The story of the apartment hunt in Berlin is often a long and tedious one. It usually entails hours of searching on websites such as WG-gesucht.de. Then, after collecting the numerous required documents, you still need to be chosen from the other eager candidates.
The process I just described might sound like a necessary evil to all apartment owners and searchers. To the cofounders at lifelife, however, it is process that needs to be disrupted, and they are up for the job.
I sat down with the CEO of lifelife Martti Mela to ask him how he plans to connect the right tenants with landlords to offer apartments in just “a fraction of a second.”
Tell me about lifelife.
lifelife is the online broker that connects tenants to apartments, digitally. We provide all the services that a regular broker would provide. We do this through data analysis and crowdsourcing. With data analysis, we verify the tenants. We understand their income level and what their preferences are for an apartment. We do the credit sourcing for them, and they receive a lifelife score. With this lifelife score, we then shortlist tenants for the landlords. Landlords can specify what they are looking for as well. They can say that they are looking for a student, a doctor, a teacher, etc. It is up to the landlord to decide who is the best tenant from the shortlist that we create.
We can do all of this a fraction of a second, because the actual selection and shortlisting happens within our app.
How did you come across your idea?
Well, I have been in the real estate business for several years and have also been working in software development and in internet businesses. I found my cofounders, and we thought about going into the most conservative business that has not yet been disrupted. We studied other disruptive business models out there like Airbnb and Homejoy and how we can apply these models. That is how we created lifelife.
Are there other businesses doing something similar?
There are several new innovative companies on the market. Operating in the U.S., there is RadPad that eases the communication between tenants and landlords. In the U.K., there is Rentonomy, that does tenant-landlord matching. In Germany, there is one company similar to RadPad launching soon. In our model, we show people that the position of brokers is a thing of the past and the experienced service level can be highly increased.
What are your biggest challenges?
lifelife is launching in early November in Berlin. One challenge is how we will be able to scale this. Scaling through crowdsourcing is something that we have studied very carefully. We believe we understand it now, but we are prepared to refine and perfect the glitches before expanding to other cities. Another challenge is communication. Germany is, for a reason, a conservative country when it comes to privacy data security. This is something we need to communicate very clearly. We want to cut out the middleman between the tenants and the landlords. In order to do this, we need to rely on the data analysis to become accurate. On the other hand, we need to provide a very safe platform for the tenants.
As the founding team is from Helsinki, why did you decide to found in Berlin?
Helsinki is a wonderful city. I love it. On the other hand, the market in Finland is very small. In Berlin, we are actually in a market where there are around three million rental contracts a year. This is one huge market, and we can scale from city to city and still have the same legislation. Berlin itself is also a very exciting city in terms of the startup scene and the creative scene.
Who is financing you?
We are funded by Reaktor Polte from Helsinki. Reaktor is a creative technology company. They have 300 employees, and Polte is its investment arm and an incubator. They have a great deal resources that we can also take advantage of.
What advice would you give to other startups?
It is very important to communicate your idea with as many people as possible. The possibility of someone stealing your idea only happens when a business is at a certain stage when it can be cloned. But on an idea level, it is really important to get feedback from people who aren’t exactly your close friends. They are more open to giving you criticism. For us, this has been completely valuable.
Thank you for your time.
Image Credit: lifelife