For student entrepreneurs, inconvenience makes room for opportunity

Three Northeastern students – Brandon Beneduce, Hannah Becker and Andrew Rodriguez – have launched an online social platform that pairs renters looking to sublet with students in need of housing. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

While Andrew Rodriguez was scrambling to find a temporary tenant for his off-campus apartment last summer, Brandon Beneduce was constantly scanning online ads in search of a room to rent.

The two Northeastern students, who met through the university’s club hockey team, ended up findings solutions to their respective problems. But they were certain that their peers were suffering similar apartment woes and were confident that they could solve them.

Last month, the student entrepreneurs launched KeeWee, an online social platform with a quirky name but a serious goal: help students seeking sublets connect with renters with open rooms.

“The summertime is when people are scrambling for housing, so this is why we launched now,” Beneduce said.

Northeastern students with a valid university email address can conduct free searches based on neighborhood, price range and roommate gender preference, but the service will soon expand to college students at other schools.

Unlike Craigslist, where most online subletting takes place, KeeWee was designed with social media in mind. The site, for example, makes it easy to share listings across a number of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

“We wanted to give our users a chance to self-market their listings so they don’t have to rely only on the traffic we bring,” Beneduce said.

Beneduce, a third-year behavioral neuroscience major, and Rodriguez, a fourth-year history major, both of whom are pursing business minors, have learned a lot about entrepreneurship from building their company from the ground up. But they have also received support from journalism major Hannah Becker, a business partner who helps brand and market KeeWee, and IDEA: Northeastern’s Venture Accelerator, which helps students and alumni create, develop and accelerate new businesses through coaching, mentoring and gap funding.

“It’s been really exciting to see this project grow from our initial idea to getting actual users,” Beneduce said. “While we didn’t actually build our website, we handled every other part of this project.”