Vend founder backs young Kiwi startup for international expansion
EasyRent, a New Zealand-based, double-sided and completely digital rental marketplace, is about to cross the ditch to Australia to build product loyalty with Gen Z.
With one-way tickets to Sydney, Founder Toby Thomas-Smith and Co-Founder Jack Montgomerie are risking it all for their vision of building a global, open border rental economy.
After initial setbacks, EasyRent has hit on a solution that resonates with the market, filling 65 rooms across seven cities in New Zealand in just three months. Now, the mission is to make renting a room for 1-6 months anywhere in the world a streamlined and stress-free experience.
Enthusiastic investor support
The startup has gained enthusiastic support with an oversubscribed pre-seed raise for the Sydney expansion from a list of venture capitalists and angels that reads like a Tech “Who’s Who?”:
- Vaughan Fergusson and partner Zoe Timbrell (Founder Vend)
- Jonathan Lui (Co-founder Airtasker)
- Mahesh Muralidhar (Canva, Airtasker, PhaseOne Ventures)
- Beachhead Venture Capital
- Matt Ryall (Atlassian)
- Vignesh Kumar (GD1, Apple)
- Alexander Fala (CEO Syft Technologies, Vend)
- David Howden (CEO Umbrellar)
- Abinesh Krishan (Potentia Recruitment, Angel)
- Sukhans Asrani (Founder Zorbi)
The goal of $220k was exceeded in just 14 days, closing two days before Christmas on the 23rd December 2021.
EasyRent has also built impressive partnerships with big names such as ASB, PWC and Foodstuffs, who see them as key for sourcing housing for their summer interns.
Recognising an unmet need
The idea for EasyRent, like so many innovations, was born from recognising an unmet need.
“I was in my first year at Uni and I saw a problem that I really wanted to solve. It p***sed me off, seeing my friends waste $3000 each on an empty room,” explains Thomas-Smith.
EasyRent is a double-sided marketplace connecting ‘Lookers’ with ‘Listers’ to streamline the entire sublet process to find or rent out a room for 1-6 months. The process is fully digital with virtual Facetime viewings, e-sign sublet agreements and automated rent payments through EasyRent’s open banking integration.
EasyRent targets 20 – 24-year-olds who already spend their lives online.
“Renting has always been so traditional and we’ve changed that by bringing the whole process online so there’s been no push back on that at all,” states Thomas-Smith.
It’s free for Lookers but Listers earn 90% of the rent with EasyRent recouping a 10% service fee. Thomas-Smith notes, “EasyRent is a people business. Tech is just the enabler. Everything we do is people-centric.”
See for yourself how EasyRent works:
The product about to be tested in Sydney has come a long way from the initial spark, with the usual trials by fire that all budding entrepreneurs must navigate.
“It’s been a long journey for me. I’ve been in the problem space for this since November 2018, so, like, a long time. That whole learning journey – I couldn’t even imagine where we are now from looking back then.”
Failure is not to be feared
With the attitude of failure not being an option, the original solution went live in September 2020. In his own words, Thomas-Smith says, “It was terrible. The worst solution I’ve ever put out. It was just barking up the wrong tree.”
He realised it didn’t solve the core problem, even after dedicating the entire summer and 60-70 hours a week to it.
“By February I said to myself ‘What am I doing? This is crazy! All I’m doing is burning through my savings. No one really loves it that much.’ My goal was to hit 20 properties. We hit 3. That was just not good enough.”
Just finished university, unemployed, living off savings … but Thomas-Smith discovered failure could be a positive.
“Going through that whole experience in February was just the best experience for me – because that was failure. That’s what failure felt like at that point – and it didn’t feel that bad. I learned so much and I was, like, if this is the lowest I can go, I’m more than happy to hit this 5, 10, 15 more times [to get it right].”
He stripped everything back and started again, but this time with a wealth of market knowledge under his belt.
“The best thing for me – and what surprised me the most – was that failure isn’t scary. Failure is success in my eyes because of all the learnings you have. If you don’t fail, you haven’t truly gone through it.”
Building for a new world
EasyRent aims to fill 10,000 rooms in Sydney and Melbourne by the end of 2022. According to calculations, EasyRent will be achieving $3.5 million in revenue by December if they hit their target.
Once EasyRent is proved in Australia, a mega seed round will open in July this year. By 2023, EasyRent plans to enter the United States, followed by Europe in 2024.
Thomas-Smith, Montgomerie and Founding Engineer Alex Nicholson are building for a new world, with a vision of filling over 10 million rooms by 2025 and dominating the mid-term rental market globally.
“You could live in New York, San Francisco, London and Sydney for three months at a time within one calendar year and have no barrier to entry, This is the world we want to build for.”