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Calum Brannan, founder of Howsy, has been passionate about tech since he was a teenager, having designed his first social network at the age of 15 and sold software to the police and banking sectors by 19.
Howsy, the serviced marketplace for renting, is his newest venture. Set out to revolutionise the way landlords and tenants interact, Howsy is making the renting process simpler, easier and better for all involved.
Here’s what the company is all about.
What is Howsy’s vision?
Our core belief is that we have a responsibility to make renting better for everyone. Whilst landlords may be paying the bills, without tenants there would be no sector!
How is Howsy bringing something new to the market?
Howsy pioneered zero fees for renters back in 2016, we launched zero deposit options and guaranteed rent for landlords in 2019 and built a customer experience that is miles away from the traditional model. But Howsy isn’t built on clever technology alone. Clever data analysis and intuitive tech help smooth the lettings journey, but we also understand that a key part of our end product means having the perfect team available to offer real life support – we offer this support to our customers 24/7.
How does Howsy solve problems for renters and landlords?
We’ve been landlords and tenants ourselves, so, we understand that lettings never stands still, and are continually working with our landlords and tenants, listening to their feedback and working on new product and tech development to keep up with the rental rollercoaster! When new legislation is introduced, like the electrical safety checks last month for example, we sprung into action to develop a product suitable for all of our landlords. They can rely on us to keep them legally compliant, at the click of a button. This is landlording made easy!
What has been the most significant growth highlight to date?
There have been some really significant years in the history of Howsy!
December 2016, just a year after the idea for Howsy was born, we celebrated our first seed investment, the opening of the London office a whopping equity crowdfund of £600k, raising in just 78 hours.
Our Coventry office opened its doors in 2017, with expansion into Manila in 2018. A rebrand in 2018 saw us move from No Agent to Howsy.
There’s been no let-up in 2019/20 for the team either, with two significant sector acquisitions – first Urban.co.uk in November 2019 followed swiftly by Upad in January 2020. Howsy now holds one of the largest databases for landlords and renters in UK – over 2 million of them.
What recent awards/accolades have you won?
We’re delighted to have been crowned Best Online Agency 2019 at the Landlord Investment Show awards last year, a real honour!
We were also shortlisted for an Amazon Growing Business Award in 2017, and Calum Brannan was shortlisted for Start-up Director of the Year at the Institute of Directors in 2018.
What new partnerships/product developments do you have upcoming?
We are always connecting with other organisations within the industry to explore how we can provide the most rounded service to our clients. From working with legal partners to delivering bespoke furniture options, we are working with the very best in the industry to deliver the most end to end service, all under one roof.
What will be the greatest challenge going forward?
Keeping up with the demand! Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, we have been hugely lucky. As an online organisation we have weathered the storm fairly easily, with all of our team able to work remotely and continue servicing our landlords and tenants almost as normal. With no staff furloughed, and the market naturally slowed, we have been able to use this time to develop new plans for the latter half of 2020, and have our fingers crossed that we will be able to get cracking on delivering them soon.
What is the primary revenue stream for the business?
Primarily, we want to ensure that tenants are able to find their dream property, and landlords are able to find their dream tenants – once they’ve found each other, we want to help that relationship run without a hitch, keeping on top of all maintenance and handling any hiccups. We charge a simple fixed fee for landlords, no one likes tricky percentages.
As the market changes, there is always the potential to move the Howsy model into different areas of the market. We are focused at providing our service to private landlords and private tenants, however, following the Covid-19 outbreak, we expect to see a significant shift in property patterns. With more people turning to the rental market for their housing options, we may expect to see more significant investors buying large complexes and requiring block management, more houses of multiple occupation and more local authority lets. Howsy’s product is perfect for all of these options.
How would you describe your company culture?
We’re really proud of the culture we have built at Howsy, which is centred across four key values: never settle, be together, be true and work hard but enjoy the ride.
We recognise that in a young company, culture is an ever-changing entity, that sets the standard for how people are rewarded or questioned, so whilst we want it to evolve, we feel that the beliefs of the company must be thoroughly understood by every employee. We believe in what we believe in, not because it’s trendy or because having a strong culture is a buzzword, but because it makes us stronger and more connected with our people, and it will lead us to a further success.
What will be the primary uses of proceeds from this round?
Howsy will continue to drive growth by investing in our proven marketing channels and building more technology to ensure Howsy remains head and shoulders above our competition, whilst driving margin improvements.
What are you doing when you’re not working?
On a Saturday morning you’ll probably find me chasing around my French Bulldog Henry around the grounds of Kenilworth castle in the town where I live.
What’s one thing you look for in a property when you rent?
For me, it’s all about finding a neutral space that you can put your stamp on with furniture, rugs, art or throws. I always try to persuade landlords to not be tempted to leave too much of a personal stamp on properties. It’s important that renters can make their mark on their home without having to paint walls or look at wallpaper that gives them a headache.
What’s your top tip for surviving lockdown?
I think it is really important to try and carve out some time alone every day. Whether that’s a walk around the block or just shutting out the world with a podcast, everyone needs a break.
To find out more about Howsy, check out the pitch.