Finding and booking student accommodation can often be a painful and expensive process, according to 20-year-old entrepreneur Lydia Jones, who says international students are particularly vulnerable to being exploited by agents.
Enter Housemates, an end-to-end platform for students and landlords that promises to bring much-needed transparency and efficiency to the $180 billion sector.
Jones, who has spent the last five years working on mobile platforms for fitness, social networking, productivity and AI, set up the Liverpool-based tech startup alongside CTO and experienced programmer Marius Vinickis.
The pair have recently completed their second MVP and were crowned winners at the North West regional finals of The F Factor, the national startup competition organised by Founders of the Future.
We spoke to Jones to find out more.
What is the story of your company?
Housemates is an end-to-end student accommodation platform. Both students and landlords can now download the app for free on the iOS App Store. Students can sign up, find a property, talk directly to the landlord, give an offer, sign a tenancy agreement and transfer their deposit through the platform.
What problem are you trying to solve?
So much time and money is wasted when students try to book their accommodation, and landlords have to pay large sums of money to letting agents in rental commissions. We don’t believe it’s fair and we’re on a mission to make booking student accommodation as easy as as booking a holiday or buying clothes online.
Each year $180 billion is spent on student accommodation worldwide; this is a thriving market, and we feel that there is a huge opportunity for a platform like ours.
What makes you better than the competition?
With most other platforms that are in this space, the user journey stops after they’ve booked a viewing on a property. They also charge large commissions on rentals or have subscription and listing fees.
We also look at the whole student journey when it comes to booking accommodation; this means not only do we provide this service fee to students but remove agents and hold all information is in one place in return saving time, money and stress.
What’s on the horizon for your company?
So far we’ve taken a small sum of capital in the form of SEIS from friends and family, and we’re looking to raise our first round of investment over the next three to four months.
Over the next few months, we’re moving into office space, developing both web and Android versions for Housemates and trying to raise investment which will help scale our team and accelerate product development.
What’s it like being a tech company in the North West?
I think it’s an exciting time for tech in the North West; there are so many founders, solving real problems with unique solutions. It would be good to have more active angel investors, but I think that in order for this to happen all types of investors need to have access to the data that shows what companies here, what they’re building and the type funding required as without having that data available in as many places as possible it becomes very easy for investors to not be aware of the current opportunities.
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