App brings roommates together digitally
Posted March 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm in Lifestyle
Ideally, having a roommate can be a deeply rewarding experience that can lead to lifelong friendships. Realistically, however, having roommates can be stressful, especially when it comes to sharing finances. Sometimes organizing simple domestic tasks, such as splitting rent and utility payments, hashing out any room-usage issues or deciding on room-related purchases, can feel decidedly awkward. It doesnât need to, though. Founder Luke Langon and a team at Northern California-based zenrow, inc. want roommates at college campuses across America to be able to easily organize and confirm rent and utility payments and communicate room-wide news â digitally.
Zenrow is an online application that connects roommates in online hubs or âhomebasesâ where users can divide payments, keep track of who has paid and communicate via private room-specific bulletin boards.
The concept certainly sounds useful in theory, as anyone who has had a not-so-punctual roommate could attest. Langon said the idea for zenrow came out of his own life experience.
âLike most other useful applications, all of us as co-signers had a need for the application,â Langon said. âThereâs always that one roommate that doesnât pay you back until weeks on end. Iâm a prompt person, so two of us got together and talked about it. We thought it would be a fun, useful app.â
In an age where verbal communication is becoming less and less common in favor of digital alternatives, the ability to settle payments digitally lends the application a reassuring quickness. Langon said he sought to keep things basic, focusing on creating an intuitive, user-friendly app.
âOur main focus is on simplicity; if you look at the [homebase] page for five to 10 seconds, you immediately understand what weâre doing,â Langon said.
To ensure that the app was easy to use, Langon put the online-version of zenrow through the ultimate tech-literacy stress test: He asked his father to attempt to set up an account and navigate his way around the site without any assistance. His father succeeded.
Michael Kiper, a senior majoring in political science, was particularly thankful for the appâs responsiveness.
âItâs actually fun to use,â Kiper said. âItâs satisfying to be able to settle up with my roommates immediately. Now Iâm notified if I owe my roommates anything so I can take care of it right away. [The] best part is I get reimbursed for the bills I pay much faster.â
When it comes to the amount users have to pay, zenrowâs payment calculator splits payments evenly between users to ensure everyone pays only their due.
The site itself, however, is free of charge, including payment transfers. Though users will have to establish a PayPal account or link their existing PayPal account to the site, payments via PayPal are not subject to any convenience fee or commission because Langon was able to secure a peer-to-peer agreement for PayPal wherein users are able to freely transfer funds within their homebases without paying commissions or fees as long as those users are in the United States.
A mobile app of zenrow is currently in the works, and Langon estimated that the app would be ready to go live in the near future, barring any setbacks in development. The mobile version of zenrow would sync with a userâs online homebase and utilize cloud servers to share information.
Theoretically, the mobile version of zenrow would improve upon the online model and make it even more user-friendly and accessible. Some innovations would include the ability to make homebase payments from oneâs mobile phone and the ability to receive push notifications for online bulletin board announcements. Langon explained that the latter innovation would be a particularly useful communication tool for college students, who could receive announcements about any circumstances in the room which would bar a peaceful study environment or notify fellow roommates about any housekeeping issues.
When asked who zenrowâs target audience was, Langon made it clear.
âWeâre really focusing on making this out to be the most useful app for college students. Weâll be happy to contribute to this community of happier roommates,â Langon said.
Though Langonâs app may not replace that missing slice of pie to the fridge or make returning foreign clothes to their owners any less awkward, when it comes to creating a community of happier roommates, the user-friendly and easy-to-use app might just suffice in preventing disaster.