Renting an apartment in college can be tough. Demand gets so high before the opening of each semester and if you didn’t start your hunting early on, you’d have no choice but to settle with an inconvenient location.
Malaysian friends Wen Khai, Joey Lim, and Marcus Low experienced this conundrum when they were students so they decided to foray into the hostel business after graduation. But soon they realized that providing and managing accommodation was not enough. It’s not just the supply of apartments that’s a problem, but the search process. Typically, students need to walk around the campus to check bulletin boards or hit the streets to look for “for rent” signs. It’s time-consuming and impractical.
So Khai, Joey, and Marcus teamed up with Loke Weng Leong, who owns a digital agency and development house, and built HostelHunting.
HostelHunting is a site that helps students search for accommodation within or near university campuses. Students can filter the listings by area or institution. Detailed photos and descriptions are provided for each listing. All properties are verified and bookings come with a 100 percent refund guarantee. To facilitate the booking process, HostelHunting allows students and landlords to communicate with each other through a messaging feature. The company takes a service fee for every successful booking.
“Students are having difficulty finding the right accommodation due to lack of local knowledge, poor existing sources and support. Hostel operators or owners, on the other hand, are finding it hard to reach out to students. Small landlords looking to rent out their properties do not know where to start either. So we’re here to address those gaps,” Loke tells Tech in Asia.
From just 600 property listings in a single student area upon its launch in January, the platform now has over 21,000 in its inventory in most student towns in Malaysia. It also launched in Singapore this month.
Today, HostelHunting announced it is ready to further expand with a US$500,000 seed funding round led by KK Fund. Incubate Fund and Cradle Fund also participated in the investment. KK Fund is a Singapore-based venture capital fund that focuses on seed-stage internet and mobile startups in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Incubate Fund is the largest seed-stage investment group in Japan, backed by Tencent, Yahoo Japan, Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, and other investors. Cradle Fund is an agency under Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance that manages the RM 100 million (US$23 million) Cradle Investment Program since its inception in 2003.
“HostelHunting is a first-mover in the untapped student market here in Southeast Asia. The founders have a deep understanding of the student accommodation market, and a network from their background,” says Koichi Saito, general partner of KK Fund. “The number of students and intakes are growing by close to 10 percent every year in Southeast Asia and I see massive market potential in this space.”
Loke says the team will use the funds to recruit talent, develop new site features, and expand regionally.
He says HostelHunting is in the midst of a complete UI/UX overhaul, which will be finished by next month.
He doesn’t want to disclose the markets the startup is entering next, but notes that the expansion will happen “very soon.”
“Students renting their own places for the first time is a unique experience. We believe that it should be fun, easy, and safe. We’re here to give them the best value,” adds Loke.
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