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RoomGroove is eHarmony for roommates

Not even three months old yet, RoomGroove has already attracted the interest of big names in multifamily and takes a much needed creative approach to the roommate search sector, using modern technologies.

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RoomGroove, ambitious real estate startup

Less than 90 days old, RoomGroove has launched to match roommates more effectively and crushing the need for multifamily management to spend inefficiently on expensive lead generation tools that are outdated. The company currently operates in Austin and is focused on procuring their own content and listings, currently porting in information from Capstone, the Gables, and other luxury apartment communities.

The key ingredient to RoomGroove is the social interaction offered before people lease. But that already exists you say, and you’re wrong. Yes, there are roommate search sites in existence that allow you to reach out to potential roommates, but RoomGroove actually uses the Facebook and LinkedIn APIs to find commonalities between potential roommates quantifying their compatible before they ever even connect.

It’s like eHarmony for renters, and the young founders are confident not only that their service fills a need for roommates, but also for landlords. Many multifamily properties spend a great deal of time and money on social media, which typically is focused on resident retention, but RoomGroove allows them to focus on potential leads and improve conversion, which is one of their key goals.

Additionally, in a climate of rising rents, landlords have the added benefit of what RoomGroove calls their “special sauce,” which is to help potential renters to find each other and rent a bigger unit, particularly when people find they can’t afford a one bedroom alone. We predict multifamily properties will want to partner with this startup to have them as an option to suggest immediately upon lack of income qualification or lack of availability for single units.

What’s next for RoomGroove?

As with any startup, they are constantly tweaking and improving their offering. The company tells AGBeat that they will be expanding to new markets and will have a presence in San Francisco and New York by March 9th.

One of the company’s future features that piqued our attention is that they’re currently developing an app that allows users to set up a quick profile and check in at a property which instantly notifies anyone else that has also checked in. It’s like instant gratification and could potentially lead to apartment reservations before the person even leaves the leasing office. RoomGroove makes renting social in a unique way by adding a dash of eHarmony with a bit of FourSquare.

The company can be seen at the SXSW VC Fast Pitch at 3:30 on March 9th in the Startup Village (4th floor of the Austin Hilton), where they could land the interest of some pretty influential investors.

How RoomGroove came to fruition

In early 2011, 22 year old Elliot Counts left college and got his real estate license, finding a gig consulting with multifamily management and was immediately struck by all of the money wasted on expensive lead generation models which charged for leads, with half of the leads he was seeing not even fitting the property’s needs. But they had to pay anyhow.

In response to the waste he witnessed first hand, Counts sought to help the industry, so dreamed up the eHarmony model for roommates.

Commercial real estate agent Graham Sparrow joined as Counts’ Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer and in January 2012, they brought on their developer Bain Mullens who became their Chief Technology Officer and whipped up their first product, a feat by any standards. Less than three months in, they’re already turning heads.

With some money behind them, it would be interesting to see the potential of the company to not only go national but to solve some of the real pain points not only for renters but of landlords, bringing concurrence between the two that previously existed only in fragments.

Social Media

We watched The Social Dilemma – here are some social media tips that stuck with us

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Here are some takeaways from watching Netflix’s The Social Dilemma that helped me to eliminate some social media burnout.

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Last weekend, I made the risky decision to watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I knew it was an important thing to watch, but the risk was that I also knew it would wig me out a bit. As much as I’m someone who is active “online,” the concept of social media overwhelms me almost more than it entertains (or enlightens) me.

The constant sharing of information, the accessibility to information, and the endless barrage of notifications are just a few of the ways social media can cause overwhelm. The documentary went in deeper than this surface-level content and got into the nitty gritty of how people behind the scenes use your data and track your usage.

Former employees of high-profile platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and Pinterest gave their two cents on the dangers of social media from a technological standpoint. Basically, our data isn’t just being tracked to be passed along for newsletters and the like. But rather, humans are seen as products that are manipulated to buy and click all day every day in order to make others money and perpetuate information that has astronomical effects. (I’m not nearly as intelligent as these people, so watch the documentary to get the in-depth look at how all of this operates.)

One of the major elements that stuck with me was the end credits of The Social Dilemma where they asked interviewees about the ways they are working to eliminate social media overwhelm in their own lives. Some of these I’ve implemented myself and can attest to. Here’s a short list of things you can do to keep from burning out online.

  1. Turn off notifications – unless there are things you need to know about immediately (texts, emails, etc.) turn it off. Getting 100 individual notifications within an hour from those who liked your Instagram post will do nothing but burn you (and your battery) out.
  2. Know how to use these technologies to change the conversation and not perpetuate things like “fake news” and clickbait.
  3. Uninstall apps that are wasting your time. If you feel yourself wasting hours per week mindlessly scrolling through Facebook but not actually using it, consider deleting the app and only checking the site from a desktop or Internet browser.
  4. Research and consider using other search tools instead of Google (one interviewee mentioned that Qwant specifically does not collect/store your information the way Google does).
  5. Don’t perpetuate by watching recommended videos on YouTube, those are tailored to try and sway or sell you things. Pick your own content.
  6. Research the many extensions that remove these recommendations and help stop the collection of your data.

At the end of the day, just be mindful of how you’re using social media and what you’re sharing – not just about yourself, but the information you’re passing along from and to others. Do your part to make sure what you are sharing is accurate and useful in this conversation.

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WeChat ban blocked by California judge, but for how long?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) WeChat is protected by First Amendment concerns for now, but it’s unclear how long the app will remain as pressure mounts.

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WeChat app icon on an iPhone screen

WeChat barely avoided a US ban after a Californian judge stepped in to temporarily block President Trump’s executive order. Judge Laurel Beeler cited the effects of the ban on US-based WeChat users and how it threatened the First Amendment rights of those users.

“The plaintiffs’ evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat,” Beeler wrote.

WeChat is a Chinese instant messaging and social media/mobile transaction app with over 1 billion active monthly users. The WeChat Alliance, a group of users who filed the lawsuit in August, pointed out that the ban unfairly targets Chinese-Americans as it’s the primary app used by the demographic to communicate with loved ones, engage in political discussions, and receive news.

The app, along with TikTok, has come under fire as a means for China to collect data on its users. U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stated, “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

This example is yet another symptom of our ever-globalizing society where we are learning to navigate between connectivity and privacy. The plaintiffs also pointed out alternatives to an outright ban. One example cited was in Australia, where WeChat is now banned from government officials’ phones but not others.

Beeler has said that the range in alternatives to preserving national security affected her decision to strike down the ban. She also explained that in regards to dealing with national security, there is “scant little evidence that (the Commerce Department’s) effective ban of WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns.”

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Instagram makes IGTV videos more accessible with automatic closed captions

(SOCIAL MEDIA) This new feature for Instagram opens avenues for viewers who don’t or can’t use audio on IGTV videos, creating more accessibility for all.

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Instagram live being recorded will now feature auto captions.

In an effort to expand accessibility efforts, IGTV videos on Instagram will now include an auto captions option. While its parent company, Facebook, has included auto captions on uploaded videos since 2017, this new-for-Instagram feature is expected to widen audience viewership and increase potential viewing by those who prefer watching sans-audio.

In a statement by Facebook, the company states: “While there is no shortage of information, not everyone can access it. It needs to be available to the hundreds of millions of people in the world who are deaf or hard of hearing. According to the World Health Organization, over 5% of the world’s population – or 466 million people – have disabling hearing loss, and that is projected to increase to over 900 million by 2050.”

Current events have made the need for auto captions even more critical for inclusion. “The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a spike in both the supply and demand of public health information. Several local and state governments, that were accustomed to holding live press conferences but didn’t have the resources, staff or technology to record, stream, and caption their live events, turned to Facebook Live. Several governments also discovered that video captioning was not just a nice-to-have, but imperative, especially in the absence of available sign language interpreters,” states the company.

Currently, Facebook provides auto captions for videos in 16 languages and has announced that Instagram’s IGTV will have access to the same features. The caption accuracy is determined by the video’s audio quality, although AI technology is constantly improving in both precision and speed.

Additionally, branded content ads are likely to see an increase in consumer interaction. Recently published data by Facebook shows ads visually designed for watching with the sound off have 48% more relevance to viewers and a 42% higher purchase intent. As auto captions normalize across social media, users can expect ad content to utilize this feature to the fullest.

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