How does the market for shared apartments look like and what can big companies learn from startups? We talk to Carsten Wagner and Natascha Wegelin, founders of the startup wg-suche.de, a portal for shared apartments, about these topics and what they plan for the future.
1. Carsten, how did you come up with the idea for wg-suche.de?
Carsten: Natascha Wegelin, who is also the founder of wg-suche.de, came up with the idea back in 2011 when she rented her own apartment to someone in Hamburg. At that time, she noticed that the entire process is really complicated and the current web portals were really old-school. Because of that Natascha asked me to build a cool and innovative portal for shared apartments together. We did that besides our main jobs in Hamburg and after 8 weeks of working at night and on weekends we released the first version of our portal. That was 5 years ago.
2. Your startup is a platform where everyone can search for a shared apartment or a furnished one to rent but do you still live in a shared apartment?
Carsten: Not anymore. But as a student I mainly lived in shared apartments. My best experience was during a semester aboard in the USA: I shared a small 7m² room for half a year with my best friend. Natascha also has a lot of experiences with shared apartments. This is very necessary because we are building a product that fits our own needs. But we also need to be careful because we are getting older, too.
3. What does the strategic partnership with ImmobilienScout24 mean for you and what are your plans for ImmobilienScout24’s investment?
Natascha: It’s a perfect win- win situation. With ImmobilienScout24’s funding we will invest into our product and marketing to reach more growth. Besides the financial investment we are gaining experience in the real estate business and that is much more valuable than any money. In addition, we receive a lot of help in different marketing and product segments from many ImmobilienScout24 employees which is wonderful as it helps us grow more and more. Also, we are getting some market power as well as traffic which is perfect for a young startup. In the future, we would like to do a lot more with ImmobilienScout24 and focus on growth.
4. Collaboration between ImmobilienScout24 and wg-suche.de already started in 2012 so working with us is not new for you. What have you learnt from a big company such as ImmobilienScout24 and what can we learn from you?
Carsten: During the last years, we learned a lot about the online real estate business and about product development and marketing for this special market. And of course, we learned about how to work with a big company like ImmobilienScout24 and how we could achieve our goals. It’s all about finding the right people at the right time and today we are really good at that. As a small startup with 4 people we need to be very pragmatic, agile and ready to risk a lot. We try out new stuff without any worries. Our curiosity drives us every day and we try to keep up this spirit. Maybe this is something that ImmobilienScout24 can learn from us.
5. How would you characterize the market for shared apartments? Are there differences between cities?
Natascha: The market for shared apartments is similar to the one for apartments. In the top 5 cities, you have a really high demand. Cities like Munich, Hamburg or also Berlin are crazy. Users receive up to 200 applications for a nice room in those cities. Outside of these cities or in smaller cities the market is less tense. We have several touch points during a customer journey because our target groups such as students or young people are very flexible. They move often to different cities for internships or semesters abroad so they make use of our services more than one time.
6. What are your tips for startup founders? What should they do to be successful?
Carsten: Find a strong partner like ImmobilienScout24. For us and our project, this was the key to success because you need more than money to survive the first years particularly when you create a market place in a special business like real estate. Plus: Do your thing and be open to learn. That is what we do all day.
7. What are your future key projects?
Natascha: Now it’s time to boost our integration with ImmobilienScout24 for more traffic and listings in our segment. And there is so much more potential. For this year, we will focus on our product and we will release some outstanding product features that give our customers an even better product experience and help us separate ourselves from our competitors. We are working on a business model with an innovative new approach in the market for shared apartments. This will be huge! Besides that, we already released an app for household organization (calendar with shopping list, accounting, cleaning plan and so on) called hubble. In the future, this app will help us to be closer to our own target group as wg-suche.de and hubble will work close together to build the ultimate experience for our customers.