From our CEO: How finding my niche inspired me to help others find theirs
By Luke Skurman
At the end of high school, I knew exactly what I wanted. Or, at least, I thought I did.
Not only was I determined to go to a top-rated university, I wanted one with a great business school. I definitely wanted it to be on the east coast. Having grown up in San Francisco and being used to mild weather, I wanted it to be located somewhere warm. And ideally, I wanted to be able to root for an ACC basketball team.
So how the heck did I end up at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh?
The answer to that question is what eventually led me to create Niche. I’m fascinated by the art of decision-making, especially when it comes to where to live, where to go to college, and where to send your kids to school — and Niche is dedicated to helping you with that process. We at Niche understand that figuring out what’s right for you is some combination of “good on paper” stats and that intangible gut feeling that you’ve found the right place, and we work hard to make sure we give you both.
So how did we get there? To explain, I bring you back to my college search: After a 10-stop tour of schools, I realized that all the places my research had told me would be perfect just weren’t the right fit. Despite all being great schools, the actual experience of being there — the small towns, the culture, the quality of student life — simply wasn’t what I expected.
However, even though it was miles from an ocean and in a volatile climate, and with no real athletic scene to speak of, the whole package of Carnegie Mellon was exactly what I was looking for. The thing is, it took researching beyond simple data for me to figure that out.
How then, I thought, could I bring some version of that experience to more people?
At Niche, we feel pretty great about how we’re doing that. Here, we marry the science of serious number crunching and rigorous data analysis with that vital layer of insider info that only those who have experienced a place can bring.
When it comes to schools, colleges, cities, and neighborhoods, we’ve got the stats, but not just on a school’s academics or a neighborhood’s safety. When it comes to colleges, we look at culture, student life, diversity, dorms, the party scene, and beyond. For neighborhoods, we think about how affordable it is, if the school district is well rated, what the nightlife is like, and so much more. And we’ve folded it all into a wide range of grades and rankings so you can see at a glance how well a place you’re interested in stacks up against the rest.
But you don’t just have to take our word for it. We also have ratings and reviews from those who have lived it. And more are pouring in every day.
As time has gone on, I’ve continued to be not just the leader of Niche, but a user, as well. Niche helped me pinpoint the neighborhood in Pittsburgh that was best for my growing family. Now, my oldest child is a year away from kindergarten, and my wife and I are working to determine what elementary school will suit him best. As a dad, it’s nerve-wracking. But as an entrepreneur constantly trying to improve on a product, it’s only strengthened my confidence in Niche’s mission.
We all want to feel like we’ve found our place in this world. Niche makes getting there a little easier, and a lot more fun. We hope you’ll join us.
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