Learnings by Sameer Kapur

Matchly: a college side project

Published October 05, 2018

In this four minute read you’ll learn:

  • How a college freshman made a stupid simple website called Matchly.co that helps students find housing around campus
  • By spending only $8.88 and minimal time, I was able to create a site that generated passive income
  • Creating a product that provides a large amount of value to users & makes peoples lives easier

Before even finishing my first month of college, apartment buildings around campus had already started leasing for next school year. After talking to my friends, I realized that we had no idea knew where to stay and which apartments were better than others. I had heard from my older brother that apartments often times give referrals and negotiate when you have a large group of people. So, I spread the word to a few of my friends that I was getting a group together to negotiate prices at apartment buildings for housing next year. Those few friends told a few more and within a few days we had a list of 30 people who wanted the best housing for next year. Being the “group leader” I set up a few tours of the most popular apartment buildings around campus.

After going in for the tours, I learned that each apartment building was offering $100- $150/ referred student that I could bring to them. I did the math if I could get the 30 people on my list signed up, I could make close to $4,000. This was great money for minimum work, but I already had bigger ideas on how I could spread this to hundreds of students.

Apt finder spreadsheet crowdsourced apartment data & list of interested students

What started as a simple google spreadsheet (above), turned into Matchly!

After coming home from the tours, I spent less than an hour setting up the Matchly site.

  • Bought the Matchly.co domain from Namecheap for $8.88
  • Designed and published a one page website using carrd.co (by indie developer AJ)
  • Set up a Mailchimp account and create an campaign email to be sent whenever a new email is added to the list
  • Set up a custom email address (sameer@matchly.co) using Mailgun + sending and receiving through Gmail.

The whole site cost me $8.88 and an hour of work. When you are part of your own target market, it is infinitely easier to create a product that users love. I created Matchly to solve a problem myself and most college students face: finding housing around campus. Matchly provides students with recommendations for apartments that fit their needs. Here is a few bullet points I wrote down to map out user flow:

  • Students enter their name and email on our website
  • Students receive an email welcoming them to Matchly and asking them to fill out a quick questionnaire on their preferences for housing
  • Depending on the student’s price range and desired amenities, I would send them an email with the top three housing choices and respective property manager contact information to set up a tour
  • If a student “matched” with a housing option in our database, I would send the property manager the students’ contact information and their preferences for apartments

    When you are part of your own target market, it is infinitely easier to create a product that users love.

Matchly Logo I waited 24 hours for the domain and custom emails to propagate and sent an email to both of the property managers that I met with for the tours to tell them about Matchly. Their reactions were both super positive. One of them was even ready to offer us additional sponsorship to help us promote the web page. Email Screenshot Email from an apartment property manager after telling them about Matchly

Next was spreading the word about Matchly to students. This wasn’t that hard as Purdue is a large school with close to 50,000 students enrolled. I posted about Matchly on Reddit and in a bunch of Facebook groups and the response was phenomenal.

  • Tweeted about Matchly- generated ~7k impressions
  • Reddit post generated about 500 page views
  • Facebook posts drove a few hundred hits to the site

The next few days, I spent reaching out to more apartment buildings to receive information about them so I could add them to Matchly’s apartment database. One of the property managers asked me this: “I just want to confirm if we need to pay anything to Matchly to be listed on the site or any extra fees that may be involved for this service”

That’s when an idea sparked: I could charge apartments for even being on the Matchly platform. I spent about an hour and a half deciding the packages and spun up a little pricing sheet for property managers in Pixelmator, my favorite photoshop alternative. Here is what I made:

Matchly Flyer Pricing Sheet

I had no idea how much to charge for ads, featured listings, or the marketing analysis consulting, so I threw some numbers down and hoped for the best. Within a few hours of sending the pricing sheet out, Matchly had made a sale. First Sale Email Made our first sale!

This side project is all going well so far. But here are my next steps:

  • Contact more apartment buildings and get them on Matchly’s platform + keep selling the hyper target marketing solution
  • Keep talking about Matchly to spread via word of mouth
  • Post flyers up around campus about Matchly
  • Get the university’s student run news site to feature Matchly

I even received a request of a student wanting to start a Matchly chapter at the University of Washington in Seattle! I don’t anticipate this to be a full on business or continue this year round, but doing side projects like this are super fun and I encourage everyone and everyone to pursue ideas that solve problems. Getting a few bucks out of it can be nice as well! Thanks for reading!


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That's all, folks!

heya! this was written by me, Sameer! i’m an interaction designer, developer, problem solver and many other things that won’t fit in a few sentences. i try to write about what i've learned or done every once in a while. follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates.