Bio: Ofo Ezeugwu (@ofoezeugwu) is the CEO/Co-Founder of WhoseYourLandlord (WYL), which enables renters to rate their landlords and housing complexes. He graduated from Temple University, where he was also the VP of the student body. He’s a Techstars’ Risingstar, one of BET’s #30Under30 and his work has been featured in TechCrunch, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer and more. Ofo is based in New York/Philadelphia and is also a professional actor and model and has been featured on the Today Show five times and worked with Nike, ESPN, and Alfani.
Ofo is also very actively plugged into the community and speaks with local high schools and middle schools on leadership, college planning, entrepreneurship, and life skills. He’s also spoken at prestigious universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, UPenn, Temple, Villanova, and more. He lives by the motto, “No steps backward; just forward progress.”
We asked Ofo a few questions to learn more about his background and company. Below are his answers.
Hobbies: Travel, sports, nightlife (comedy/music shows, events, parties, etc)
Favorite Food: My mother’s cooking :)
Hometown: Born in Paterson, NJ (Grew up in Ellicott City, MD)
Temple Degree: 2013, Studied Entrepreneurship and MIS
Business Stage: Early – 60,000 users, 350 new reviews a week, reviews in over 100 cities across the United States.
Personal Statement: While I was running for the VP of Temple’s student body, I thought of the idea of WhoseYourLandlord. For a long time, I heard gripes from my friends and other students about the strenuous relationship they were experiencing with other folks in the community and especially with their landlords and property managers. I thought, “what if renters could review their landlords that way those coming in after them know what to expect before ever signing a lease?” The idea really resonated with my team and the student body. To this day, 3/4th of our team are Temple graduates. We’re rapidly expanding as a company, the size of our team, and our brand. We’ve been featured in over 30 news publications including TechCrunch, The Philadelphia Daily News, BET, The San Francisco Chronicle, Black Enterprise, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more. And, the WYL team just graduated from Comcast & DreamIt Ventures spring 2015 accelerator in Philadelphia.
Financial Information: $90,000 was put towards WYL from bootstrapping, friends and family round, competitions, and accelerator programs. Currently raising our seed round.
What lessons have you learned?
This is very hard to do. Not everyone is cut out for this journey but, if you can rise through the tough times, the positives are so worth it. While technology is a very forward industry, it suffers from an immense lack of diversity as other industries do. Less than 1% of companies funded last year were African American led. My goal is to change that by receiving funding to grow our business but we also have a responsibility to help the next folks in line. We will do just that. In the future, we’ll create a fund focused on growing the number of minority and women led firms.
What inspired you to start your own company?
Growing up, I just never pictured myself working for anyone. I had nothing against it. In fact, I had many very coveted internships and jobs throughout high school and college. For some reason, when I pictured myself in the future or even while dreaming at night, I was never wearing anyone else’s logo on my shirt. I was always a lone rider, I enjoyed seeing things differently, and I always loved leading amongst other great leaders.
Who is your mentor/idol and why?
I look up to my parents. Their lives weren’t easy, by any means but they both worked so hard to create better lives for themselves, their extended families, and their children. Their work ethic runs through me. As long as I am a part of this family, I can never stop working to learn, grow, and help others.
What has been your greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge has been closing substantial funding to really take this business to the next level. We’ve developed product-market fit and we’ve seen how our service has truly helped people. The ability to expand into new markets, boost engagement, and drive up revenue is tremendously helped with diligent focus and funding to move things forward efficiently.
What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs?
Decide what you want to do and run with it. The earlier you start the better. We all make mistakes in our first ventures. You do not often make the same mistake twice. If you can weed out issues when you are counting every penny, you will be well suited and prepared to handle the business in a prudent, focused way by the time you are entrusted with substantial funds to really see your dreams come alive. Starting early enables you to build your network and knowledge base at a young age, naturally setting you up for anything you would like to do in the future.
What’s next for you and your business?
We’re expanding our services and more actively becoming a marketplace for renters and home providers. We now act as a digital concierge for renters enabling them to insert their search criteria, fill out their rental app once, select the homes that interest them, and then we reach out to the landlords and property managers on their behalf, all while keeping the renter updated on where we are throughout the entire process. We are also in the midst of expansion and will be growing beyond PHL and NY and looking to grow into our phase 1 cities such as Chicago, DC, and Boston.