Screw You Pay Me

Automate Away Your Roommate Troubles With SpaceSplitter

Admit it, you're tired of asking for that overdue check.
308786c Automate Away Your Roommate Troubles With SpaceSplitter

Mr. Caucci. (LinkedIn.com)

As former undergraduate residential advisors, Rob Caucci and Jeremy Pease have mediated many a dispute. The common theme? All too often, it was money: One roommate just wasn’t chipping in for the weekly post-rager cleaning supplies. After experimenting with two other ideas, they’ve finally pivoted into a solution in the form of SpaceSplitter, a soon-to-launch platform designed to strip all the awkwardness out of communal living. 

Mr. Caucci told us that three years ago, the pair started a company selling enterprise software to college housing and residential life departments. Then they pivoted and built an eHarmony for roommate matching, before finally landing on the concept of SpaceSplitter. “We realized that the main problem [roommates] have is embracing the mutual dependencies that exist within the roommate relationship,” most importantly finances. Mr. Caucci explained: “Are you paying the bills on time with the roommates? Do you chip in for all of the products that these roommates collaboratively consume?”

That’s what SpaceSplitter hopes to address. Private beta launches in May, with public beta planned for the first week of June. They’re currently bootstrapping–thanks in part to revenues from the old enterprise software solution–but they hope to raise and close a $675,000 round of seed money sometime this summer. Mr. Caucci is still full-time at Booz Allen Hamilton, but hopes he’ll soon be able to devote all his time to the startup. Mr. Pease graduates in May, but he is currently executive director of Pace University’s Seidenberg Creative Labs.

Here’s what private beta testers will see when they log into the platform: Ourlist, the first of several planned features. Mr. Caucci called it “essentially a household shopping list for the products that roommates collaboratively consume.” That list might include, for example, two packages of toilet paper, four rolls of paper towels, and a container of Clorox wipes.

This is where SpaceSplitter really starts to look useful, because the company has partnered with Soap.com and Drugstore.com. Users order whatever they need and the platform splits the cost, with those partners fulfilling the orders and kicking a commission to SpaceSplitter. Mr. Caucci expects this, for the time being, will serve as the company’s primary revenue driver. Roommates get what they need and neither owes the other money; vendors get customers; SpaceSplitter gets paid.

“We’re trying to create this ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ type mechanism, where these roommates are collaboratively procuring these products they’ve always collaboratively consumed,” Mr. Caucci told us. He added, “We want to make the process by which these roommates procure those products much more efficient than it’s ever been.”

Eventually, they’ll add an expense tracker allowing roommates to split and pay bills like rent and utilities.

Asked why roommates might use SpaceSplitter as opposed to, say, a Google Docs spreadsheet or even the back of a napkin, Mr. Caucci pointed to his own experience and the horrible awkwardness of anything less than absolute openness:

“I lost $2,200 one time when one of my roommates was shorting our landlord for the last five months of the lease and there really wasn’t any transparency going on. The value proposition we have to offer roommates, in my opinion, is really transparency within that relationship and really the ability to hold one another accountable.” He added, “At times it feels like you may be nickel and diming these roommates, and it’s super awkward to go up to them and say, ‘Hey man, how about that pizza? Are you ever going to pay me the $5 you owe me?’”

Of course, there’s no way to solve every roommate squabble, because there’s no way to automate away crazy, bad manners, or body odor.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com