Friday, December 10, 2010
Accelerator: CommunityVibe at test stage
This is the fifth installment of a monthly series about Carnegie Mellon University’s Accelerator program, which is spinning out five student-led companies. CMU’s Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship launched the program in June as a way to link graduate students at the Tepper School of Business to the broader marketplace.
CommunityVibe Inc. was conceived in 2008 when a group of friends thought of ways to help tenants manage their rental information, said co-founder Kariithi Kilemi, now in his second and final year at Tepper. The concept evolved into a platform for property managers and retailers to acquire and retain tenants in addition to providing new and existing residents with a tool to help them discover and explore local retail establishments such as restaurants and shops. Kilemi talked to the Business Times about his company’s development:
What was your background prior to enrolling at Tepper? What did your co-founders do?
My background was in technology consulting and client development with Accenture. My two co-founders, Tajinder Singh and Sashenie Hayman, have strong backgrounds in system architecture and operations, having worked for EnerNoch and Oracle.
Why did you name the company CommunityVibe?
The company’s name was developed after hours of brainstorming for a name that captures our vision for how we will create value for our clients while nurturing the coexistence of property managers, retailers and residents on a single platform.
What sort of progress did your company make over the summer and fall?
Provided that our platform effectively engages the key parties within a community — namely residents, property managers and retailers — our market research has involved extensive testing and market validation with the aforementioned groups. Over the summer, our team was involved in interviewing property managers from Oakland, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill to learn about the challenges they face with tenant management. The team spoke to over 13 with a select few getting chosen to evaluate our Alpha product. We wrapped up the testing in October with strong validation of the direction our product should take. For this, we are undoubtedly grateful to property managers from Walnut Capital, Reinhold Residential, Regional Industrial Development Corp. and Amore Management Co. for providing us with the insight necessary to understand how we can make their jobs easier. Our team is also grateful for working with Sola Talabi of Oxbridge Development Corp. and Kenneth Fullwood for providing us with a varied perspective of how small landlords would interact with our application.
What’s the next step?
Evaluate the feasibility of engaging retailers and residents on the same platform. In order to do this, our team is in preparation to launch a closed beta, which we will be testing with select Shadyside and Oakland restaurants and bars.
How does CommunityVibe’s financing shape up?
We recently received funding from Idea Foundry to support the development of our products for launch in the next few months. We are excited to work with their team that has experience launching companies in our space.
What other organizations or entities does your company work with?
Through the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, Art Boni and his team has ensured that the Tepper curriculum is tailored to help us develop our business while pursuing our graduate school degrees. Through Project Olympus, Kit Needham has continuously challenged us to reevaluate our business model while helping us build relationships with property managers and retailers in Pittsburgh.
What’s the biggest challenge ahead for CommunityVibe?
The biggest challenge for us has been balancing our limited resources to determine which business tasks we should pursue in order to launch our product in the shortest time possible. Nevertheless, this challenge has been a good one to have given that it has ensured that we are always critical of how we spend our time and money.
What sort of support is not currently available to you and other young entrepreneurs in this region that you believe would benefit you and your company most?
Our startup has been very fortunate to receive the community support needed to understand our market and develop our business in Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, it would be great if more events — such as the PGH Tech Meetup — are hosted in the area to provide entrepreneurs, investors and other technologists a chance to meet and connect on their experiences.
Article courtesy of Pittsburgh Business Times