10 minute read
November 16, 2020

Streamlining Flat Sharing with Lauren Dannay of Whoomies

This article originally appeared on www.buildingproptech.com, a retired blog where I interviewed proptech founders on how they were building and growing their businesses.

Whoomies is a web and mobile marketplace providing easy access to shared housing with a full-circle digital experience, from hunting to moving-in. Whoomies turns shared rental into a seamless, safe and efficient process for both tenants, landlords and operators.

Hey Lauren! How did you end up working in PropTech?

After graduating from Paris-Dauphine University with a Master’s degree in Finance & Wealth Management, I started my career at Natixis WM where I worked for 3 years as Private Banker.

By co-managing a +300M€ private investment portfolio, I had the opportunity to meet with highly successful entrepreneurs which raised my motives to launch my own business. Not to mention the fact that my father is running a real-estate business, so I guess I always had an interest for the topic.

The idea of Whoomies came in early 2017 thanks to my best friend Alex, who turned out to become my co-founder, after having a hard time in finding both a place to live and compatible roommates while living in big cities such as Paris, New York, Singapore or London.

What really prompted our choice to launch the company is the huge market opportunity we saw: 1 people out of 3 under 30yo embrace this way of housing worldwide. The market already worth 500B$ every year, worldwide. Coliving is the underlying trend of the residential real estate market, yet France is still very early-stage comparing to other markets.

We have a broad notion of Coliving as a concept of sharing spaces, which can be declined at different scales and levels of services: either flatsharing, or student accommodation, young actives or even seniors residences. Proptech companies must bring the relevant solutions to enhance this experience of living.

We decided to bring our vision to life by creating innovative technologies and a unique user experience ****bundled into a platform which will help billion of people getting the most out of their coliving experience.

Whoomies' mission is to improve quality of life, foster access to new ways of housing, and accelerate sustainable living thanks to technology.

What problem are you working to solve with Whoomies?

While housing alternatives are thriving to face current global societal challenges, such as housing affordability and flexibility, worker mobility and remote working, social isolation and loneliness, traditional real-estate marketplaces still provides a very low-tech value proposition.

They don't understand the end-user needs because they're focusing on their volume-oriented business model. Also, they're property-type segmented, locally-oriented and limited to listings broadcast.

That's why we created Whoomies, which is the first real-estate marketplace, both mobile and web, providing a full-circle digital experience to ease the access to shared housing, from hunting to moving-in. We turn shared rental into a seamless, safe and efficient process for both tenants, landlords and operators.

Our platform is the only one offering a diversified housing offer, an automated and guided rental booking process, and social features to enhance the living experience.

How is Whoomies financed?

To date, we raised about 1.2m€ in pre-seed and seed round, through top-notch angel investors and are currently working on our next Series A with the ambition to leverage our business to the next level and grow internationally.

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What is Whoomies' growth strategy?

For our first two years, we've focused on validating our market-fit and have invested a lot on our product. We brought a huge innovation to the market as we've been the first app worldwide enabling people to match with prospective roommates (think about a "tinder-like" interface), alongside a booking real-estate interface.

We iterated various marketing strategies which allowed us to built a strong community and  brand-awareness in France. We also launched the app in London from the very beginning, allowing us to get some insights and key prospectives from a more mature and different market.

Then we rolled-out in April 2020 our website and new features on our products to bring more value to the operators and landlords. Being able to attract renters, manage the booking alongside all the operational day-to-day missions are time-consuming and expensive for operators/ landlords due to the many manual tasks involved in the processes.

Our growth strategy is to focus on getting as many exclusive offer as possible on the platform, in the French market first then globally. To do so, we keep investing on delivering digital tools and services to maximize the ROI of our clients. In a long-term run, data will be a key element for them to design, build and manage their spaces. That's where we're heading for the next months and years to come.

What tactics have you tested for growing your user base and revenue? What has been most effective?

To date, we built about 80% of our user base organically. More than 100k users are part of Whoomies community today, along with thousands of website visitors monthly, and over 10k listings are live on our platform.

Content marketing, visibility partnerships, schools partnerships, building a community on social network are some of the tactics we run everyday with our marketing team. Regarding paid acquisition, we're currently A/B testing a lot. Mastering acquisition costs will be key to scale our business. Regarding the supply side, we've recently on-boarded a top-notch and sharp team with whom we're structuring a lot at the moment :)

The market is growing constantly (20% on average in France) and propel our business. In less than 3 years, we saw a rise of +250% of coliving operators worldwide. It's the beginning of something very big for real-estate development.

What has been the hardest part of building, growing or monetizing Whoomies?

I'd say monetizing is now our top-priority even if building our community hasn't been an easy path so far and our team keeps working efficiently on that. We took about two years to find a relevant and scalable business model that we just rolled out before summer with extra promising results.  

Yet, growing our company remains another tough challenge, but it logically depends a lot on we will manage the effectiveness of our monetization strategy as well as our internal processes.

What insights about real estate and technology have you came to realize whilst building Whoomies?

I see a lot of innovation happening around Smart city, in every field of the real-estate space. This is fascinating. Having built a marketplace very human-centered allowed us to understand the market needs better than any pure B2B player in our industry.

The market is evolving fast to adapt to the end-users needs and we realize everyday the value we can bring to improve the experience on both supply and demand. Our goal now is to leverage our knowledge on top of the data we're analyzing and the user experience we're building.

Where can we find out more about Whoomies and connect with you?

You can find more about Whoomies on our website and obviously on the app stores, and I'd be happy to be reached out on Linkedin :)