The online platform of a student rentals company has raised £700,000 in its first funding round as it continues to disrupt the market.
HYBR attracted a number of angel investors, including Evelyn Bourke, former chief executive officer of BUPA, and Debbie Wosskow OBE, founder of home-exchange service Love Home Swap and founder and current chief executive officer of women’s business group the All Bright Network.
HYBR – the name is a play on ‘hibernate’ – has a mission to “fix the toxic student rental market” and is led by 24-year-old University of Bristol graduate Hannah Chappatte.
The company provides a one-stop shop for responsible students looking for accommodation and reputable landlords looking for renters.
Now in seven UK cities, HYBR has generated total sales (GMV) of more than £3.5 million from landlords and has 3,000 students on its books. It plans to scale into all of the UK’s 30 key university cities next year, before moving into foreign markets.
This is from a 24-year-old who just two years ago was giving doughnuts to students in return for feedback about how the student rental market had worked for them.
“The message from students is clear: change is needed,” said Chappatte, a Bristol English graduate. “Having a positive living experience keeps students in uni, stops them leaving their rentals early and improves the mental health of all involved – it’s a winner for students, landlords and universities.”
“Across the UK the relationship between students and landlords has broken down – we are changing that.”
Alongside matching students with rental houses – at the fraction of the cost of traditional agencies – HYBR also holds free housemate matcher events, helps with contracts, guarantors and legal support, and offers advice on anything from cleaning rotas upwards.
The £700,000 will go toward marketing HYBR (which has spent just £4,000 on marketing to date), along with salaries for a new senior team.
Chappatte goes on to say: “Landlords can de-risk their portfolio with us. Uncertain economic times mean more students, whereas professionals are more likely to be leaving their jobs. Suddenly having reliable students is a very attractive option for landlords.”
“Now we are also working with single-family lets and other types of property that wouldn’t usually be available to students.”
Before the raise, HYBR had been run on its own revenue and funding from business competition wins.
Investor Debbie Wosskow comments: “Getting to meet and invest in brilliant young woman is by far my favourite part of the work I do.”
“Hannah launched HYBR to give students the support they need to be responsible, great tenants, and I’m excited to announce I’ve invested. I cannot wait to work with her after such an impressive pitch.”
HYBR found its feet with the help of the University of Bristol’s Careers Service. Chappatte entered their award-winning Growth Support Programme, which matched her with a business mentor, provided access to professional consultants and put her through a series of workshops. HYBR won £5,000 in the University’s New Enterprise Competition in 2020.
Katie Martin, who heads up the University’s New Enterprise Competition, states: “It was clear from her first pitch that Hannah would go on to do something important.”
“Hannah has hit upon an idea with the potential to benefit 3 million students and their landlords, fixing a relationship that many thought irreconcilable. We can’t wait to see what she does next.”