- Age of business: One year
- Name of business: RentSquare
- Location: London
- Team: Helena Trippe, Iban Benzal, Laís de Almeida
- Funding: €100,000
- Elevator pitch: RentSquare finds the rent price sweet spot and makes rent simple, fair and square!
What does RentSquare do?
We are about calculating the best rent price and finding that sweet spot between what tenants can afford and landlords need to charge to be successful and profitable. We use publicly available data and freely share with everyone what a better rent price looks like. For a flat fee, we connect tenants and landlords and close the tenancy agreement at those prices. Our aim is to help all parties get a fairer deal; we firmly believe transparency and the power of information can make this possible.
How did you meet?
The three founders are service designers who met at the Royal College of Art. Helena Trippe, the CEO, has worked in housing management and lettings for the last 10 years. Iban Benzal, our chief technology officer and Laís de Almeida, our chief design strategist, love getting their hands on complex problems and designing the best possible product. We want to challenge and redesign existing practices in the private rental industry by starting from first principles.
Where did the business idea come from?
Last year, Nesta and the ODI were running a challenge on how to improve the rental market. Using open data we realised we could start calculating sweet spots of rent for specific addresses. Our research showed that in the UK, landlords take on average four to six weeks to find a tenant. For many landlords, sitting around waiting for an unoccupied property to be filled is frustrating business. It’s also bad business – so we realised that RentSquare could be on to something.
Are you working with any other partners?
RentSquare was one of the finalists of NESTA and the ODI’s Challenge Series on Housing. We joined Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator programme in July, which is jointly funded by NESTA and the Cabinet Office. We are also part of the ODI startup programme until summer 2016.
We are supported by a range of advisers, ranging from data scientists, real estate and lettings agents formerly from Zoopla, community marketing strategists formerly from GDS, housing academics from the LSE, and a policy expert from London’s Mayor office among others.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
We work in a very iterative way, constantly testing and learning as we go along. There are no absolutes with us. For that reason, experimentation and mistakes are not only part of our day to day but something we cherish and welcome. It also makes us very cost effective. As a social impact business, we have the added challenge of making sure we stick to our vision no matter what! We wouldn’t start again; we would just keep experimenting and learning from our mistakes until we get it right.
How has ODINE helped you so far?
We have secured a place with ODINE, which will ultimately allow us to accelerate our business, getting an open version of our product to market by early next year, allowing us to focus on getting our message out there.
Manpower is an essential part of being able to accelerate our work and reach our market. We have grown the number of superhero landlords who want to pilot with us. We are letting out properties so fast we beat agents every time.
What advice would you give to other companies pitching to ODINE?
Go for it! But make sure open data is a core and integral part of your business, not an add on. Think about ways that your idea can be scalable to other countries in Europe to guarantee a wider impact. And finally a very important one for us: don’t be greedy and think from the start of ways to give back and keep data open.
What would you say to other startups thinking of working with open data?
Open data is a fantastic asset, and we believe we have found a way to successfully commercialise it so that is not solely a visualisation piece. Open data requires constant work to clean and find uses for – but the added value businesses can provide is vast.
None of the founders had previous experience of working with open data, so we always incentivise teams who are not experts on giving it a try and see what it could do for you.
How would you encourage big business to buy into the open data movement?
Big businesses would definitely have the resources required to use open data; the thing they might lack is the agility to think of innovative ways of using it. But they have incredible data assets. If they could open their data up they could involve brilliant people out there who could also help them reinvent their own businesses. The most important thing about open data is the value it can add through its transparency and accessibility – it is possibly the best tool out there to increase trust.
What’s the key trend in open data at the moment?
For us, open data allows us to be really disruptive, to find a way to change the status quo of the current private rental market, so that neither party is caught out at the end of the day. In our opinion, it’s the tenants and landlords who really matter, not the intermediary. It is about disrupting well established balances of power, and recovering the trust that we believe the market is crying out for.
At RentSquare we’re currently looking for superhero landlords who want to help change the industry so it works better for all concerned. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, register on our website: www.rentsquare.io to help us crowdsource information about properties and fulfil our mission of defining better rental prices.
This article first appeared on the Guardian.