In the winter of 2013, Ryan Blum and Brett Newman (who would eventually become co-founders) were both looking for roommates for the upcoming study abroad semester in Barcelona. The two initially connected via a Facebook group with four others to become roommates. Blum and his roommates booked an apartment through a realtor, but it did not work out as planned. The six students arrived in Barcelona to find beds in the closet and a number of differences in the actual apartment from what was advertised online.
When Blum discovered most of his peers were having the same challenges, he set out to solve the problem. Study Abroad Apartments was born.
During the last year of his undergraduate studies, Blum tested the Study Abroad Apartments business concept with an apartment management company in Barcelona. The venture was profitable after its second apartment booking. In its first semester, Study Abroad Apartments attracted students from over 18 universities.
Working out of Whitman’s Couri Hatchery, Blum held meetings with prospective customers and honed the business model. After graduating, he brought on an international vice president who expanded the company’s apartment portfolio across Europe. Over the past two years, Study Abroad Apartments has expanded into eight cities throughout Europe in Spain, Italy and the UK.
At the end of 2015, the company decided to redevelop the backend of its business by bringing on a venture capital firm. CoVenture has provided technology resources to build out Study Abroad Apartments’ new website. The company is also working with one of the top-10 U.S. accelerators, Dreamit Ventures. Through this opportunity, Blum and his team are focusing on growing the business with strategic partners. Since last year, the team has grown to six people, opened a European office in Barcelona and is positioning for further expansion.
Study Abroad Apartments targets two market segments–international exchange students and expats–which total more than 56 million people annually. Unlike the traditional Airbnb model, Study Abroad Apartments vets, verifies and works with premium accommodation providers. All of the apartments come fully furnished and have 24/7 customer service and infrastructure on the ground. This ensures they maintain quality apartments and great service. The company is headquartered in New York City, where it is now offering accommodations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn for foreign students and student interns. For more information, visit the company’s new website.