Students who have traveled and lamented the price of a crappy hotel should try Spots. A hybrid between Tinder and Airbnb, the social home-sharing app for college students allows users to take advantage of the safety of another college campus by giving them a place to stay on-demand.
Fourth-year BME Yanni Barghouty came up with the idea one night after using the popular application, Uber.
“I just thought that there should be something similar to Uber and Lyft that would let you find a hotel when you travel,” Barghouty said. “I looked at the market and saw that the closest thing [like] that was Airbnb. But they left a huge hole in the market, especially in the age group of those under 30.”
Barghouty sought to take advantage of the available space in the market for individuals under the age of 30 and create an application that students like himself would immensely benefit from.
“I thought that was too big of an opportunity to miss, and by making a service that would allow you to find a place to stay on-demand, … I could actually help people as well. My idea really pertained to college-aged students for both social and safety reasons.”
Now, less than a year later, Barghouty is the CEO of his very own company. His team consists of Edoardo Moauro, CMO, Karan Jain, COO, Samantak Ray, CTO, and Omid Mojtahedi, CPO, all of whom are also students at Tech. The app, called Spots, was released a little less than a month ago and already has a substantial user base.
The application allows users to either be the host or set up a visitor profile and request to stay with someone. Once users have created their profiles and enabled their location service, they can see a map of other spots available in the area, an extremely helpful feature when needing on-demand service. Barghouty recounts needing the service while traveling to Washington D.C. last year.
“I had set up a meeting with a potential angel investor, and I was so excited that I just booked a flight and left,” Barghouty said. “I had not looked at the weather, but when I landed in D.C., it was snowing hard, to the point of a blizzard. I received an email that the meeting was canceled due to the weather.”
While still at the airport, Barghouty continued to reach out to the potential investor in the hopes of still holding the meeting.
“I looked at the news and saw that there was a state of emergency declared in the city, but I had come all of this way, so I still reached out to ask if there was any way to have the meeting outside the office. Unfortunately, I only received a reply back that all the roads were blocked and there was no way that we could hold the meeting,” Barghouty said. “I just left the airport without making any plans, so I didn’t really know what to do. I called Karan, and he joked, ‘Use Spots.’ We were still in beta, and I genuinely didn’t expect to have anyone using the application in D.C.”
Luckily for Barghouty, someone had found the team’s idea for the application to be interesting enough to download it.
“I checked the application from the airport, and sure enough there was this kid at American University named Jake with a profile and some availability. I sent him a request, and within 20 minutes I got a message from him letting me know that he was willing to let me stay with him for a couple of days,” Barghouty said.
Because of the intimate nature of sleeping at someone’s apartment, dorm or home, addressing the issue of safety has been one of the main concerns for the Spots team. In order to be eligible to create and successfully register a profile, the user must provide an active .edu email address.
The Spots team also foresaw the issue of students not knowing what the individual they would be staying with physically looks like, thus they resolved this more serious issue by integrating social media and user profiles in the creation of a complete profile.
Before staying with anyone, the visitor has the opportunity to view the profile and social media of whomever they want and is available and then decide
which “spot” that they would like to stay at. Although this plan is not completely foolproof in terms of ensuring user safety when choosing a place to stay, it does allow users to use their own discretion when deciding where they want to stay.
“[In extenuating circumstances] after the potential incident has occurred, we will compensate either the host or the visitor depending on the circumstances,” Barghouty said, “And if the situation comes to any degree of seriousness that involves the authorities, we will aid the police and others in anyway needed.”
“The way I think about, the way the app is designed is social,” Barghouty said. “You have to get along with the person before you stay with them. You have the chance to talk with the people before you stay with them. If you get creeped out, don’t stay
The app has already taken off with “spots” all over the United States. Students can get a head start and download the app on iOS, with the Android version coming soon.