Coho secures £275k funding for its coliving and HMO solution
Before I say more, I must confess a connection with COHO, headed up by Founder Vann Vogstad, and Co-founders Liam Cooper and Helen Turner. They were among my original cohort of ten clients when Proptech-PR, my other day job, was founded. Proptech-PR is not a PR agency at all, but a property technology growth consultancy for founders like Vann.
At that time, Helen had not yet joined COHO and Gary Barker was not yet in the mix, but I was still struck that Vann Vogstad had a burning desire to make the lives of people in multiple occupancy properties much better at every level. The levers for change would be for the operators/owners of these properties to have a digital platform/software to manage all the moving parts. To say they’ve achieved that is an understatement…they’ve turned it on its head and brought something fresh to the table.
Vann’s vision was not just to have a SaaS model and monetise things like traditional solutions in the space, he wanted to enfranchise people renting rooms in properties, especially those getting a raw deal. He wanted these homes to be nurturing environments.
So it’s great to see that very early on COHO has secured financial backing from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early-Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and private investors.
COHO was inspired by Vann’s experience of house sharing in Birmingham after leaving university more than ten years ago. After building and selling two successful software companies, Vann – now a father of four – decided to address a gap in the market by creating the only platform of its type specifically designed for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).
COHO aims to accelerate the growing trend of co-living amongst people of all ages. It allows property investors to manage their portfolio and tenants to find a suitable house to share with like-minded people. A double win.
Vann joined forces with long-term collaborator Liam Cooper to launch the platform in 2021. They have since signed up over 80 landlords and lettings agents managing thousands of rooms between them, further bolstered the executive team and strengthened the Board, with the appointment of former Reapit CEO Gary Barker as Non-Executive Director and experienced software executive Gordon Matthew as Chair.
The funding will allow the Worcester-based company to expand the team with the addition of five new jobs and develop a host of new features to improve the management of shared living.
Vann, who is the company’s CEO, said: “Co-living offers a positive lifestyle choice for many people living alone or struggling to afford their own home. By making house-sharing easier to manage for both landlords and tenants, COHO aims to bring it to the mainstream.
The support of our investors will enable us to move forward at a much faster pace to achieve our ambition of making shared living more accessible to both property investors and tenants, and becoming the Airbnb of house shares.”
Kiran Mehta, Investment Manager at Mercia, said: “The property management sector is ripe for innovation with many landlords, in particular those with HMOs, having to patch together multiple management tools. COHO offers a one-stop-shop for property management.
Vann and the team have carved out a strong niche in the HMO market and have plans for some exciting additions to the product roadmap. The investment will help bring forward these new features, build the team and enhance the sales and marketing activity.
It has been a pleasure working with Vann and the team over recent months and I look forward to supporting the business over the coming years.”
Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said: “One of the key objectives of the MEIF is to help businesses like COHO, develop new products and create new jobs. With Proof-of-Concept funding in place, COHO will be able to develop its property platform further. We encourage other businesses in Worcestershire and across the wider Midlands region to consider MEIF funding.”
Gary Woodman, Chief Executive of the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “COHO is a business that I have had the pleasure of seeing develop first hand through their time on our technology accelerator programme, BetaDen.
I am delighted to hear that they have been able to continue their growth journey and secure additional funding with the ambition to create new jobs, helping to bring investment into the county and grow the local economy. I look forward to following their developments over the coming years.”
The Midlands Engine Investment Fund is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.
If anyone out there does not know how great the tech is or the bigger vision that the team at COHO has, get on a conversation with them soon. This is a small company with a huge future, built around the UX needs of the person living in an HMO, and the person who owns or manages that vastly complex property asset.
Sprift’s Matt Gilpin welcomes Michael Gove’s “levelling up” white paper
Last week, the present Housing and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove outlined in the government’s white paper a blueprint for the next decade. It was far-ranging and had twelve elements to it, and a part of it touched upon freeing up and speeding the world of property.
Gove insisted that better information or data provided upfront would facilitate the real estate process being able to move more quickly. In response Matt Gilpin, CEO and founder of Sprift, which has the strapline know any property instantly, commented: “The property sector across the board largely agrees that more upfront information is better for the home buying and selling process, and that it supports the necessary consumer protection requirements.”
Gilpin added that “The whole procedure when selling a property needs to be standardised to support a smoother transaction. In the first instance, further thought needs to go into what the buyer might want to know about the property beyond the legal requirements – everything from the broadband provider to local schools information, planning history and everything in between.
Once the detail is agreed, there needs to be further thought on how the forms can be presented and shared with all parties from the outset. All those involved in a transaction should be informed at every possible touchpoint, so they are fully armed with all necessary information to enable informed decision making.”
What is interesting is that Sprift is fast becoming the authority of all property data, which some commentators already feel is the definitive trusted truth around property datasets. So, if Sprift feels that the Government is moving in the right direction then that is quite something.
The Sprift model is based upon the fact that there is tons of property data, but as Sprift’s website puts it, “Property data in the UK is a mess and it affects the daily activities of all of us within the property industry. It’s the kind of information required upfront by anyone buying, selling, letting, financing, surveying, conveyancing or developing.
“Sprift’s mission is to create a single source of truth, the one place where the data required can be instantly accessed for any UK property. There are over 29 million UK properties on Sprift.com, each time any anyone views the dashboard, it’s an opportunity for the data to be updated for the benefit of all.
So far almost 500,000 properties have been accessed on Sprift, with this increasing by 100k+ each month. Let’s clean up property data so we can all know any property instantly.”
Clearly, Sprift is looking to put control back in the hands of all stakeholders in the property industry. With their service, property practitioners and agents can get aggregated property data in one accessible platform.
Matt Gilpin’s final thoughts on Gove’s initiative to make more data around property being easily accessible is around Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs), created by the Ordnance Survey.
“I believe the use of UPRNs is a good place to start – if the UPRN for each property was expanded to incorporate all of its activities and characteristics, these can easily be transported into a necessary legal or “sellers” document.
Whilst, of course, there will be anomalies due to the very nature of property which doesn’t always fit into a mould, a standardised and pre-populated document including all relevant property information would make the initial process less arduous for the seller, more consumer friendly and ultimately reduce delays.”
Andrew Stanton is the founder of Proptech-PR, a consultancy for Founders of Proptechs looking to grow and exit, using his influence from decades of industry experience. Separately he is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations. He is also the founder of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.