SPCE is a new renting app connecting students with homeowners local to their university campus, providing a safe and secure link between landlord and tenant.
The app protects students from entering unreliable and irresponsible tenancies, and its transparent rating system is also of benefit to landlords themselves.
Business Advice spoke to SPCE co-founders Leon Ifayemi and Omar Fahmi to find out more about what makes their student renting app such a unique venture, as well as the impressive funding efforts that brought the startup to life.
Who are you and what’s your business?
We’re Leon Ifayemi and Omar Fahmi, co-founders of SPCE – the new mobile app which promises to redefine the student house-hunting process by connecting renters to landlords quickly, safely and easily.
How long have you been around for?
Fahmi: We launched at the beginning of this year, and are just about to successfully close our first round of seed funding, having raised 130 percent of our target.
Ifayemi: However, the concept of SPCE has been forming in my mind since my second year of university, when I worked as a student ambassador connecting students with landlords and rental accommodation.
I saw a space in the market for a disruptive solution, which would solve the common problems on both sides of the student rental market, and decided that I wanted to be the person to take it.
How do you make money?
Ifayemi: Students and landlords pay a small fee for the service. Respectively one per cent and three per cent on top of the user’s rent. As the fee flexes according to rental costs we can ensure that we aren’t charging students more than they can realistically and easily afford.
What makes you different and why should people take notice of your student renting app?
Ifayemi: Students are arguably the most vulnerable renting demographic. They’re living away from home for the first time, are often unaware of what to look out for and don’t know their renter rights. SPCE not only enables students to find and secure properties quickly, it protects against them being taken for a ride.
Firstly, the app enables students to secure a property in the UK from anywhere in the world. Meaning international students can take the time to find and secure a property they’re happy with before they move the UK, preventing them rushing into a poor renting relationship.
Secondly, unlike other property companies, SPCE keeps the renting relationship online and within the app, even after a property is secured.
This means interactions between student and landlord are evidenced, so if a dispute arises and lasts for more than 72 hours, for instance over deposits, SPCE will step in and act as an impartial arbitrator.
Fahmi: This doesn’t just benefit students. Greater transparency between renter and landlord, for instance through the rating system, means it’s in everybody’s interest to play nice.
Furthermore, as students need to input guarantor details before they start their search, landlords can be safe in the knowledge that the student who has registered interest in their property is approved, so won’t waste their time.
What was key in terms of getting your student renting app started?
Fahmi: Finding the right team who were as passionate about the concept of SPCE as I was.
As a startup you face numerous knocks. Having the right people by your side who know the service inside out, can infuse others with enthusiasm about it, and have the resilience to keep going is crucial to ensuring you keep pushing forward.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Ifayemi: Raising 82 per cent of our crowdfunding target within 24 hours of launching our funding effort was an incredibly proud moment, as was surpassing our target with just under a month of fundraising to go.
It gave us confidence that other people loved the idea of SPCE as much as we do.
What setbacks have you had along the way?
Fahmi: After conducting our SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) we realised we would need to bring our launch date forward, due to interest from competition.
Inevitably this squeezed our time frames, but recognising it early on enabled us to re-assess our strategy without impacting the quality of our work.
Ifayemi: I’d also say that as a 23 year old it has been a challenge to get people to look past my age, and focus on our business proposition.
I have found that confidently taking charge in meetings and demonstrating a strong business, financial and industry knowledge has been crucial to demonstrating that my age is irrelevant to my capabilities.
In five years’ time, I will be…
Fahmi: Looking back on our SPCE journey and the successes and growth of the company. Including the diversification of our offering so that students are able to access moving, cleaning and storage services, and landlords can access an insurance offering and surveyor service.
Ifayemi: We’ll also be releasing Beta AI, and expanding SPCE into new geographical areas and related or complimentary industries. As well as getting involved in social impact initiatives to change the way governments perceive the sharing economy and develop policy.
On a personal level I also hope to be authoring tech neo-noir books!
What one tip would you give to others starting out?
Fahmi: Ensure your product has a strong USP that you believe in and can clearly define to potential investors.
Knowing your competitors is crucial to this. If you go into an investment meeting, pitch your product believing it’s unique, and are confronted with another business that’s doing the exact same thing, you’ll be left with nowhere to hide.
Who are your business heroes and why?
Fahmi: My father, who taught me that you reap what you sow. His motivated, hard-working nature, business minded practical way of thinking, and his ability to successfully provide for his family has always inspired me to do the same.
Ifayemi: Elon Musk, he’s a true pioneer and fighter, who’s not afraid to shake up established industries and has left a positive mark on every industry he has worked in through his genuine desire to make the world a better place.
Time and time again he has demonstrated that he won’t let gaps in his knowledge stop him pursing something he is passionate about. Instead he takes them as opportunities to educate himself, and I constantly endeavour to do the same.
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