Among the demanding and dynamic millennial demographic, a sense of place is more important than ever. Thankfully, Cleveland boasts lots of awesome places to call home -- we are a city of neighborhoods, after all. Too often, though, the apartment search is a mind-numbing hassle that takes too much time away from all the fun we're trying to have. Enter Amit Patel and Naman Desai, whose startup Quo is the one-stop concierge service that will streamline your next lease -- all the way up to you signing on the dotted line and forking over first and last month's rent for the home sweet home you're looking for.
Eric Sandy: How did Quo come to be?
Amit Patel: I'm a Clevelander, born and raised, and I went out to New York for grad school. I decided to move back home to Cleveland, and I was in that process of trying to find a place to live. It was tough to gauge which neighborhoods were really a good fit for me, because I hadn't been around for a long time. I did a ton of research online and asked around. I finally found a place, but it was frustrating. I wanted to do something about that. If I had one point of contact to help do the research for me, it would have been less painful.
ES: I imagine you've had similar experiences, Naman?
Naman Desai: I grew up in Florida and went to school there. In college and in the years since, I've lived in 15 different apartment buildings in eight different cities. Lucky for me, I love maps and exploring, but a lot of people don't love that stuff. Right after college, I moved to a suburb of San Francisco called Dublin. I was 21. I didn't really understand that if you live in the suburbs, then your entire lifestyle changes. It wasn't conducive to my hobbies, and as soon as my lease expired I was like, "I have to move into the city." In talking to people, I realized that so many people, when they first move to a place, they wind up living in an apartment complex that they immediately leave when their lease expires. They realize that it wasn't the right location for them.
ES: How does Quo work to streamline that?
ND: We want to get to get folks into the right building and the right neighborhood the first time around. We treat ourselves like your best friend that knows a ton about apartments and knows a lot of property managers. We get to know folks -- their likes, their dislikes, their routines. We provide a tailored list of three to five apartments that we think they'll really love. We act as that single point of contact.
ES: The last few places I've lived have been found after days of just driving around town, looking for signs.
ND: We've really focused things for our members. My one and only goal is to find the perfect apartment for you.
AP: What we do that is really unique is that Naman and I actually physically walk through these buildings as if we were prospective tenants. We get the real experience and take notes. We have real insight.
ES: And there are so many new buildings opening up. I'm thinking downtown, mostly, but there's a great variety out there for newcomers.
AP: What we've done that's pretty successful in marketing ourselves to people outside Cleveland is partner with Destination Cleveland to really get the word out there.
ND: There was an article in the New York Times in late 2014 and it specifically mentions Cleveland: The number of young people that are living within three miles of the city center has gone up 37 percent since 2000. There's a change in the way that folks graduating from college are living their lives. It's less about their job, and it's becoming more of a social position. People are choosing to live where their friends live. We're able to cater to that and get people into the neighborhoods and buildings with vibes and cultures that fit them.
ES: Obviously everyone is different, but are there common criteria people are looking for in Cleveland?
AP: A lot of the requests are about living near a gym or near hot restaurants and bars. People specifically have needs for what's in the building. We worked with a producer who was looking for high ceilings, like lofts. It's being able to be in walking distance of restaurants, gyms, big employers. There's a lot of development occurring around those needs, and I think that's why you're seeing so much growth in Cleveland.
ES: There's a great convergence of people having grown up here now moving back as adults.
AP: Just in my own experience, knowing the fact that other folks like me are moving back home -- I'm really excited about seeing all the development and growth. I think it's really important, the way Cleveland is marketing itself.
ND: I'm not a native Clevelander, but I've spent a lot of time here. I've been able to watch the city grow from afar. There's something different about Clevelanders. I'm from Tallahassee, and I don't talk about Tallahassee pride -- not that I don't like it there -- but there's something unique about the way folks from Cleveland talk about their city. It's a sense of pride.
ES: How can people get started with Quo?
ND: If you come to our website (rentquo.com) and fill out that initial form, we'll start to get to know you -- your contact information, but then your favorite clothing stores, your Pandora station of choice. We really want to get to know you. We ask for them to login through Facebook specifically because we use some of their information from Facebook to get an idea of the places they've visited and the types of stuff they're into. Through that, they become a member. Then we reach out.