In July 2020, two leading lettings technology disruptors - Vouch and Goodlord - announced that they were going into partnership. Now, 18 months on, they look at how that came to be and what Vouch joining the Goodlord Group has meant for both their businesses and the lettings market at large.
Where they came from
Vouch was founded in 2017 by former letting agents Simon and Jaime Tillyer. It provides a fixed-cost hybrid referencing solution that saves agents time without the need for outsourcing, as well as providing access to commission-based revenue streams.
Goodlord, founded in 2014 by Tom Mundy (now COO), Richard White and Philip Mundy, and now led by serial entrepreneur William Reeve, provides software that allows agents to manage the whole pre-tenancy process in one place, including contract generation, digital payments, referencing, insurance, and rent collection.
Prior to the acquisition, both businesses were scaling rapidly and gaining market share across UK lettings. The question on how best to continue meeting the needs of small letting firms was at the forefront of both CEO’s minds.
How the partnership came to be
As Simon Tillyer, MD of Vouch, explains, joining the Goodlord Group came about organically - a fortuitous meeting of minds rather than being the objective from the start.
“We were already in conversations with Goodlord about offering integrations between our services to make the experience better for customers,” Simon comments. “But the more Jaime and I got to know William and the team, the more we could see that our visions for the future of the industry, as well as our company cultures, were closely aligned.”
William Reeve, CEO of Goodlord, concurs: “When considering partnerships or acquisitions, alignment of values and vision is critical. If two businesses are able to recognise that together things can be even better for everybody, you’re already halfway there. That’s exactly what I felt when I met Simon and Jaime. It sounds corny, but it was a genuine meeting of minds.”
Jaime Tillyer, Vouch Director, adds that Vouch had been courted by other companies interested in acquiring them previously, but that those conversations never got far. But, with Goodlord, “it was like walking into our own HQ in Sheffield”, Jaime says. “There was a similar energy and ethos to our own, which immediately gave us and our team reassurance that these would be great people to work with. And it was clear from the outset that William would be able to take our business and vision to the next level.”
William cites this ‘next level’ test as the most critical point in acquisition discussions. He comments: “There’s no point acquiring another business if its trajectory will remain the same regardless of your involvement. You need to know that you can help it unlock a new frontier of growth that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. We were confident that we could bring things to the Vouch party, for instance in insurance, where we are very proud of our capabilities."
"I was also incredibly confident that Simon, Jaime and their team, alongside both their experience and technology, would bring a lot to the Goodlord party - their approach is at least three years ahead of anything else we had seen,” he adds.
What the last 18 months have brought
With the partnership being announced just after the first Covid lockdown, finalising the process was not “without challenges” according to Reeve. “It obviously came about during a very tricky time for the industry,” he says. “Lettings was just picking itself up from the floor and all the uncertainty had caused some delays. But neither party lost confidence that this was the right move for both businesses.”
Since joining forces, the businesses have grown at a rate of more than 100% annually, with client bases and product offerings continuing to expand. Overall, the Goodlord Group, which includes Vouch, now supports around 1 million individuals and handles references on behalf of several thousand letting agents. It’s poised to become the industry's biggest player.
Integrating services and tapping into each other’s product offerings has been critical to this growth. A two-way integration of their respective technology platforms was announced in July 2021, meaning users of the Goodlord platform can now use Vouch’s fixed-cost digital referencing solution, and Vouch is also able to provide Goodlord customers access to commission-based revenue streams, such as its home move assistant, a portal designed to ease the transition of home services for tenants.
Reeve comments: “We’ve collectively been able to offer customers more. Whether that’s stronger insurance options or new revenue streams - we’re increased the choice and impact of our product suite.”
Simon concurs: “Goodlord has a brilliant technology team and we’ve been able to tap into that capacity and expertise to speed up the delivery of our product roadmap. Likewise, our popular features can now be leveraged by their customers. It’s a win-win for the industry.”
But despite intertwining their technology offering, both companies were clear on one thing: the brands remain separate. Simon explains: “At the end of the day, we are operating different business models and these appeal to different types of customers. It was important to protect that and ensure customers can still choose to partner with the brand which works best for them.”
What’s coming next?
Both CEOs remain bullish on the continued benefits the partnership will bring.
“Joining the Goodlord group has been a fantastic fit both culturally and commercially, and we are all very excited about the future. If navigated correctly, the next year could be huge for the property tech space”, Jaime predicts.
William concludes that there is still “much more to come from the Goodlord Group in 2022” and that “bringing Vouch into the group is something to celebrate.” He adds: “We knew from the beginning that we had alignment, but we’ve translated that into an integrated platform and an integrated business, while preserving the two leading brands in our space. In M&A terms, that’s a very tough recipe to get right, so to have achieved it alongside Simon and Jaime is something to be proud of.”