We had the good fortune of connecting with Rany Burstein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rany, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
The thought process for Diggz started after I had a few bad roommates over the years in college and later on in New York. However, the tipping point for me was after one really bad roommate search experience; Thinking I found the perfect roommate on craigslist, a would be female roommate slammed her door in my face after realizing I, “Rany”, was a guy and not a girl. The problem that I noticed was that there was no effective way to find reliable roommates that fit your specific preferences. Something as trivial as gender, or a face photo were not included on Craigslist. It was hard meeting roommates online, and even harder to find ones that you like. The whole process was a crapshoot and you didn’t really learn much about your future roommates upfront.
I did some research and identified an opportunity. Nothing in the market was addressing this problem back then. My own experience got me thinking of a better way to connect with like-minded roommates. I liked the dating apps style, which requires two people to match first with a mutual intent, then chitchat further before meeting in person.
In those days I was working in finance, but I wanted to do something that combined tech and entrepreneurship. Once the idea crystalized in my head, I didn’t hesitate and started making moves to bring it to life.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I founded Diggz in 2015 along with my co-founder Ben Blodgett. We launched only in New York and today we are in over 25 major cities in the U.S. and Canada, inclding Atlanta which is one of our biggest markets. We help thousands of people each month find roommates, fill up their rooms for rent and even find apartment rentals. While there is more competition today than when we started, we still think that what sets us apart is that our network of users is not only focused on people with rooms for rent and people looking for rooms. We put a lot of effort to help folks connect with each other based on their lifestyles and preferences rather than sticking strangers together based on pictures of a room or rent price. So our most common matches actually happen between two individuals that are looking for roommates and neither have a room. Together, they go on and find a place of their own. I always felt you get a better dynamic this way between two people that live together. Both can make it feel home, versus one feeling like it’s his place and the other feeling he is entering someone else’s space. I’ve been very proud to get Diggz off the ground. The thought that I created something that helps better peoples’ lives in some sense is very satisfying. It hasn’t been easy though. We’ve had technical hurdles to overcome, especially when we started and the experience started to be slow as we scaled. We had to come up with solutions to improve the performance of the app without compromising on our vision or dumb down the features. We got advice from very helpful folks in the tech community to solve some of these problems and we are still very grateful for that. As a business owner, part of your job is to solve problems and overcome challenges. It’s not always putting out fires, but rather getting your business ready for what’s ahead, as well as figuring out how to get it there in the first place.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love sports, so first I’ll check if there are any games happening that week. Be it the Hawks, Falcons or Braves. If the weather is nice, I’d take them for a walk or bike ride around piedmont park. One or two days of golf for sure. Atlanta has the perfect weather for it year round. I would also take them to some of the local beer breweries like Sweetwater. To eat, I will pick some spots on North Avenue, or some southern food spots like Busy Bee Café, Eats or Wisteria.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Wow, I don’t think I can pinpoint to a single person or experience that helped me get to this point. I think it was a long process, with many contributors. Whether it’s some of my professors at UNC Chapel Hill, or my former managers who from each I picked a different skill to hone, such as leadership, salesmanship, collaboration or business analysis. My parents have a big part here too. They have always supported me and gave me the range to follow my passions and my dreams, including moving to the U.S. to attend college. Also, the many books that I’ve read on startups and business helped. To name a few: “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel, which I should probably read over again. “The hard thing about hard things” by Ben Horowitz and “Startup CEO” by Matt Blumberg.