My Startup: Like Minded Living
Like-Minded living is a forward-thinking PropTech company that has recently celebrated its third anniversary.
In 2016, Denzel Matsaudza founded the company after his negative experience renting a room in Nottingham. They're there for the people who would sometimes rather stay at work than go back home, whether it's due to difficult housemates or a sub-standard house.
Flat sharing, they say, should never be an isolating or lonely experience. Their technological solution aggregates rents in each area, then prices properties competitively to provide tenants with the lowest like-for-like rates possible. At the same time, it offers higher-than-average yields for landlords and property owners.
Founders: Denzel Matsaudza
We sat down with Denzel to get the inside track.
Why did you start Like Minded Living?
When I was at university studying Economics, my course was a sandwich degree. This meant a yearlong work placement in industry. At the last second, I secured my dream placement with a great company, the only caveat being I had to move 144 miles away from home, without a single friend or acquaintance in sight.
I went through the stress of desperately looking for a room in a day, and gambling on a place I’d seen in the space of ten minutes. The following months turned out to be the toughest experiences of my adolescent life - I was going home every day feeling like I couldn't wait to go back to work again the next day. The house was mostly empty and when it was full, I couldn’t form a proper connection with the people that were there.
All my housemates spent most of their time in their rooms, while I’m quite sociable and enjoy a chat every now and then. I also had the regular experience of coming back home to find bits of food - mainly spaghetti - in the sink, and the mystery of things disappearing from my store cupboard.
I ended up driving 300-mile round trips going back home every weekend to be with family and friends (running up a crazy bill) - you need only ask my old boss to know how many Mondays I called in sick. And when my performance at work wasn’t great, coming back to an empty house only deepened the feeling of solitude.
I ended up quitting the placement two months early and I returned to university the following year. Here, I found there was a general consensus of discontent amongst other placement students who moved away from home for work. This made me think, "imagine how many other people go through what I went through". I wanted to help those people have a better experience - and this is why Like-Minded Living exists.
We want to be the answer for professionals migrating away from home moving to major cities, find the right place to live with the right people and conditions, in London and all over the world.
Tell us more about the tech behind the product.
We’ve spent the last few months developing proprietary software that allows us to aggregate the total supply of properties in London at any given moment. We work with real-time data, which means we know the number of homes available to let on any given street across England at any given moment.
We use these metrics to help our customers find the highest quality properties at the best possible price. We were quite alarmed to find that in most postcodes around London, especially in premium areas such as Fulham, Londoners can save on average £1,500 per year when they rent with us - without sacrificing the quality of their home, or having to live in a shady property.
Where are you at right now?
We’ve recently hired a new member to join our marketing team, making us a small team of four.
Alongside developing our technology, we've spent time working on our ability to better match people together. We have developed an algorithm that uses the scores from our ‘personality quiz’ and our ‘where would you like to live in London’ quiz to recommend our customers properties and housemates they’re best suited to.
Having agreed collaboration deals with local estate agents, we bring to the market around 10 rooms per week, processing between 150 to 200 tenant enquiries in the same timeframe, growing to up to 100 enquiries a day in peak accommodation season. Our turnover has gone past the £1 million mark, and we expect this to continue to grow quarter-on-quarter. At the moment we're based in South West London, mainly operating between zones 2 and 3, but we also have a small presence in other areas of London.
What are your aims for the next year?
We will be placing an emphasis on building a community of like-minded individuals, moving beyond South West London into vibrantly populated areas, such as Shoreditch and Canary Wharf. Operationally, we aim to expand our offering past accommodation, and include on-demand convenience services, such as dry-cleaning, essential food delivery drops, and discounts to key events in the city.
And from a social angle, we're looking to partner up with homeless charities and organise regular monthly donations such as food and toiletries drops, provided for by us and with contributions from tenants and landlords.
What's been the hardest thing about getting Like-Minded Living off the ground?
The hardest thing about getting Like-Minded Living off the ground was the sheer lack of experience in the lettings sector. I literally started without ever having granted a tenancy, or had a property on the books.
The main driver was the desire to do things differently in the rental property sector. My inexperience, however, actually turned out to be a double-edged sword. There was an added level of fearlessness, call it naivety or ignorance if you want, which meant I took chances - some which I probably shouldn't have - and placed a big bets in tight scenarios.
And while there have been some lows, the pay-off has been amazing! Everything becomes significant, and there are rewards even in the mistakes. Seeing it all come together has truly been remarkable.
Why should more people be using Like-Minded Living?
Cost, quality and living experience. These are our three core principles:
- We do not bring a property to market unless we think we can make serious savings for our customers.
- We vet all of our properties before showing them to our clients to ensure they meet our standards,
- We are people first. We care about who you live with, we understand if you can’t pay all of your move-in monies up front, and we know what it feels like to be in a large city all by yourself without knowing anyone.
How much will it cost users - and why is it worth the investment?
Our product is actually free to use for landlords in our network, and our rooms usually start from £600 up to £950 per calendar month for tenants. If you are looking for a home, or someone to manage your home, and you’ve had bad experiences in the past, we are the people to go to.
Besides saving both tenants and landlords thousands a year, we promise we are people first. We hold our customers in high regard, seeing ourselves as a servant company: we're improving our systems to allow for prompt responses to property management queries, we're enforcing housemate guidelines within our own portfolio to ensure our tenants are respectful of each other, and lastly, we are improving our customer feedback cycle to make sure we continue to improve our service.