Whereas many individuals look again on their college days with fondness, the one factor they in all probability do not miss is the scholar lodging.
If it wasn’t grotty, it was too costly, or usually each.
Recalling their faculty days, buddies Miguel Amaro, Ben Grech and Mariano Kostelec all say that their greatest downside was discovering someplace to stay within the first place.
“Our expertise was horrible,” says 28-year-old Englishman Ben.
“As a global scholar from Argentina, Mariano needed to pay 12 months’ hire up-front to get his place in London.
“In the meantime, Miguel [who is from Portugal] booked some random super-expensive residence in Nottingham as a result of he did not know any higher, and I used to be trying across the streets of Nottingham knocking on doorways looking for a spot.”
Whereas it was irksome on the time, a yr after graduating from their respective universities – Miguel and Ben from Nottingham College, and Mariano from King’s School in London – the three males realised that there was a enterprise alternative.
They got here up with a plan to create an internet market matching college students with lodging.
Ben says: “It was clear that individuals have been doing extra on-line and that marketplaces equivalent to Airbnb have been an incredible answer for journey, however discovering lodging was such an issue for college kids all over the world.”
So in 2011 the three began work on their enterprise and web site Uniplaces.
The trio invested round £50,000 – a sum whipped up from their financial savings, scholar loans and assist from dad and mom.
To avoid wasting on prices, the boys stayed at Miguel’s dad and mom’ vacation house in Ponte de Lima in northern Portugal, earlier than taking part in start-up competitions to win free workplace house, first in Porto, the nation’s second metropolis, after which within the capital Lisbon.
Later that yr they received first spherical funding of 200,000 euros ($215,000; £172,534) led by the founding father of UK property web site Zoopla.
From there it was all the way down to enterprise, getting a everlasting workplace in Lisbon, and wooing landlords to hitch the positioning and checking properties.
The Uniplaces web site was then formally launched in 2013, with an preliminary 50 properties within the Portuguese capital listed on the positioning.
Mariano, 28, says: “We picked Lisbon as our first metropolis because it completely made sense to remain [and open headquarters here].
“It’s a low value, good location with entry to nice expertise such nearly as good engineers, and other people with wonderful language abilities, which is nice when coping with so many worldwide college students.
“For the primary hundred plus properties we truly went spherical them ourselves with our cameras taking photos, cleansing the locations up and asking individuals to get out of the room.”
Fee primarily based
College students utilizing Uniform pay one month’s hire upfront by way of the web site, and the sum goes by way of to the owner 24 hours after they transfer in. Thereafter they pay on to the owner.
Uniplaces takes a service price of 20-25% of the scholar’s first month’s hire, after which a fee of 5-12% of the overall worth of the contract from the owner.
Greater than half of all properties featured on the positioning are nonetheless verified by Uniplaces employees who go to the property to take photos and movies, draw up a flooring plan and stock listing.
Since its launch, three million nights have been booked by way of the platform, which at present lists over 40,000 properties.
Revenues grew four-fold in 2016 in comparison with the earlier yr, however with the cash being reinvested into the enterprise Uniplaces is but to show a revenue.
The corporate, which now has 132 workers, has additionally continued to draw the eye of traders. Final yr it acquired $24m (£19) in its fifth spherical of funding.
The capital has been used to fund enlargement, construct model consciousness, fine-tune the product, and appoint further employees.
Nevertheless it hasn’t been all plain-sailing for the three entrepreneurs. Initially they have been too bold and tried to broaden too shortly.
Miguel, 27, says: “We needed to be a world start-up so we shortly launched in 70 cities. However then you definately begin compromising.”
With properties unfold throughout so many cities, they have been not capable of confirm sufficient of the properties.
Miguel provides: “Traders need outcomes, however then you definately realise it is advisable focus and ship an excellent expertise for the client and ensure landlords’ properties are getting stuffed up.
“That helps develop a extra profitable firm. It is a steadiness of ambition. We need to get out to the world however we’ve to stage it. So in 2016 we went down to 6 cities and targeted on them.”
At the moment the enterprise has expanded again as much as 15 cities – London, Manchester, Nottingham, Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Rome, Bologna, Milan, Paris, Berlin and Munich.
Jack Wallington, neighborhood director at scholar neighborhood web site, The Scholar Room, notes that lately scholar lodging has modified dramatically.
“Devoted corporations have popped up providing purpose-built scholar flats throughout the UK and different lodging companies.
“Alongside the usual mixture of landlords it may be onerous for college kids to know who to show to and belief. Uniplaces is pretty modern as a result of its curiosity lies extra with the scholar, supporting first-time renters to seek out good offers.”
Whereas Uniplaces retains world ambitions, Mariano says that in the intervening time it’ll give attention to Europe.
The bold trio even have visions of making a extra wide-ranging college model.
From subsequent yr college students will obtain a welcome pack together with helpful supplies equivalent to a sim card, and a journey card once they arrive at their new digs.
There’ll even be the launch of an app the place Uniplaces model ambassadors shall be available to reply any questions college students might need about their new metropolis.
Additional within the pipeline are plans to allow college students who might need booked to hire a room in the identical property to construct a relationship by way of social media earlier than they transfer in.
Ben says that the goal of such initiatives is to make renting scholar lodging by way of Uniplaces as “welcoming” as doable.