In a week that I am recovering from the exuberance of MIPIM (I didn't want to focus on it in this column but you can read all about it here; PropTech at MIPIM), there are two big pieces of fundraising news that I’d like to talk about.
Goodlord is a lettings transaction platform for property professionals, streamlining and simplifying much of their mundane yet essential everyday admin tasks. It was only last year that they closed a £2m Seed round.
“Generation Rent has been getting a raw deal up to now. Not only are they priced out of buying a home, they are often having to deal with slow, shoddy service when they try to rent a place,” said Co-Founder and CEO, Richard White. “This funding will allow us to move to the next stage in our plan to revolutionise the way that rental property lettings are done, taking away the pain for both landlords and tenants.”
There has been so much talk of Generation Rent that it’s already a cliche, but as will all cliches, more often than not, it’s accurate; for people under the age of 40, the rental market could be the only property market they ever know.
Goodlord raising money so quickly after their last round shows how important investors consider the rental market and I think the companies who specifically help the tenants themselves are destined for the greatest success.
If you are lucky enough to be a prospective homeowner, this might not be as easy to understand as it is for Generation Rent, but put yourself in their shoes and consider, for a moment, the stress and concern that the prospect of a lifetime of renting brings with it.
Renting can cause harm in so many ways. It affects you financially, socially, emotionally and aspirationally and, in the eyes of many, it says a lot about the person you are...that’s right, there is still stigma attached to renting for a lifetime, though I doubt this will last for long.
I believe that the people who are able to empathise with Generation Rent are the ones leading the investment in this sector of the industry. Those who recognise the downsides and barriers that renters are coming up against as the years pass can see that any solution will be welcomed by the tenants with open arms. Those who can empathise already have proof of concept, and because they have proof of concept, they invest with confidence.
Nested are a London based startup who promise to sell your house for at least 95% of the market value within 90 days, otherwise they will buy it off you themselves. We buy any house, that kind of thing. This £8m brings their total investment to £11m.
By taking the hassle out of selling your home, Nested’s target market is the polar opposite of Goodlord’s. They do, however, have some mutual characteristics in the nature of their disruption; both are companies trying to ease stressful situations.
There’s the old adage that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do in life and it’s true, not least because, if you’re in a chain, selling your house is the only way you can start thinking seriously about making an offer on another.
That’s where Nested come in; they grease the wheels of the housing market for both buyers and sellers with their pledge to sell your home within 90 days.
Surviving a slump
There is one niggling concern I have about the Nested business model. There is no doubt whatsoever that it has proof of concept, just look at its American cousin, Opendoor; they are enormous and growing at pace.
Towards the end of 2016, they raised $210m in Series D funding. However, this has all taken place in a healthy, rising property market. There is no surprise that house sellers are thriving right now. My question is, what happens to Nested when the market turns and we head towards a period of slump?
If and when the market turns, Nested will be left stranded with all of those unsold properties, causing big issues for the balance sheet. I am interested to see how their model can pivot in order to confront the inevitable downturn. And it is because of this inevitability that investing in Nested is not for the faint of heart.
Both Goodlord and Nested have enjoyed previous investment rounds in the past 12 months and here they are again. Such a short period of time between rounds shows us that investors are feeling feverish about PropTech at the moment.
PropTech 2017 has already seen an unusually high amount of investment announcements and, more often than not, the deciding factor in which companies find success is quite obvious: they have business models identified as being firmly in demand and future proofed. Goodlord reach this standard with their focus on Generation Rent but, for me, Nested is slightly different. It's a risky investment yet to prove its tenacity in a negative market.
Let's see what happens in the next 12 months...