As soon as you have an idea you should start building a really basic version of your big vision. Learn how to build it and hack something together to start testing it. It’s really important to build a very basic version of your idea then see if people are actually interested in using it.
Ajay is the founder and CEO of Roomi, a peer-to-peer marketplace that simplifies the roommate experience. He’s passionate about diversity in the workplace and expat entrepreneurship.
Among his investors and coworkers, Ajay is known as the “scrappiest entrepreneur.” While still an undergraduate at NYIT, he successfully launched and scaled two different companies. He bootstrapped Roomi out of a shared studio apartment and continues to work just as hard.
Ajay was recently inducted into Forbes’ 30 Under 30. He actively contributes to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Network, Inc42, and The Huffington Post, and has been featured in the L.A. Times, TechCrunch, Fox5 News, The Real Deal and Bloomberg Businessweek.
Where did the idea for Roomi come from?
The idea for Roomi came to me after living in NYC for a few years. My friends and I all had difficulty finding flexible renting options and I knew there had to be a better way to find a room to rent. Facebook wasn’t built to search for apartments or room rentals and listings on Craigslist weren’t verified. This inspired me to find a better solution.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I actually wake up at 5 am everyday. I like to have a few hours to myself before my phone starts buzzing. I try to devote my morning to quiet meditative activities. I travel a lot but when I’m not traveling I like to head to the gym before heading into work where my day usually consists of a lot of meetings.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I always recommend bringing an idea to life by starting it as a part-time project after work or on the weekend. This strategy is really great if your idea is an online product. As soon as you have an idea you should start building a really basic version of your big vision. Learn how to build it and hack something together to start testing it. It’s really important to build a very basic version of your idea then see if people are actually interested in using it. If they are then you know you have a great idea and you can throw yourself into improving your basic version to bring your big idea to life.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Blockchain! A lot of people are excited about bitcoin but I’m excited about the underlying technology because this tech will be good for us. We have access to more info, more open data. You can use technology to decentralize & distribute so people can actually gain something. I think decentralization is the really exciting thing about blockchain because everyone can get rewarded from building something that is going to help.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I can’t multitask which actually helps me be even more productive. I like to focus on one thing at a time and give it my full attention to I can do it the right way the first time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It might sound crazy, but I would tell myself to not go to college. I wish I had started Roomi even earlier and I would tell myself to just do what you love right away.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Something I believe to be 100% true is that shared housing is the future. I believe more and more people will be looking for shared housing soon. Living with roommates isn’t just a trend or a phase in life. I think as more and more young people are traveling the world and working remotely, they will want commitment-free, immediate, verified shared housing options.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
This might sound crazy but I recommend everyone try waking up at 5AM. It’s been one of my favorite things. It was uncomfortable sometimes but I had to do it. It helped create discipline and made me realize there really are enough hours in the day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Over the last two years we’ve been able to grow Roomi in a lot of different ways. When we first launched in 2015, we raised $2 million in seed funding and did a massive NYC grassroots campaign which generated 55,000 sign ups. Within our first year we had over 100,000 app downloads. Over 60% of our traffic is still organic because Roomi is one of the only platforms solving the problems in the current room rental market. Today, we have around 1 million registered users and nearly 250,000 apartments listed on our platform. Every business should set out to solve a problem – if you are truly creating a product that helps people you be able to scale.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One mistake I made was hiring too quickly. I’ve learned it’s important to really find people who can get the job done and be a culture fit. This combo can take time to find so it’s important to hire slow.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have an idea about creating something to help people split bills. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because Roomi helps solve the first problem of how to search for flexible rentals, but now I am wondering how can I help them share an apartment and bills easier? I think an app about helping roommates split bills would be a great idea!
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
I recently bought an Iota coin and it’s gone went from 3 to 5 since I bought it.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Asana is a great service that helps me be more productive. I like that it’s just a simple task management tool where I can just quickly type up a task. There’s no lengthy process and isn’t an overwhelming tool to learn. It really helps me stay on track instead of work getting lost in emails or slacks.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My favorite business book is “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz. It’s very real. I like how he actually revealed the real challenges he went through when he built his business and how he fixed them.
What is your favorite quote?
“You shouldn’t do things differently just because they’re different. They need to be… better.” -Elon Musk
- Read “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz for insight into real world business problems and how to solve them.
- Try using Asana and stop trying to multi-task to become more productive.
- If you have an idea begin building a basic version of your big vision as a side project after work or on the weekends.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.