Rajan Dua and Chloe Zhen, two MBA students highlighted a need for change when they experienced various problems in finding accommodation to begin their studies at Brunel. Paul, an existing property owner and also an MBA student who describes himself as a ‘good landlord’ empathised with their plight and the three of them formed Stars Key and Hutch to provide a valuable service to students and landlords. Essentially the company provides a rating system so tenants can rate their landlord and visa-versa, giving vital information to students seeking new accommodation and landlords taking on new tenants. Under the skin there is much more to it this, as the team are fundamentally changing the way in which people think about the landlord-tenant relationship.
The going was not easy and the team faced several challenges in getting their business off the ground. Paul describes building a website as more difficult than building a house – something he has a lot of experience in. The team faced constraints on their time and lack of funding to get the business off the ground so had to show great determination.
Development of the website had to be taken to India as quotes in the UK ranged from £20,000 to a staggering £80,000 for what they wanted. This has presented difficulties, however the team identified a developer in Delhi at a substantially reduced cost. Rajan has words of warning to anyone looking to do the same though as development time increased from 60 to 90 days in the process and he had to supply a 200 page document specifying exactly what they wanted.
Brunel University London proved to be a good testing ground for their business model and ideas. This gave them access to a range of volunteers with time available to test their product and pick holes in it where necessary. Over the last 12 months the team have redesigned and adapted to the needs highlighted by Brunel students to turn their business model into an income generating one. They remodelled and built in a right to reply, management of malicious content and worked hard to create a service and product that Landlords and students like. UBS are now supporting them and they have a fruitful relationship blooming with the Brunel University London community. The website is now live and the service is actively supporting Brunel students.
What advice do they give?
Starting a business is a full time job. This may seem obvious but the team now have enough work to occupy 100% of their time. Key to their development has been putting a positive spin on any knock-backs and taking advantage of any knowledge or experience available. Perhaps most importantly though they stress the importance of getting out of your comfort zone, making connections and seeking advice.
Will the service be useful to Brunel students in the future? Take a look and judge for yourself: