A young entrepreneur hailing from the North West has secured £100,000 pre-seed funding for her housing app.
Lydia Jones officially founded Manchester-based student accommodation marketplace Housemates last year, following her involvement in the F Factor competition for tech entrepreneurs, where she made it to the national final.
In the time since our original coverage, Housemates has been through the Ignite programme – which supports founders from idea stage through to raising a Series A - as part of its Accelerator scheme, and also received a convertible loan from Northstar Ventures (North East VC) as part of that.
Earlier this year, meanwhile, Jones spent some time in Australia after lots of demand was received through the platform from Chinese and Indian students wanting to book with Housemates in cities such as Melbourne.
“We launch our web app very soon so that’s where our current focus is to make Housemates more accessible,” Jones said. “The current funding pre-seed closed in February and we have since made hires in design, marketing and engineering. We plan to start fundraising for our seed round in Q1 2021.”
In the pre-seed funding round, Housemates secured the £100,000 investment from GC Angels to support its plans to expand the platform across the UK and internationally.
Housemates is a mobile platform that automates the process of onboarding students into accommodation. The end-to-end marketplace ‘removes the need for letting agents and the associated fees’, providing landlords and tenants with ‘the opportunity to transact without traditional challenges such as agreements and payments’.
The platform is aimed at both private landlords and purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) chains. It requires no upfront cost and is free to sign up to for property owners.
Housemates aims to build on the success of Jones’ ‘Hall Hang’ student accommodation app, which was designed to assist international students in finding places at UK halls of residence.
The UK international student market remains an extremely lucrative one, with almost 500,000 overseas pupils moving to the UK to study every year – second only to the US. Many of them are from China or other countries in the Far East.
Overall, the global market value for students is estimated at $180bn a year, helping to explain why so many innovative companies concentrate on this sector. While the Covid-19 pandemic has put a hold on all non-essential travel, and has affected universities just as much as any other industry, there are signs that demand is still strong from overseas students to study in the UK – and that people will make the move as and when it’s safe to do so.
“The student market is an area ripe for innovation and disruption,” Jones, the founder and chief executive at Housemates, added. “Given this is often the first significant move away from home, students need support and stability when it comes to finding accommodation and settling into independent life. Housemates was founded precisely to do that, and with this funding, I have real confidence in our growth potential in the coming years.”
Jess Jackson, investment director at GC Angels, commented: “We are always excited to see innovative ideas with positive outcomes for users at the heart of their ethos. Housemates has huge potential to make a difference to the lives of students and offer a better experience for landlords.”
She added that ‘supporting female founders is important to us – Lydia is a fantastic and experienced founder, and we’re pleased to come on board to support Housemates in its growth.”
David Goadby, angel investor and founder at Cogentix, added: “When we look for investments, we look for innovation through business model reengineering, a broader social purpose and a visionary leader focused on delivery.”
He said Lydia and Housemates clearly met this criteria. “And we are very proud to be teaming up with GC Angels again as seed investors in this outstanding opportunity.”
You can find out more about the free Housemates app – available only on the App Store for iPhone and iPad users – here.
For more information about Housemates itself, check out the website here.