Ofo Ezeugwu, the CEO and co-founder of WhoseYourLandlord.com, a ratings site for tenants, learned the best ideas solve everyday problems around us.
While the 22-year-old from Maryland, was running for vice president of student affairs at Temple University, a discussion about student housing issues with his campaign team led to the idea for a website that would put the power of finding accountable landlords back into the students’ hands.
“I thought, 'What if students could rate their landlords for students coming in right behind them — so that way students know what to expect before signing the lease.' And that idea just caught on like wildfire,” Ezeugwu told BET.com.
The site also allows property managers to have access to a space to list their available apartments. After winning his bid for vice president, he launched the site in 2012.
Realizing that students at other campuses faced similar issues, he promoted the site to students at Temple University, George Mason University and the University of Maryland. Their associates wore T-shirts to promote the site, driving users from 300 to 38,000.
“I recorded a bunch of students and they would talk about their living situations and then we would chop up the video and push it out there for other people to see,” Ezeugwu said of their initial marketing technique.
Funding the business came next. In August 2013, he was “thrown into the fire” and pitched the company to two investors on the spot at a meeting.
“I’m pitching it and I never had the chance to pull out my computer. I just pitched it off my head and it was a little nerve racking at first because you’re putting yourself out there like anything in life, but the feedback we got from it was tremendous.”
2014 has been a fast-paced but fruitful year for WhoseYourLandlord.com. In April, the site won first place at Temple’s Be Your Own Boss bowl, a competition for students and faculty throughout the university to win money for their business ideas.
The following month, the company was selected to be part of the National Minority Angel Network pitch competition in Silicon Valley. This past June, they were one of five businesses chosen to be part of a real estate tech accelerator through David Rose’s New York Angels investment group. In July, they traveled to New Orleans to participate in the Risingstars Boot Camp, which brings together young entrepreneurs around the country for business development coaching.
WhoseYourLandlord.com is also run by co-founders Felix Addison, Vice President and COO, and Nik Korablin, CTO. Kacper Rams serves as CFO and Phil Meyer is the creative director.
One challenge the site faces is getting people to not only read reviews, but to leave reviews. In August, the company launched the "#MillionRatingChallenge." For every rating left on the site, the company donated 10 cents to the Just Heart Help, a non-profit based out of Baltimore that provides scholarships to underserved youth internationally.
As CEO, Ezeugwu’s to-do list changes from day to day. But much of his time is spent connecting with influential people and signing up for competitions, conferences and events at colleges to bring exposure to the brand.
The entrepreneur is also a model and actor who has been featured on the Today show, Brooklyn Fashion Week and Philly Fashion Week. “My first love is business. That’s what keeps me up at night and what keeps me going," he said. He adds that there is a completely different "rush you get from both sides" but he respects both industries.
Ezeugwu’s names Will Smith, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey as his inspirations. But his biggest role models were his parents. His father came from Nigeria and his mother hails from Barbados.
“You know to hear their stories and their triumphs and to watch them grow as people from my childhood now and growing into an adult, that is the most inspiring thing to see that’s helped me to get to this point so far,” he shares.
For those thinking of starting their own business, Ezeugwu believes the key is confidence and trusting yourself.
“Don’t let people’s negativity bring you down and that starts with having the confidence. As long as you research and know what you’re talking about you will always feel ahead of the curb. It will help you make decisions,” he said.
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(Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer/ MCT /LANDOV)
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