Startup Spotlight: PairUp – Simplifying summer sublets

Editor’s Note: This week, the spotlight is on Martin Stuart of PairUp, providing a better alternative to subletting your apartment over the summer. PairUp was the winner of the Grit prize in the SME Track of the 2017 McGill Dobson Cup, and went through the McGill Lean Startup program in 2016.

If you want to work on your business full-time but are worried about dropping out, we’ll show you how. We’ll also be looking at how you can find your first 10 customers, and how you can stay healthy by eating the same breakfast everyday.

*This interview was conducted in spring of 2017 – there have since been some adjustments to how PairUp operates. Head over to pairup.io or to their FAQ section to learn more.


I made one post on the McGill jobs page, and I’ve been flooded with so many requests that I had to delete the post”

After inexpensively testing his idea in the summer of 2016, Southern Ontario native Martin Stuart quickly realized that there was untapped potential in the housing market. The idea was to pair up people who are leaving their apartment for the summer, with people who’ll manage renting it out for them: it’s a win-win.

In the 2-sided platform he was building, he was able to find his first batch of customers on both sides through Facebook groups. On the property side, he had no issues finding people. “It’s a common problem that students have”, Martin explains.

On the manager side, he had a problem – the kind you want to have.

“I made one post on the McGill jobs page, and I’ve been flooded with so many requests that I had to delete the post”, he recalls.

 

PairUp: Landlord-friendly short-term rentals

So what is this startup that has Martin’s inbox flooded with messages?

Simply put, it’s subletting 2.0, and you don’t have to do a thing – it’s all managed. Oh, and one more thing.

You can make up to $4,000 per month by letting them manage your home, all summer long.

PairUp is a better option than subletting your apartment over the summer: sign up at pairup.io.

“You can sublet your place for 4 months and it’s totally possible that someone’s put a keg through the wall and smoked weed everyday”, Martin says. “You have no security deposit and that person’s not liable for your lease. It’s a better option than subletting because you have mandatory security deposits, weekly cleanings and check-ins, and professional management.”

PairUp connects Airbnb managers with people whose apartments are going to be empty for a while.

“So if you’re going away for the summer, you can register with us, and I’d hook you up with a manager who’d put your apartment up on Airbnb, host guests for you,  and look after everything: the filing of hotel taxes, payouts, and payment security”, Martin explains.

The McGill Lean Startup Program, and The Grit Prize in the McGill Dobson Cup

Following the summer when he originally tested the idea, Martin jumped on board the McGill Lean Startup Program. That’s our Fall incubator with a once per week commitment. In it, you’ll learn a systematic way of testing your business hypotheses, based on the Lean Startup methodology.

There, he soaked it all in: the networking, the collaborative environment, and most of all, the weekly pitch practice.

“I always felt I was a fairly confident presenter, but really class presentations are a whole different thing compared to presenting a business pitch where people are actively picking away at your idea while you talk”, Martin says. “That’s the kind of experience that makes you better. When I moved on to the Dobson Cup, I could really lean on the Lean Startup training.”

Excellent puns aside, Martin went on to win the Grit prize in the Small & Medium Enterprise Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017, hosted by National Bank.

Martin presenting at the Lean Startup final presentations in December of 2016.
School-Business conflicts, and a failproof alternative to dropping out

As students, you may be wondering whether or not your classroom presentations are preparing you for the real world. On the surface, yes. Dig deeper however, and there’s a fork in the road:

“In class, you can figure out what your professor is looking for by reading the syllabus”, Martin says. “In business pitches, you don’t know the people, their experience, their opinion, what they’re looking for, or what will impress them. You have to figure it out internally: you have to think about what’s most valuable in your business, and figure out how to make that clear.”

Within that time they’ll take me back, all my credits intact, as long as I can show them what I’ve been up to”

Another area that school and business often clash is time. When your business reaches a certain life stage, it demands more from you: more money, more effort, and more time. And when you get there, it becomes hard to keep up with other demands. You’ve got another fork in the road: Do you go full-time and drop out of school, or let the business die?

Martin found another way: McGill’s flexible leave of absence program.

Whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, you can get up to 5 years to fly or fail. As PairUp reached the fork in the road, Martin took a break from his Marketing & Entrepreneurship major to build something real.

“Within that time they’ll take me back, all my credits intact, as long as I can show them what I’ve been up to”, he clarifies.

Martin at the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017.
How much time he’s putting into his business, and healthy habits amidst chaos

And how much time is he putting into the business now that he doesn’t have competing interests? Hint: He doesn’t have a 4-hour workweek.

“I don’t count hours. You just solve problems one at a time, and move on to the next one. If I had to give a number, it’s probably 60-80 hours a week”, he says. “Especially at the early stages of a startup, everything is inefficient, because you don’t have the money to make things efficient. And doing things that don’t scale takes a lot of time.”

1 cup of oats, 4 tablespoons of yogurt, a banana, a clementine, and an apple. Every single day.”

And when you’re doing things that take a lot of time, other priorities like your health have a way of falling by the wayside. But not Martin’s.

Often referred to as “the fit guy” during the Lean Startup Program, he has built a series of good habits that have allowed him to stay healthy while putting in serious work on his startup. Besides biking for transport, taking the stairs whenever possible, and going for weekend runs, Martin has been eating the same nourishing breakfast everyday for over 5 years.

Here’s the formula:

“1 cup of oats, 4 tablespoons of yogurt, a banana, a clementine, and an apple. Every single day.”

Whether it’s eating the same breakfast everyday or simplifying summer sublets so that you can relax, Martin has figured out how to make life just a little bit easier.


Leaving Montreal for the summer and don’t want to deal with the uncertainty and messiness of subletting? Head over to pairup.io to sign up, or to their FAQ section to learn more.
Mo Akif

Mo Akif

The Editor-in-Chief of the McGill Dobson Chronicles. Never having started a lemonade stand as a child and tired of reading blog posts about entrepreneurship without actually doing anything, he was on the verge of giving up and joining a pyramid scheme. Luckily the McGill Dobson Centre decided to adopt him, allowing him to get a closer look at what it takes to build something valuable.