From the back of the lecture hall to public-facing software entrepreneur, John Baker applies his programming skills to help students find housing. Re-Lease, a joint venture founded by John Baker and his mechanical engineering roommate John Valentine, is a startup aiming to relieve students of the stress involved with finding housing.
Both Johns decided to address this problem in their FSE 301 venture because they themselves faced difficulties when transitioning from university housing to other local options. The biggest issue they faced was the “ambiguity in the housing market. There are so many [housing] options available, but their ambiguous fees and availability make it feel like none of them actually care about you and your needs”, according to John Baker.
Knowing they were going to explore this problem in FSE 301, the duo devised a plan to maximize their likelihood of success. Before the semester even started, John Baker had already sunk days of work in learning how to develop and deploy a public-facing website, while John Valentine scoured different potential avenues of finding homeowners that fit their avatars. Their work proved to be worthwhile when 75 students expressed enough interest to sign up for their email newsletter.
“It was awesome to see that our problem was real, and that other students felt that they could use the help in finding housing. The flip side to that is that we’re clearly just now getting started” claimed John Valentine. Throughout the semester, they learned quickly that they had to wear many hats during the initial stages of a venture. The work they had cut out for themselves included email marketing, database and website development, client acquisition, and the task to manage all of it on top of their classes, research, and work obligations.
By the end of the class, they had learned the importance of doing the work that truly moves the needle. They realized that as nice as it would be to have a state-of-the-art website or pretty social media account, investing their finite amount of time into those avenues would be more about feeling personal satisfaction than it would be about actually helping students.
Reflecting on his experience, John Baker offers the following advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs: “When you feel stuck, zoom out and look at what work you want to do, and be honest with how it aligns with what work you need to do. We each come to the table with our own unique skill set and interests, but progressing often means you have to get outside of your comfort zone, and that’s a good thing”.
Moving forward, both John Baker and John Valentine are looking to provide value for students and help them with the struggles they themselves have faced. To learn more about Re-Lease, please watch the video pitch below or visit their website linked here.