Rafael dos Santos and Mario Altimari are tackling a very real, very poignant problem: the loneliness that sometimes arises when you move to a new city.
Dos Santo, CEO of Room in the Moon, is Brazilian but has lived and established a business in London over the past decade and a half. When he lived in Brazil, he was a support analyst for Microsoft, but when he moved to London, he didn’t know English and was resigned to take work as a restaurant dishwasher and a cleaner while he was studying English. In 2005, he created an agency that manages flatshares, and by 2012 the business had 50 properties, 200 rooms and was doing 1 million pounds in turnover.
What’s a flatshare? It’s a decidedly European term and concept. It’s when a landlord owns a multi-bedroom apartment or house and rents it out by the room. The roommates or flatmates typically have no say over who moves in.
One of the things that set dos Santos apart as a landlord was that he was tenant-focused. He’d traveled the world and understood the challenges of moving abroad. He says he truly cares about the people moving into his properties and would help people get settled. “It’s all about the tenant,” he says.
Last year, he wrote a book called “Moving Abroad One Step at a Time” and realized there was really no online resource that would network people moving to the same city at the same time from the same region. So that’s what he decided to develop.
Room in the Moon is a social network for people moving to new cities and new countries. It helps you, a U of L student who may be studying abroad in Paris next semester, connect with someone from UK who also is studying abroad in Paris, so you can hang out, share tips, commiserate that there’s no good bourbon available, and maybe plan a Derby Party together. It’s also a network where Giselle who lives in Paris can see that you’re complaining about bourbon and direct you to the bar with the best selection.
Its purpose is to reduce culture shock and help you settle in quickly to your new city.
How does Room in the Moon make money? Well, the other purpose of the site is to match users to flatshares. Landlords (or in the U.S., people looking for a roommate) can list their properties on the site. The big benefit to Room in the Moon over typical listing services is that you can see profiles of the people who already live in the apartment or house.
According to dos Santos, 120,000 students move to London every year to attend college. In London, most universities guarantee housing for the first year only; 600,000 students move from China to the U.S.
Both the renter and the landlord pay a commission to Room in the Moon when a match is made. Already the site has more than 2,600 members.
Dos Santos, who is the marketing and development arm of the business and the CEO, met Altimari, who is from Rome and is a developer, at a startup weekend-style competition on the Google campus last fall. Altimari is the quiet and calculated ying to dos Santos’s outgoing yang. It was a perfect fit and Altimari came on as CTO. Altimari owned a systems integration company in Italy with upwards of 100 employees. He sold the company a year ago and had been looking for an opportunity ever since.
Room in the Moon officially launched in March 2014. A third member of the team, Ana Freccia, the marketing coordinator, remains in London for the time being.
They decided to apply to Velocity because they knew it was important to understand the U.S. market and because it would be a challenge to live abroad again. They’re hoping they’ll learn more about how to scale and how to focus from their various mentors.
Dos Santos said that if they receive investment to grow the business from Louisville sources, they’d be happy to relocate the business here.
The week of June 30, they were featured on the Virgin UK website as “startup of the week.”