A group of venture capital firms has invested in a digital platform created by a former Temple University student to make Philadelphia’s rental market more transparent.
Launched in 2015, Whose Your Landlord is now available in cities across the country, including New York, Dallas, Cleveland and Las Vegas. It has primarily served as a portal for renters to read, write and share anonymous reviews of apartment buildings. But the company also has resources for landlords, including a personalized dashboard that synthesizes the feedback posted to the site.
(The company uses the possessive form of the word ‘who’ because “we’re giving our community ownership of their living situations by putting housing in their hands,” according to WYL’s website.)
That’s where the $2.1 million in VC funding comes into play, said CEO Ofo Ezeugwu. The round was led by Black Operator Ventures, but also included investments from New York Ventures and Ben Franklin Technology, among others.
“What we try to do, and what we actively do, is tease out over time the main things that would go into creating a positive stay. And that way we’re able to help the home provider directly know, ‘Hey, here’s how you can actually improve,’” said Ezeugwu, 29.
For Ezeugwu, the new funding signals the start of a new phase for the company, which he started while he was a senior at Temple. Prior to this recent round of funding, he had raised $1.1 million in private equity for Whose Your Landlord. The rest of the outfit’s cashflow came from revenue raised through brand partnerships with companies like the insurance company AllState.
Ezeugwu, who will soon have 15 employees, attributes some of his success to the renewed racial justice movement that took root in 2020. “I think when everything was happening with Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, it kind of shook everyone to realize we need to do better by the humans in our society,” he said.
Ezeugwu came up with Whose Your Landlord while he was studying entrepreneurship and innovation management at Temple. He wanted a way to help his fellow students find quality apartments with quality property owners. This after learning about the experiences they had while living in and around the university’s campus in North Philly.
Some had good things to say about their landlord. But others had less stellar stories, including ones involving black mold and infestations.
Either way, Ezeugwu thought people had a right to know.
“We genuinely feel if we can put humanity at the heart of housing, it will change the relationship between residents and home providers forever, and that’s our goal,” he said.
WHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.
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