Tell me a story that has greatly influenced where you are today. My mother was my role model and inspired me with the importance of grit from a very young age. At the age of 16, she came to the US from Taiwan barely knowing a word of English. She had to read through high school textbooks by looking up almost every word. She was the youngest student in dental school at the University of Maryland and by 33 had opened five practices, while raising a child (me!). Her ability to succeed despite her circumstances instilled in me an appreciation for hard work and the desire to apply myself. Today, grit is not only a characteristic I take pride in, but is also the #1 attribute I look for in candidates at HomeShare.
Did you always know you wanted to be in the business of finding people homes? Since I began in startups six years ago, I have worked in transportation (Uber), home services (Homejoy), auto finance (Breeze) — pretty much everything but housing! The similarity amongst all of these companies is that they were all online marketplace and I was blessed to come away with insights from each experience that have guided me in building HomeShare.
What motivated you to start HomeShare? Beyond my professional experience, my desire to start HomeShare stems from a belief that hardworking individuals deserve an opportunity to thrive in the city. When I came up with the idea, rents in San Francisco were at an all-time high. As a startup founder for several years, I wanted to live in the heart of the city while keeping my own expenses to a minimum. So, I decided to move in with an old college friend into a converted 2BR in SoMa. I realized that shared housing, especially with compatible housemates, can be affordable and delightful. I started HomeShare because I wanted to provide others that same experience.
Sounds like you had a great beginning that motivated you through the hurdles to come. The initial start of anything is hard. How were the first 6 months like for you? I bootstrapped HomeShare for the first 6 months. For the most part, I ran the first 500 tours, moved in the first 50 tenants, and installed the first 25 partitions. Back then, we barely had a website and much less of a brand so building trust with tenants required a personal touch and relationship. That experience, along with living in our partner communities for the past two years, has allowed me to get to know many of our Homies and their aspirations. Interestingly, our Homies have very few commonalities; they range from 18 to 60 years old; they are entrepreneurs, teachers, nurses and more; they are immigrants and locals, extroverts and introverts, techies and hipsters. The one common thread that I see is a desire to succeed which has led them to move into a new city or neighborhood and pushed them outside their comfort zone. Their stories and motivations, whether it’s the pursuit of a new job or a new lifestyle, inspired me in those early days when I was starting HomeShare.
Let’s shift gears here a little from you and HomeShare to just Jeff. If I were roaming around in San Francisco on a Sunday afternoon, where am I the most likely to find you? You might find me playing pickup basketball outside in Mission Bay or in a weekly organized league. I love meeting people on the courts or reconnecting with college buddies. I’ve also recently started to learn golf at a few of the city’s public golf courses. Given how much time I spend in front of a computer, there’s something special about unplugging and being outside for a few hours at a time.
Digging a little deeper, what do you love about being here in San Francisco? I love the city’s entrepreneurial spirit. The ambition and imagination that people have here is something that infected me immediately and led me to start my first two companies. My hope is that HomeShare can open the doors for anyone who wants to live city center in San Francisco without breaking the bank. We want to help people find their first friends in the city, find a great place to live, and feel like they are part of a larger community that they can call home.