In 2006, the founders of Spotify changed the way we listened to music; fast-forward ten years and the early investors of the world’s favourite music streaming service want to change the way students find overseas accommodation.
Over the past five years, Student.com, an online booking platform that assists international students in their search for overseas housing, has secured a US$60m investment from the founders of Spotify and other contributors, with the aim of digitising the student accommodation market and expanding its global reach.
The site was initially launched in 2011 by Luke Nolan, an expat living in China. But the web-based platform was rebranded last year, seeking to connect students with professional landlords around the world, and exploiting a niche in the property market that has so far been inaccessible to students.
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The new site is the first start-up investment from Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, founders of the Swedish music streaming service, Spotify. Horizons Ventures, the venture capital fund of Li Ka-Shing, one of Hong Kong’s most prolific tycoons, made contributions to the investment, and Hugo Barra, Xiaomi’s vice president of international, was also involved in the start-up.
The company claims to have taken US$110m in bookings since last year’s relaunch, and now lists properties in 426 cities worldwide, all in close proximity to 1,000 global universities.
On top of extending the company’s international exposure, the investment will focus on technology, partnerships, and the development of listed locations and offices around the globe.
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Sakil Khan, Spotify investor and founder of Student.com, told The PIE News that the company hopes to provide “the most amazing experience for the students, both in terms of technology and in terms of processes. But also a seamless easy-to-use experience around the world.”
Khan states the investors were attracted to the project by the large, untapped global market. “You have to look it over a few times to go, ‘How can there still be in 2016 such a huge opportunity of an industry that hasn’t been digitised,’” he said.
“With Student.com, we’re not only enabling international students the world over to quickly and easily find housing abroad; we’re also giving landlords a digital and global infrastructure to reach millions of students,” adds Khan.
— Ryan Graves (@ryangraves) February 11, 2016
In 2015 alone, Student.com received bookings from 100 different countries. With an estimated five million students studying abroad annually, Student.com lists in excess of 750,000 student beds for the upcoming year.
The company’s largest markets lie with Asia-based students (40 percent) looking to study in the US, UK and Australia, but it is also seeing considerable traction from Latin America, Africa and other global regions.
Luke Nolan, chief executive of Student.com, founded the platform to help international students find housing while studying overseas and encourage the outbound student flow. “If every year we can add 100 cities,” he said, “we constantly give more options for students. No matter what, if a student asks for help we’ll always try to serve them.”
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In spite of various global competitors such as Uniplaces.com and Nestpick.com, often described as the student Airbnb, Student.com stands in good stead to become the international market leader in this niche industry, with five successful years of experience already under its belt, and a hefty US$60m investment from some of the biggest names in modern business.
“Studying abroad is an incredible journey, full of excitement and adventure, and it’s fundamentally influenced by where you live,” says Nolan. “Since starting the company, we’ve helped tens of thousands of international students find their perfect homes abroad. This round of funding, and what we’ve got in store for Student.com over the next few years, should enable us to help millions of students have the best possible study abroad experience.”