Name: Caren Maio
TechStars Program: New York City, Winter 2011
You were recently named one of 12 women worth watching in 2012 by Daily Muse. What is nestio working on now?
We have a lot of exciting things coming down the pike for 2012. We spent the last nine months laying out a nice foundation of features and this year will be all about building upon that foundation, layering in additional content to each listing. We launched the first version of iPhone app this past year and you can expect to see a lot of great improvements on the mobile side over the upcoming year. We feel like we’ve only scratched the surface.
People are always waxing philosophical about how to find co-founders. How did you meet yours?
I met Matt through a mutual friend about four years ago. The rental market always interested me, and I was kicking around the idea for UrbanApt so we started talking about that, sharing our experiences and frustrations with apartment renting. We hit it off and became fast friends but we spent about two and a half years getting to know one another. In the spring/summer of 2010 we decided to dive in and build something – but someone was missing and we set out to find our CTO. Matt recommended Mike, who he had worked with for years. The three of us went out to dinner and started exchanging ideas and it became pretty clear that this was the team. We gelled immediately.
How did you hear first hear about TechStars?
I had been eyeing TechStars for quite some time. The program’s focus on mentorship always appealed to me. We had taken a little seed money from one angel and he told us about TechStars opening up a NYC program. I already knew the name and felt it was perfect timing. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to get accepted.
What was most valuable to you during the program?
There were a lot of important moments. The first month when you’re in back to back mentor meetings with these incredible people that you have been following for years online, they give you powerful feedback. We realized that there were some fundamental business flaws that wouldn’t scale. By the end of the first month, we were able to reconcile what we had been discussing thanks to the honesty of David Tisch and David Cohen. I remember pitching our the new idea to Cohen and he just smiled so I knew we were on to something good.
You recently partnered with eBay Classifieds. Can you tell us more about that relationship?
We’re always looking to align with partners who share a similar vision and are passionate about helping apartment renters. We met with eBay Classifieds and started exchanging ideas and it became clear that there were real synergies between us. The conversations were very organic and centered around adding value to both of our users – which we were really excited about.
As a founder, how do you debunk the myth to potential applicants that think they might be “too far along” for TechStars? A few in your class had already raised money or were profitable through revenues before the program began.
For our team, TechStars was a no-brainer – it changed everything for the better. That being said, I was lucky enough to go through the program with funded or revenue-generating companies like OnSwipe, CrowdTwist, and Red Rover and watch first-hand how TechStars impacted them as well. We created relationships that we cherish so much and it afforded those more advanced companies the very same thing. You wouldn’t have had access to this kind of feedback in any other setting. Founders can always stand to kick the tires on their business. It’s important no matter what stage you’re in.
Do you still hang with anyone from your class?
Of course. We’re sharing office space with Veri and Jonathan and Benny (formerly of Friendslist, now Timehop). CrowdTwist, Red Rover, and Shelby TV are all in the neighborhood too.
[Shortly after this published, Caren was also named one of Inc. Magazine's 15 Women to Watch in Tech.]