Whilst studying at the University of Bristol, my flatmate Pablo and I noticed that our friends hated house-hunting. For most people, our years spent living with friends at university are some of the best years of our young adult lives, yet we all dread having to find a house and pray we will befriend the hyper-organised type to take care of it for us. I compared finding a student home to finding a holiday home on Airbnb, where looking for a place to stay is all part of the excitement of going away. I would happily scroll through pages of properties to find a hidden gem to call home for a week’s holiday, but it was a completely different story when it came to finding my student house. So, Pablo and I sat down together and spent weeks brainstorming to see if we could build a solution.
We did our homework, and after sending out several surveys, we were shocked to discover not only how widely hated the rental process is but also how lucrative the student accommodation market is. Did you know that there are 2.3 million students in the UK and 65% of them live away from home? That’s 1.5 million students paying rent, which goes straight into university halls and the private student housing market.
I tried to leave this ludicrous idea of starting a business at 22 behind and go back to applying to graduate schemes, but my mind would always return to the same question – why is there no Airbnb in the student world?
A few months after graduating, I was in the middle of yet another consultancy application and whilst struggling to recall GCSE maths, I decided that enough was enough. I closed the application and spent the rest of the summer writing up a business plan, researching the competition and the flaws in the student lettings system, and by October, I had co-founded HYBR with Pablo.
HYBR is an online marketplace for student accommodation that connects students directly to landlords, cutting out the traditional brick-and-mortar letting agent. We automate the basic role of a letting agent to ensure that we can be up to 80% cheaper than our competitors, and that we have the resources to fully support first-time renters throughout their rental journey. This creates a win, win for everyone involved.
University is a daunting experience. It is the first time that many young people live independently from their parents and the process of deciding who we will live with and where we will live often leads to feelings of anxiety. HYBR tackles these issues in two ways to create a friction-free student experience whilst also maintaining open and transparent relationships with landlords.
Firstly, we support students both practically and emotionally. Once we find suitable accommodation for students, we provide additional services to resolve any other problems they may have. For example; we help students to find housemates, we connect students with our low-cost portfolio of tradespeople, we provide students with general university advice and we educate students on how to manage their properties to avoid any unnecessary fines or maintenance charges. We hope that by providing a safe online community we will serve as a trusted confidant for students struggling with their mental health – a problem that is commonplace at university and often largely neglected.
Secondly, we offer a wide price range of properties and keep rent prices low by reducing landlord costs (landlords no longer need to increase rent to keep up with high letting agent fees, meaning fairer prices for students!). We also open up new income opportunities for students by allowing them to sublet their empty rooms. We decided to tackle this pain-point as it is frankly unfair that students have to pay a 12-month contract when properties are often empty for 5 months of the year.
So far, we have a community of around 300 students and have already housed 125 of them with a marketing budget of only £100.
I am so glad that I decided to launch HYBR as it is incredibly rewarding to provide students with a service that I wish I had at university.
It has been amazing to receive such positive feedback from both landlords and students, especially as students are often surprised to see that we at HYBR really do care about their unique situations and want to help.
Please get in touch if you are a student looking for a home in Bristol or Gloucestershire, or if you have any questions about university, the rental process or even about launching a start-up!
If you believe in our cause and are looking to apply yourself to something new there are always new opportunities to get involved with the HYBR community. I have been really taken aback by how helpful other founders and business owners have been to me, and I am keen to help any others that could benefit from this too.
Author: Hannah Chappatte, Co-Founder and CEO of HYBR
Get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org