The hunt for student accommodation is usually a painful one, and for most – especially those first-time house hunters – there are landlords who will exploit their naivety. It’s not hard to find a student who has experienced a nightmare in both finding and renting accommodation.
To help students in their plight for finding the right place to live during their studies, Luke Nolan conjured the idea in 2011 of Student.com, a place where students can choose the right home that provides a safe and inspiring foundation to grow and make the most of their journey.
As the start-up‘s Founder and CEO, he developed the website to offer the widest and most carefully selected range of rooms that were built and are managed specifically for students, giving them the power to explore and compare a variety of rooms across different neighbourhoods so they can make the right choice.
We spoke to Nolen to find out more.
So – in your own words – what is Student.com?
Student.com is the world’s largest online marketplace for student accommodation. We help students around the world find, compare and book their perfect homes. It’s the first platform to provide access to a high-quality living experience to students around the world. We offer more choice globally than any other accommodation platform via our website, which is currently available in 19 different languages. Students can quickly search and compare accommodation options according to their destination city or university.
Additionally, room type, price and facility filters enable students to easily sift through listings to find their ideal home. As well as benefiting students, Student.com’s platform is also hugely beneficial for student housing operators. By listing their properties or rooms on Student.com, operators are connected to students across the globe – no matter where the student is based or what language they speak.
And what’s your background?
I was born in London to Irish-Portuguese parents, grew up in Antwerp, Belgium, and spent more than 10 years living in Asia.
I worked in the Chinese real estate sector prior to founding Student.com. Before moving to Asia, I also had first-hand experience of being an international student. In London, I received a bachelor’s degree in Banking and International Finance from Cass Business School and in Milan, a master’s in International Economics and Management from SDA Bocconi.
What were your reasons for starting Student.com?
I had the idea for a student accommodation marketplace when friends in Asia asked for help finding accommodation while they studied abroad. In 2011, I founded an initial platform, Overseas Student Living, which became the first online marketplace for Asian students to access student accommodation in the UK.
What’s the story behind it?
From a very early stage we saw growing demand, both from outside Asia and to new destination countries. It didn’t take long for us to realise the huge potential to help a rapidly growing global community of international students.
How big is Student.com now?
At present, we list over 800,000 beds in properties across more than 400 cities, in close proximity to 1000 universities. Last year, the company took bookings from students in over 120 countries and has helped tens of thousands of students to date.
What notable challenges have you faced so far?
The biggest challenge to date was definitely building up enough supply to become the largest student accommodation marketplace worldwide. We carefully vet and approve every student housing operator we work with – this is a lengthy process that requires a dedicated team of expert accommodation professionals, but a necessary step to ensure we offer quality and peace of mind to any student that books through us.
Any milestones you’re particularly proud of?
Last year, we raised more than $70 million USD in funding from investors including VY Capital, Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures, Expa, Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Hugo Barra (former Xiaomi, now Facebook VR) and Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital. This was great recognition of the achievements we’ve made so far and the potential that our business has.
How have you managed monetise Student.com?
Student.com does not charge the student. All revenue comes from our property partners and is based on booking volume.
And what’s next? Will you be looking for more funding?
At this point in time, our focus is very much on enhancing our offering for students and growing the business. As the international student market continues to grow our goal is to provide the most extensive choice of accommodation possible.
And yes, will will look for more funding – if and when it makes sense for the business.