Capital Factory’s Saturday Startup Spotlight series continues this week with the Co-Founder and CEO of Homads: Vi Nguyen. Finding the right place to live is hardly a simple task, so Homads has organized all of the research for you.
Homads is an online platform designed to help users sublet their home or apartment while helping other users find medium-term rentals in a community that feels like home. They believe that the neighborhood you want to call home-sweet-home should match your lifestyle and identity seamlessly, so they’ve figured out how to help people find, and test out, that perfect community. Learn all about how Vi and her team are changing the real estate search and making it easier for you to find the right information.
Can you introduce yourself and give us your elevator pitch?
I’m Vi Nguyen, one of the co-founders and CEO of Homads. We have two other founders that run the head of data and tech, and I run the business side. What we do is help people find neighborhoods that feel a lot more like them. Think of us as the social search for real estate, so you’re not just looking for price and proximity— it’s everything else as well.
What are the current goals you have in mind for Homads to achieve?
We’re big on bootstrapping and we’re really good at identifying “Yes.” We identified that midterm rentals are a thing, and we know that business model works so we took on funding to grow it.
Our next milestone is to get ourselves out of Texas. We started thinking a lot bigger as in: “If we really needed to scale, how can we scale quickly?” That’s a big part of us. An example of that would be aggregating supply instead of building it. Understanding that we want to be your go-to place when you move, so we need to have enough supply for you and enough resources for you to stay on our platform. We then decided to bring in other partners instead of trying to do this ourselves.
What challenges have you been facing lately?
It’s helpful because I have a team. I always like to say, “I’m not the smartest person in the room, but I’m good enough to know who all the smart people are.” All my co-founders and team members are amazing at what they do.
On the technical side of what’s difficult, it’s scaling. Scaling is great, and we’ve found a way to bring in supply (homes) nationally and internationally, but then everything also needs to function well. We went from a couple hundred listings to a couple hundred thousand. So, how do we do that where it doesn’t slow down and break our site? I think we know what to do— it’s just finding an efficient way of doing it.
Personally, I think the biggest roller coaster that most entrepreneurs have is balance. I’m lucky that I joined a CEO group a year and a half ago, almost two years now; It’s mostly bootstrapped companies there. We talk about the health of our businesses, the health of ourselves and the health of our families. They say those are the three pillars that support who you are in your day-to-day.
What’s the hardest part about your role?
I’m typically an operations person so if I could choose I’d prefer to be a COO, but I’m the best at being a CEO and that requires selling. I can sell to customers, team members and investors but that’s something I learned to do. I think if you’re a sales person and you grew up with sales experiences you’re used to “No”— you’re used to rejection. I’m learning that through the last few years and I think that still gets to you.
Luckily, we’ve been getting lots of “Yeses” recently– it helps you get through the rest.
You’ve been a part of the Capital Factory community for a little while now, but is there anyone you’re still trying to meet that could help you at this moment?
Honestly, you guys have been badass. I’ve known about Capital Factory for three years, but it took me until March to actually join. Some of it had to do with culture, it was very evident that culturally it was not as diverse. I’m talking to two women right now so things have changed. People look different— and it’s not only that you look different, you think different.
The second reason I joined was: You can’t really ask for change if you don’t create demand. Coming in and saying, “I really want to see more blank, blank and blank.” Your Investor Relations team connected me to 4 VC’s within one day. I wanted to do it on my own before; I wanted to understand what it was like. I definitely know that if you don’t have that network yet, which a lot of people don’t (typically minority and low income), you’re not going to grow up with that network because your parents don’t have it.
What you have to do is say: “I want to meet person A but I need to meet person B, who introduces me to person C. If I get past these people I’ll get a meeting with person A.” Capital Factory bypasses that. Not only do you sit down with them quickly, but they have a good perspective of you already and you’re vetted in this accelerator.
Last question, why should we all keep an eye on Homads?
I think we had a certain reputation when we first started— we’re first-time entrepreneurs. We really didn’t know what we were doing, we didn’t think we knew what we were doing, but looking back…we did know. We kept in the shadows for a while. It wasn’t until 2018 when we looked at the past two years and said okay there is a business model here, let’s take on further funding and monetize this idea. That was when our business model also changed— our concentration got bigger. We thought scale, we didn’t think, “How do I use $100,000 and prove out this small thing?” We basically thought, “How do we take over the world?”
I think that a lot of people who know Homads, that know me, know me from before. Marc Nathan [a Capital Factory Mentor] said if you have not talked to them in a year, it’s a whole new conversation, it’s completely different. That’s most startups too, there’s twists and turns and you hope you’re smarter and better each time.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Vi!
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