SAN DIEGO — If millions of dollars passed through your hands each year, do you think you’d have roommates?
Six successful entrepreneurs in San Diego are doing just that, sharing a house in Mission Hills – but not to save money.
All in their 20s and 30s, these millennials live under a strict code of conduct worthy of a reality TV show. The ultimate goal? Be the ultimate entrepreneur.
The roommates call their digs the “Epic Entrepreneur House” – a six-bedroom home where they trade business strategy like currency. Started as a frat-like community of startup founders, the home has evolved into a strait-laced pad with rules, schedules and board meetings.
“Everything in the house is designed to make you better without having to think about it,” said roommate Matt DeCelles.
The housemates don’t work at the same company. They each own different ventures, from e-commerce stores to medical device makers. Their companies are worth over $100 million combined, and the entrepreneurs have high standards for the company they keep.
“If someone moves out, we try to select a new person who will raise everyone else’s bar,” said roommate Shiv Shukla, the founder and CEO of Neuralace Medical. “They say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so we’re trying to up our average.”
For the group to accept you as a new roommate, your business must make at least $1 million per year.
“That’s the threshold,” said Trevor Jensen, who owns pet toy company Bullibone. “Some of us are making well above that.”
A house designed for performance
You wouldn’t know their wealth from the state of their living room. Sparsely decorated and sporting worn carpets and office-like furniture, the house is more functional than fashionable. The roommates have designed it to be an unmanned machine so they can spend all of their energy building their businesses.
They pay for laundry and cleaning services. They employ a chef who designs and makes all of their meals and then takes care of the grocery shopping and dishes.
The roommates want to be healthy and fit, so their chef tailors the weekly menu to a specific diet.
“Mostly protein; nothing white,” said DeCelles, who owns popular sunglass company William Painter. “No rice, no bread. Ten ounces of protein, greens and beans – that’s what our meals look like.”
The only woman in the house, Lian Price, owns a personal fitness brand called WorkGrindFly. She trains the guys, keeping everyone in the house in tip-top shape.
After all their perks, amenities and rent combined, Shukla said he’s paying less than his last place: a 1-bedroom apartment that ran him $2,200 per month.
With no time spent on daily drudgery, the entrepreneurs devote their days to personal and professional growth. They meditate in the mornings. They write their goals and to-do lists on a whiteboard in their foyer and oversee each other’s progress. Every Monday night, they conduct a Napoleon Hill-style “mastermind meeting” to chat about their challenges and seek input from the rest of the group. If answers can’t be found in-house, the entrepreneurs share their contacts to help each other out.
“Between the six of us, our network is so enormous we can plug you in anywhere,” Jensen said.
The group regularly finds new and successful people to draw into their circle, holding monthly networking mixers they call “wine nights” at their home. They invite other entrepreneurs or inspirational types and then pick their brains and enjoy their company. The chef makes an elaborate dinner and, of course, they drink wine.
“We have the most amazing conversations on those nights,” Shukla said.
The epic entrepreneurs are part of a trend
The Epic Entrepreneur House is modeled after a housing trend called “co-living,” which is more common in big and expensive cities like New York and San Francisco. Co-living is a shared housing model in which roommates split the cost of rent and amenities they might not be able to afford on their own. Unlike typical roommate scenarios, the model is more formalized with a focus on building a community around shared interests or lifestyles.
The trend emerged after the tremendous popularity of co-working, which redefined shared offices by elevating the importance of culture, community and lifestyle above all else. It was only a matter of time before shared housing followed suit.
Kndrd.io, a tech company that makes software tools to help manage co-living spaces, has an online marketplace listing hundreds of co-living sites around the world. Some communities are designed for artists, others for inventors.
Christine McDannell, founder and CEO of Kndrd.io, said co-living is particularly popular with entrepreneurs.
“With entrepreneurs, it’s such a unique lifestyle,” McDannell said. “Your work and your business are your life, and not everyone understands that. But when you’re living among like-minded people, you share those passions and priorities.”
For the roommates at Epic Entrepreneur House, that’s the crux of it.
“A huge benefit is accountability,” DeCelles said. “The house is checking in on you all the time.”
Strength in numbers
Each house member contributes a different set of skills to the table. For example, DeCelles and Shukla said Jensen is good at brokering deals. He’s contributed advice that was critical in growing their businesses.
They also lean heavily on each other for guidance.
“When I have issues with my company, I go to the house first,” Shukla said. “Then I go to my Mastermind group, then my therapist, then my executive coach, then my advisory board and investors. By the time I get to the board, I have a really good answer.”
The group effort seems to be working.
Shukla’s startup, Neuralace, just closed a $3.85 million round of seed financing from venture capitalists, setting him on a path to get his medical device approved by 2020. The sunglass company owned by DeCelles just struck gold with a viral marketing video. Jensen’s dog toys are now in every Walmart store in the U.S., and he’s expanding into new ventures, including an e-sports startup.
“All of our businesses are exploding in the best way possible, and they’re exploding together because we have this synergistic effect,” Jensen said.
The growth has taught Jensen the power of networks, he said.
“They say you’re the average of the five people you associate with, but what if you spread that idea to include a whole community?” Jensen said. “That becomes really powerful.”
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