Choosing an apartment is the most expensive decision many of us make every year. Yet we face time pressure, limited and distorted information and all-around poor customer experience. This is especially true in major cities like San Francisco and New York, where finding a place to live can be the most frustrating part of moving to a new place. The extreme financial requirements many landlords impose on potential tenants can force new residents to live with strangers they met on Craigslist. For example, in order to sign a lease in New York, tenants typically need 40 times the rent in income and two years of tax returns demonstrating that income. For someone moving to NYC to start a career, this is often an impossible barrier.
I saw these problems firsthand as a co-founder of General Assembly. Over the past five years, GA has grown into a global educational institution spanning 14 cities with 4,000 students enrolled at any given time. Yet, despite more than 99 percent of job-seeking immersive students finding new, paid employment within 180 days of graduation, traditional leases remain frustratingly out of reach. These problems are not exclusive to General Assembly students; rather, they are symptomatic of a broader mismatch between the housing options available and the lifestyles of people moving to major cities.
Enter Common – we offer secure, flexible, and community-minded places for people to live in major cities while eliminating the pain points that come with traditional leases. Common members live in private bedrooms while sharing kitchens and common spaces, limiting their financial exposure and making the residence more affordable. In addition, Common manages all aspects of the experience—from a seamless application process to weekly cleaning service to community events.
We’re able to accomplish this by aligning the interests of our customers with those of real estate developers and investors. Common works with real estate partners to purchase whole vacant buildings, providing a stable, market-rate income stream while removing the hassles of leasing, property management, and tenant relations.
To that end, Common has raised $7.35 million in Series A financing. The round is led by Maveron with participation from Slow Ventures, Lowercase Capital, Dave McClure and a number of other individual investors. We partnered with Maveron because we see the opportunity to build an iconic consumer brand. Founded by Dan Levitan and Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Maveron was an early investor in companies including General Assembly, Earnest, eBay, and Zulily. I got to know Maveron through their investment in General Assembly, and I am excited to continue my partnership with them and to have Jason Stoffer from Maveron join our board.
I am thrilled to be collaborating with this group of talented people and look forward to bringing new housing opportunities to cities where people desperately need alternatives to the current rental model.
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