Set to launch in November 2017, SPCE is a proptech solution that brings students and landlords together, automating the entire rental process from the initial property search to sending across a deposit, signing the tenancy agreement and managing day-to-day life in the property. Having successfully raised 82% of funding within the first 24 hours of launching on Seedrs in May this year, we spoke to Founder, Leon Ifayemi, on the company’s journey to date and his plans for the future.

Tell us about the company and what prompted you to start it?

SPCE is an app that brings students and landlords together, automating the entire rental process from the initial property search to the signing the tenancy agreement and managing day-to-day life in the property. It’s all about dragging student lettings out of the dark ages and into the 21st Century, offering a platform that is transparent and accessible. In doing so, it protects students from entering unreliable and irresponsible tenancies, while its rating system is also of benefit to landlords keen to vet the people they rent their property to, thereby protecting the interests of landlords and students.

The idea was born out of my own experiences as a student ambassador, where I was responsible for connecting students with landlords and rental accommodation. It wasn’t long before I realised just how long and inefficient the process was for students moving from halls into private accommodation. With millennials willingly embracing digital solutions and apps for any number of life’s tasks, I began questioning why the same innovations had not yet taken hold of the student rental market.  And let’s face it; everyone has a story or two when it comes to shocking experiences with student accommodation, which is why the basic premise of SPCE makes perfect sense.

Fast forward a couple of years (a period involving an awful lot of hard work), I’m proud to say that SPCE is primed and ready to
take the student rental market by storm, leading the next wave of proptech solutions in the UK.

You’re due to launch the app in November this year, how has the journey been to date and what has been the biggest obstacle/challenge so far?

Make no mistake – while the start-up journey is a rewarding and often life changing experience, the path is full of obstacles. Some you can see coming, others are sprung on you without warning. But as long as you keep your head down, persevere and surround yourself with other hardworking talented people, each challenge you encounter only strengths the company and your resolve to achieve results.

One recent challenge that comes to mind was the decision to move our launch date forward. Of course, this has meant achieving the same results in a shorter time frame without hampering on the quality of the service to be delivered. I’m proud to say that we are on schedule for the app’s launch in November.

Property seems to be a space primed for disruption, what is your take on the PropTech revolution?

Technological innovations have disrupted virtually every industry across the UK, be it in the financial, health or marketing industries, and what we are currently seeing are groups of start-ups leading the innovation charge. The UK property market is a complicated arena – both in the letting and buying space – and I for one am happy that digital solutions are being introduced to modernise the market. To date the sector has been pretty slow on the uptake of new technologies, which is probably because so many of the mainstream practices are burdened by slow and out-dated processes. Slowly but surely, however, people are realising there are better ways of doing things and, more importantly, companies understand that if they don’t embrace change they will get left behind.

I’m excited to see the full extent of proptech’s role in disrupting UK real estate, and am very happy that SPCE is part of the story. After all, if we’re using apps to monitor our finances, perform vital business tasks and find future life partners, than why on earth would we not use them to locate and manage rental accommodation?

As a young entrepreneur yourself, what are the challenges, and opportunities young entrepreneurs face in the UK at present? Do you feel there is enough support and infrastructure available?

As a 24-year-old, I initially found it difficult for people to overlook my age and recognise the business proposition of SPCE; this was despite my willingness to listen and take note of any advice people had to offer. This is less of a problem now, but still something I had to come to terms with during the early stages. Ideally, entrepreneurs should not be judged on their age but the product they are bringing onto the market. Age is irrelevant if you have the knowledge, skills and capabilities.

Age aside, alternative finance platforms have played a vital role in providing the growth capital needed for entrepreneurs across the UK and SPCE was certainly no exception. Our first funding round on Seedrs was a great success – we raised 82% of funding within the 24 hours of the round being launched and went on to over raise by around 35%. This was a massive boost for the company, reinforcing the core service proposition of SPCE. It also underlines how fortunate we are in the UK to have such a progressive alternative finance sector offering injections of capital into talented young companies.

And finally, what does the future hold for SPCE? Will you be looking to grow organically, or will you be looking to fundraise at some point?

There’s plenty of exciting prospects on the horizon for SPCE. In the short-term, of course, we will be officially launching the app in November – after months and months of preparation, I can’t wait to see how the market reacts to SPCE. In the long-term, we will look to diversify our offering so that students are able to access moving, cleaning and storage services, and landlords can access an insurance offering and surveyor service. We’ll also be looking to release Beta AI, and expanding SPCE into new geographical areas and related or complimentary industries.

Following the success of our first funding round on Seedrs, we are looking to build on the momentum of the app launch with a second round of funding in early 2018. Overall, we have some exciting events on the way and the next couple of months will be a defining time for SPCE as we look to completely transform the student lettings market.