Brunel MBAs and local landlords Paul Ouro, Chloe Lin Zhen and Rajan Dua's property rating website could receive backing from Sir Richard Branson.
The website, Stars Key and Hutch, which has been dubbed by John Prescott as a "TripAdvisor for students to rate and find digs", has been entered into Virgin's #VOOM "Pitch to Rich" competition, where entrepreneurs and start ups compete to win a marketing campaign for their product worth £150,000.
The Brunel alumni, who are well known locally, are currently canvassing for votes from students to be in with a chance of winning. The website was piloted in Uxbridge, specifically targeting Brunel students, and has now gained users from all over the country. Paul Ouro, who runs a number of student rental properties in Uxbridge, co-founded the project after realising that students had no way to communicate to future tenants about the quality of their accommodation.
‘Stars Key and Hutch’ is designed as a social network to help British and International students find the best rental accommodation. With around 15,000 students and just 4,957 places for on-campus accommodation, many students choose to live in off-campus housing. This includes those sought through the housing office, private landlords, local estate agents and even lodging with families in the nearby area.
The project comes at a time where student rental prices are rising and parties are putting forward differing opinion on how to solve the housing crisis. Stars Key and Hutch website states, "SKAH aims to be a major resource for students offering an opportunity for social interaction and assistance with rental property and settling in London. SKAH goes beyond rate and review, encouraging interaction between users via ‘digital word of mouth’ so they can help others through star ratings and ‘rabbits’ (similar to comments/tweets). These can be sent privately like Facebook messages of DM tweets."
Speaking to Le Nurb at the site's launch in February, local landlord and one of the website's creators Paul Ouro said: “When I went today and spoke to students about this website it really cemented the feeling that this is something we need to launch and it’s definitely going to help them.”
The website, which now has over a thousand registered users, allows tenants to rate their landlord and rented accommodation and offer reviews of the property, allowing potential renters to check out where they might be living.
The website has attracted national interest after it became a finalist for Mayor of London Boris Johnson's competition to make London greener by reducing carbon footprints. Politician John Prescott has also tweeted about the project, calling it a "great idea".