Paul Starkey – Reflections on what good looks like in Agency & Agency Technology from the man in the know
For those who do not know Paul Starkey, maybe it is time that you should, I have in the past years asked Paul as an individual to have quiet chats with exuberant founders looking to be the next Elon Musk, as his wise words have got them to understand the enormity of what they have to overcome to win big. Here in his own words are some of his key thoughts,
‘There are many elements I can reflect on during the 8 years I spent at Reapit, but recent involvement in the Foundations/Platform side of things and the partner network is one that is worth comment. The partners Reapit engaged with fell broadly in to three types;
The long established market players who generally where cash positive and had an established customer base amongst estate agents and generally who provided a product or service that was a key element of the agents operating model, I will talk more later about the types of service that PropTech organisations delivered to agents and the associated merits.
Those that are part established and need to scale, these may be in second or third funding rounds are generally generating revenue, but may not be profitable, they are not as vulnerable as those detailed below, but there are associated risks based on their size and they need to balance spend vs scale to ensure they remain commercially viable.
The newer startups with an idea and funding to get this off the ground and started, some of these will find a niche and succeed and some will simply run out of money and fail, not always as the idea is poor, but they have been unable to get critical mass and revenue to support their model going forwards.
One key here that many have been overlooked is simple distribution getting their product in front or the right people and positioned, whereas organisations don’t want to get bogged down in analysis paralysis – the go to market and distribution needs to be considered, who are the competitors and what is the right price point, as well as how can the business scale if it takes off.
As for the types of solution that will endure as agents look to right size their cost base in the face of more challenging market conditions;
Compliance and ensuring adherence to mandatory/regulatory standards – reference checking, ID Verification, AML, HMO compliance.
Driving incremental revenue to agents – generally through some sort of referral fee obviously need to consider any future legislation in this area and ensure any transparency to the move around the payment of any fees to adhered to. Utility Switching, Insurance, Conveyancing and various types of insurance.
Driving true efficiency in a process with a tangible ROI either in the business especially where there is scale e.g. Property Management or where it improves and streamlines the interaction with other parties landlord, tenants, contractors etc. I include here products that directly or indirectly support the speeding up of pipeline churn driving cash flow and preventing/reducing withdrawals e.g. sales progression and up front information. However with the legal model in England and Wales there will always be the ‘time kills deals’ factor and people change their mind or motivations to move.’
Paul Starkey has worked in agency and agency technology for 15-years both at Countrywide and Reapit, so understands scale agency operating models as well as the technology that underpins agencies of all sizes. Paul is definitely an experienced and valuable asset to any company at any stage – he has seen it all, and that as I have found is true gold.
Housr opens door to £5m growth funding round ahead of UK and US expansion
Full disclosure Harry Panter of Housr is a client of mine in my day job running Proptech-PR ‘A consultancy for Proptech Founders’ and he is definitely a force of nature who just continues to hurtle forward, here is the official Press Release from Housr today.
PRESS RELEASE Manchester 11th December 2023 Student living start-up Housr has secured 30% of its £5m funding ahead of opening the round. The PropTech plans to expand to six cities in the UK and seven in the USA with a new round of investment. Housr will scale its headcount from 26 to 45 with a new injection of funds – it has acquired a student community ahead of roll out in a third UK city.
Housr, the student living start-up on a mission to tackle the housing crisis, has opened the door to investors for a £5 million growth funding round, which will see the PropTech business embark on ambitious expansion plans in the UK and USA.
The scale-up, founded by friends Harry Panter and Ben Clayton while at university, has already raised 30% of the £5m growth round through existing investors and stakeholders, led by venture partner Bachmanity. The company is welcoming funds on both sides of the Atlantic to join its mission of revolutionising the way properties are listed, let, and managed.
The business, which is forecasted to break-even in July 2024, projects annual recurring revenue of £2.4m over the next 16 months, through brand partnerships and utility billing. It currently has a headcount of 26, with four of those employees based in the USA, including its President, Craig Joseph.
Following the latest funding round, Housr plans to expand to six UK cities and seven US cities. It will also increase its headcount to 45 people, with further hires in operations, marketing, and on the campuses it operates in. Housr recently acquired an online student community in Leeds, ahead of its rollout in the northern university city. Housr started its second year of operations by adding 45,000 properties to its platform, across Manchester and Birmingham, with hundreds of lettings already agreed for the September 2024 academic term.
Harry Panter, (Right in photo) co-founder & CEO at Housr, said: “We have proved our platform and business model to be the future of student lettings in two of the country’s biggest cities. We’re now ready to disrupt the property market in the rest of the UK. Our intuitive and frictionless app streamlines each step of the rental process, from search to management, and utilities. This makes it easy for tenants and agents to manage their home in a single place.”
The app is on track to have 30,000 users by January 2024. Housr currently works with 30 UK-based letting agents, making the rental process easy for tenants and landlords. It is averaging 73 rentals per week through its platform ahead of peak student letting season.
Harry continued: “This additional funding will turbo-charge our progress and help establish Housr as the go-to student housing partner in the UK and the US. While both markets are different it is clear that both are ripe for digital transformation and disruption.
“The latest generation of students demands this level of digitisation from the sector, and until now the archaic industry has been unable to provide it. Our ethos – built by students for students – serves this group. We understand what truly resonates with them. Our introduction of rapid peer-to-peer rentals will change how students find housing, making it cheaper and more efficient for all involved.”
Housr previously raised £1.2m over the past two years to help it reach its current iteration. Funding to date has come from a variety of sources including Bachmanity Capital, and various angels including David Evans, Ian Tyler, Steve Thornhill, Barry Brown, and others. Investment has allowed the business to bring the development of its proprietary technology in-house and launch an updated version of the app.
Housr operates similarly to a dating app letting users swipe through properties and secure viewings, while landlords and letting agents can use it as a management portal. It also uses AI to eliminate the administrative hurdles that typically accompany the process of securing a rental property.
The smartphone app, available on iOS is on track to have 30,000 users by January 2024, and sees 1,000 student likes per day, an average of 12 per student per session. The start-up has developed a loyal community of students who are rewarded with perks including money off their rent, a year’s supply of free pizza, and offers on drinks through its commercial brand partners.
Harry Panter, co-founder & CEO at Housr also comments that, ‘Although we are expanding and scaling at an increasing rate and looking for additional funding to fuel that, I have also learnt that key to success is growing your network. It is about who you know, and who they know and what they can add to the business, my thanks to Andrew Stanton and others for focusing me on this’.
Proptech-X does not endorse any investment in any company, people are advised to seek independent advice prior to making any decisions as all cash is at risk.
Andrew Stanton is the founder and CEO 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 and editor of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.