Several years ago when USC alumnus Nick Dazé and his wife had a baby, they searched for a new home to rent. But they ran into several issues along the way, including false information, scam listings and having issues with the landlord at the home they ended up signing on. He tried out several business ideas since then to help renters dealing with the same issues before creating Pocket List, a company that helps renters learn more information about the properties they’re looking into.
Dazé worked with fellow alumnus Julian Vergel de Dios to create a website that help renters find and bookmark their dream apartments, so they’re notified when the space goes on the market. The app also allows renters to look up reviews on the quality of features like light, sound and parking and to look at current rent rates at each apartment for free.
“Our biggest differentiator is that we are allowing people to see details about apartments that they can’t find anywhere else because we’re not talking to landlords,” said Vergel de Dios, who graduated from the Viterbi School of Engineering in 2009. “We’re talking to people that actually lived in their apartments.”
The company considers college students a target audience because most students know the exact date of when they move out.
Dazé said the company’s name originates from a term used by residential real estate agents to describe a house that is ready for selling but is not advertised to the open market.
“We’re essentially taking the concept of the friend that knows about a cool apartment opening up in a few months and opening that up to the entire country,” said Dazé, who graduated from the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 2006. “We think that why this is really useful for college students who are going to want to plan ahead for life after graduation, especially if they want to figure out, kind of a complex living situation.”
The pair launched the manual version of the app in June 2019 after working at the USC Viterbi Startup Garage in Marina Del Rey for a year under director David Eastman.
“They saw what customers wanted and tweaked their offering before moving into Pocket List, and all of a sudden they have struck gold,” Eastman said. “They suddenly have a ton of people signing up. They have suddenly raised a bunch of extra money. So in that sense, I think the entrepreneurs are really solid.”
The founders credit the workspace with providing a space to seek advice, collaborate with other entrepreneurs and work on daily tasks.
While the app is currently only open to Los Angeles customers, Dazé said Pocket List plans to expand to every major city by spring 2020, acquiring more customers through a combination of social media advertising, content creation, events and outreach.
In terms of workflow, Vergel de Dios handles all the technical and engineering aspects of the company as Chief Technology Officer. Every morning, Vergel de Dios hosts a stand-up meeting with the engineering team to talk about daily tasks and assist employees with coding. As CEO, Dazé works on business development, product development and user experience for approximately 10 hours each day.
“We know from experience that the outcome or the differential in someone’s life, their quality of life, their happiness, their mental health, their productivity, their physical health can be dramatically impacted by having a good or bad place to live,” Dazé said. “This is something we’re super passionate and something we have a long term vision for.”