands.