Skip to main content

Why Buy When You Can Borrough?

Rahul Srivathsa’s company was born just as his MMM experience began. He shares how the program helped get his business off the ground and focus it for future success.

Rahul Srivathsa (MMM '24) believes a sense of community should exist in large apartment buildings, enabling residents to feel comfortable borrowing items from one another.

That’s why he created Borrough, a marketplace for residents to easily share household items like power tools, folding chairs, Bluetooth speakers, and camping gear. The goal is to spark community and, just as importantly, reduce consumption to promote environmental sustainability.

Rahul Srivathsa“Owning everything that you might need in your apartment is expensive, wasteful, and impossible to store,” said Srivathsa, a student in Northwestern's MBA + MS in Design Innovation (MMM) program — a dual-degree program between Northwestern Engineering and the Kellogg School of Management. “Borrough aims to solve this problem by making sharing items between neighbors frictionless.”

Through the Borrough platform, residents in the same apartment building can rent items like a cordless drill or queen-sized air mattress for as little as a day from their neighbors.

The idea for Borrough was born shortly after Srivathsa and company co-founder Elliot Hall moved to Evanston. Its formation and early growth story reflects a key MMM tenet — human-centered design.

That principle holds that the way to develop the best products and services is to start with the end users and become intimately familiar with their pain points before the design process begins. When it comes to Borrough, those end-users included Srivathsa and Hall themselves.

“We moved into this building, and it was just a stark contrast to the buildings that we lived in before,” Srivathsa said. “We were thinking that it doesn't make sense that all of us have to make a trip to Wal-Mart or Ikea and buy the same thing just to use it a handful of times.”

And so Borrough was born. The idea quickly grew thanks to two notable resources available to MMM students. The first is The Garage, a workspace and workshop for entrepreneurs looking to start and build companies.

“It's one thing to work on your business in class,” Srivathsa said. “But it's not until you come to The Garage and you are working late evenings and you have your desks and there are other companies building around you that you're like, ‘OK, this feels cool. I think we're actually building a business here.’” 

The second resource Srivathsa leaned on was the Zell Fellows Program. This experience provides mentorship and valuable information to budding entrepreneurs.

“A lot of the resources there are allocated toward trying to level you up as an entrepreneur, which is critical for the business,” Srivathsa said. “The biggest unlock for me from Zell has been some great mentors.”

Srivathsa is realistic about the challenges facing Borrough. The company is trying to create in-person communities, plus it needs to capture interest and attention from apartment building owners and managers willing to pay to offer Borrough for their residents. Even if that happens, Srivathsa still needs to recruit building residents to use the platform.

Srivathsa said he’s giving himself until his June graduation to see if the idea takes off. No matter the results, he said he is better for having the experience while a MMM student. 

“Just looking at the number of entrepreneurs who have come out of MMM versus the general population, there’s safety here in terms of being able to take risks,” he said. “Right off the bat, there's a big focus on the customer, which is the lifeblood of any startup, and it's easy to miss that. MMM quickly puts the customer at the center of the process."

Back to top