❌ Failed startup
✅ Successful startup

Boston Apartment Hub: Failed to Grow a Side Project

Boston Apartment Hub was an apartment listing site for the Boston area. The idea was probably too ahead of its time.

United States
Marketplace
Unprepared Market
Capital

Jon Sherman

March 17, 2018

Sponsor Failory and get your business & product in front of +20,000 CEOs, startup founders, entrepreneurs, developers and marketers every month.

This Interview's Sponsor

Do you want to grow your business? With GenM you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training. The student will work 40 hours per month creating content, increasing SEO rankings, carrying out advertisement campaigns...

Switch to better payroll. OnPay makes payroll and HR simple by paying your employees, filing US payroll taxes, and integrating with your favorite software. We can take also care of benefits, and we’ll help you switch providers. Take a peek at how easy payroll can be.

Hello Jon! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?

I have been working in sales and marketing for the past 12 years. My career has taken me from Google to domestic manufacturing. Lately, I have been getting back into the online world with my website Practical Golf. I’ve been at it for almost three years now and built it up to an audience of about 500,000 golfers per year.

What was Boston Apartment Hub about?

Right after I graduated college I was hoping to help my brother with this business. The concept was to “clean up” the apartment rental market in Boston by featuring reliable listings that apartment hunters would know was verified.

Our goal was to work directly with real estate agencies to broadcast their listings to the marketplace in order to get their agents more business. The service was free to use for the end user, and our revenue model was based on agencies paying to have their listings on our site.

How did you grow Boston Apartment Hub?

Our process was twofold. We had to first do outreach to all of the agencies and convince them that they should have their apartments listed on the site. 

Secondly, we had to import all of their data, and make sure it was up-to-date so that apartment hunters could be confident that listings reflected the current market.

Take payroll off your to-do list.

Rated “excellent” by PC magazine, OnPay gives US startups an easy and affordable way to manage payroll and HR. We do all the heavy lifting, including payroll taxes, onboarding your employees, and setting you up for free.

Get One Month Free

Reach +20,000 Startup Founders!

If you are looking to get your product in front of founders, CEOs, VPs, web and mobile developers, makers, consultants, marketers, bloggers, product managers, and many other thought leaders, then we can help you.

👉 Sponsorships

40 Hours of Digital Marketing for $50/Month

Do you want to grow your business? With GenM you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training. The student will work 40 hours per month creating content, increasing SEO rankings, carrying out advertisement campaigns...

Check it out   👉

Which was the problem with Boston Apartment Hub? How did you realize?

The main problem was that both of these processes proved much harder than we imagined. Convincing the real estate agents to pay for another service to list their apartments was difficult. It was a newer format that challenged the status quo of the industry. There were only a few agencies that were willing to listen in the beginning, while the rest of them were not interested.

Additionally, the data entry process proved to be very cumbersome as well. It took a full-time person to manually update all of the listings and making sure that they were getting the latest information from the real estate agents.

Simply put, it was a much bigger problem to solve than we first imagined.

 

What were your biggest disadvantages?

In retrospect I believe this was not a project that should have been bootstrapped by just a few people with a relatively small budget to develop technology and do sales outreach. If it were a larger company backed by investors I think it possibly would have had a greater chance to succeed.

Also, that particular market was very averse to changing the way they did business at the time. In a way, the idea was probably too ahead of its time.

If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

I’m not sure we could have done anything differently. In that environment, the technology was not near where it was today, and that was one of our main stumbling blocks. The site could have been developed for a fraction of the cost today, but there was no way we could know that back then. The time and place for the business idea were just not right. Sometimes that is just the way it goes!

Unlimited Design Services at $349/Month

Hire a graphic design and development team to create fully functional web & app UI/UX, branding, illustrations & everything else you can imagine on a monthly subscription that starts at $349/month.

Check it out   👉

What did you learn?

I learned a lot from this project. Personally, it proved to me that I wasn’t ready at the time to be a full-time entrepreneur. I knew that I needed to develop my skills more in the workforce before I felt confident enough to execute a strategy more effectively. 

Additionally, it showed me that “going all in” is probably not suited for my personality. A lot of people don’t realize how much pressure there is on you when you have no other source of income to survive. Personally, I have had much more success doing a side project now and growing it slowly rather than disrupting my life in order to validate my ideas.

 

What's your advice for someone who is just starting?

I would advise going the route of starting small and not risking everything if this is your first project. The harsh reality is that most new businesses will not succeed and I think from a strategy perspective it makes sense to get more validation on your idea before you are willing to quit your day job.

 

Which startup book would you recommend?

Grit by Angela Duckworth is a great read. While it is not about starting a business specifically, it is about a trait that every entrepreneur needs.

 

Where can we go to learn more?

If you are into golf be sure to check out my site Practical Golf. You can also find me on Twitter.

✉️ Subscribe to receive weekly startup related articles!

We’re always digging for more failure stories like Boston Apartment Hub. Sign up for our newsletter to keep updated on the latest additions.

👇 Other Interviews

PEAR Cards: Raising $19,000 With a Card-Based Tool
By 
Matthew Roberts
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
Gaming
No Data
IWantThatFlight: Turning a Script into a +$110,000/Month Site
By 
Garth Adams
  •  
February 21, 2019
Australia
Web Application
Below 150K
Posture Keeper: Creating a Business to Solve My Back Pain
By 
Shirley Tan
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
e-Commerce
No Data
NerdPilots: Growing an Agency to $25,000/Month While Running 4 other Businesses
By 
Kevin Pereira
  •  
March 24, 2019
United States
Agency
Up to 50K
Pagestead: Bootstrapped Site Builder Making $7,000/Month
By 
Mattijs Naus
  •  
February 21, 2019
Thailand
SaaS
Up to 50K
10er: Bootstrapping The Danish Patreon to $2,000/month
By 
Mikkel Malmberg
  •  
February 21, 2019
Denmark
Web Application
Up to 50K
REPitchbook: Building a SaaS Priced at $1,500/Month and Making $0
By 
Charlie Reese
  •  
March 27, 2019
Canada
Analytics
No MVP Validation
Folyo: Selling a $1500 Failed Startup
By 
Sacha Greif
  •  
March 16, 2018
France
Design
Monetizing Issues
Boston Apartment Hub: Failed to Grow a Side Project
By 
Jon Sherman
  •  
March 17, 2018
United States
Marketplace
Unprepared Market
Capital
The Punjab Kitchen: Failing to Overcome Competitors Prices
By 
Amit Gogia
  •  
August 30, 2018
India
Food
Big Competitors
Jobridge: How to Lose $20,000 Building an Offline-Online Job Board
By 
Jasmeet Singh
  •  
January 15, 2019
India
Web Application
Business Model
Hot Barber: $0 in Revenue
By 
Julia Enthoven
  •  
March 17, 2018
United States
Marketplace
Monetizing Issues