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"We enable landlords to make more money by simplifying the whole process of renting by the room instead of the entire unit." - Arnab Dastidar
We're facing a rental crisis across the country. Today, 80 million people are renting with unrelated adults whom they don't have a romantic relationship with just to cut their rental prices. There has to be a better solution. Enter co-living. Co-living is a viable way to help renters find their own space, save up, and ultimately buy a house, and new proptech is making it even easier to find the perfect rental.
Arnab Dastidar, CEO and founder of SoulRooms, joins the show to discuss how technology can connect people to co-living opportunities, and also helps landlords earn more for their properties by renting per room instead of per unit, while creating more affordable accommodations for renters.
What we talked about with Arnab:
[0:00:15.9] NS: Welcome back to Sync or Swim, I'm your host Nicolina Savelli and you're listening to Get Synced where I take a tactical approach to helping those in multi-family improve their marketing and advertising efforts, and today I have... Arnab Dastidar with me who is the founder and CEO of Soulrooms, an internet listing service, which allows properties to list their rental units as co-living spaces, and is now available as an ILS connection through Ad Syndication with Rentsync. Welcome to the show Arnab.
[0:01:12.4] AD: Thanks a lot, Nicolina, for having me.
[0:01:15.0] NS: No problem. Now, before we dive into this conversation around Soulrooms and what co-living is all about, do you mind telling us a little bit about your background, the work you've done in your career, and really how it led you to ultimately create Soulrooms?
[0:01:29.4] AD: Absolutely, so my journey really starts as a young engineer out of a premiere engineering college in India and work cross both multiple segments of real estate development, investments and acquisition strategy across the world, including India, Singapore, China and Middle East. And then there was a time when I was consulting across both, and I realized that one thing, which I really loved doing over and over in my life, is problem solving and really taking on challenges, and that's how I started earlier a company, which was construction technology, sold it to a really great logistics partner in there and moved to North America to pursue higher education in here and before starting Soulrooms worked across both real estate investment led acquisitions up over 250 million of residential real estate assets before really seeing another big problem, which excited me and jump to Soulrooms. And it's a funny story that till the time it hits you, you don't see the problem, it's available, like it's there and your own world. But what happened is, I was talking to this random stranger on a Facebook group while we were graduating from our MBA dormrooms, I would say, and after 15 minutes of chat, this person asked me to wire $1000 in their account.
[0:02:56.9] AD: And that's when it hit me. I had this whole idea of getting the basic need in a metropolitan city like Toronto is so difficult, and everyone in our cohort was going through the same problem and over and over, pairing people and putting them together and how they were trying to navigate all this scammy places where you can either go lucky to wrong, there is no right in there. So we really put together a team and here we are, with Soulrooms there.
[0:03:31.1] NS: So let's dive into soul rooms a little bit more and kinda talk about its unique value proposition as an ILS, and why you say... And I quote, "It's like the Uber Pool for real estate." Can you walk me through that? I know that that's the pitch that most startups have to come up with, but I really feel like that's true. It is the Uber Pool for real estate. So tell me a little bit about that and how is it so unique?
[0:04:00.3] AD: Yeah, so it's really interesting because the way we have structured Soulrooms, there are two perspectives to it, right, so from a consumer, and we call them consumers, that people who could really use our platform to really simplify their lives and jump through the challenges which I personally face about almost getting scammed over there, while the other whole perspective is our clients like who are institutional investors who are some of the largest landlords in Toronto we work with, and what Soulrooms has given them, and we have spoken to almost more than 150 landlords before developing the product, which really tweaks the need, and more than 500 consumers who use the platform, so what it enables for the entire ecosystem is a very robust technology infrastructure, which enables landlords to market, lease up, and then manage any traditional unit which they have in their portfolio as rooms. So we enable landlords to make more money by really simplifying the whole process of renting by the room instead of the entire unit where they're not able to capture that extra income, which they are able to generate through this model, while for the consumer sides, it's Uber Pool because when you click on an Uber Pool, what you get is a right ticket sized travel option, and the back-end of Uber actually generates that extra value by pairing people in the right point in time and at a ultra high speed, which we are able to mimic through our technology, where any traditional unit which is coming, you don't need to give us, as simple as it sounds like, you don't need to give us the room pricing, we can actually mine the entire data of the neighborhood. We take your unit price like a property price, a three-bedroom unit, four bedroom unit, or two bedroom unit price, and our technology will price room A, room B, and start marketing it on a marketplace, and at the same point in time, once something is booked... It generates a score, which immediately accelerates the second room to be filled, giving your unit up to great boost in terms of marketing, and that's simply the reason we rent three times faster than any traditional rental method, and go from a single-unit rental to a great marketplace, which solves a problem for consumers as well as enables our clients to make more money.
[0:06:32.8] NS: Yeah, I mean, if you think about the average time to lease, I'm sure you're cutting that down by significantly with just that technology... Right, so that's really, really amazing. And I'm sure a lot of manual work is now taken out of that process with this offering that soulrooms provides property owners. So, I'd like to turn our focus a little bit around the idea of co-living and co-living rental spaces. And why you think co-living rental spaces are increasing in popularity, and how do you see them growing long-term?
[0:07:04.8] AD: Yeah, I think... I personally am not very big fan of just saying co-living spaces, I think co-living is a reason of more significant underlying problem which the society is facing, which is a rental crisis, which is going on across the board... It's been 100 years people have in doing this, but the fun fact, which I would like to mention in here is 80 million people today are renting with unrelated adults who they don't have a romantic relationship with just to cut their rental prices down. And now this number over the last decade or so is increasing by 16%, and the reason behind it is the new people, the young generation is of course more flexible, they enjoy sharing economy, there are more acceptance to that, and then this is a really, really viable way to now save up and ultimately buy a house and cut down the whole 20-year timeline, which you keep on hearing and all those national newspapers to buy a house for a millennial, so co-living just comes up as an option, and as people have done it, but this underlying problem which we are trying to solve is providing a really great, awesome experience to get a right ticket-sized item without going through a second re-marketplace for most of the our consumers. And of course, as real estate becomes a commodity, which is more getting scarce by day, it will continue to grow and with better sustainable practices, with better environmental awareness, I do see more and more people are doing it, and we enable more and more landlords to pursue that so it is bound to grow from here.
[0:09:03.2] NS: Yeah, absolutely. You hit the nail on the head there with a lot of the points you just made, and I think we talked about this in the prep call, my brother, he was renting my basement and now he's living with my grandfather and he's... Priced out of the rental market, and unless he has other options, he wants a good quality of living, he doesn't want to live in a basement necessarily, or he's got standards, so this gives him those opportunities and he's 27 years old, he really is in the middle of that age group that's struggling right now, and that's when they start to think about renting or buying a house, and it's like. Well, I can't do that based on my... I've only been working really full-time for maybe three years, if that, so it's really important to have those opportunities in the market for them to get their foot in the right direction.
[0:10:00.7] AD: Right. And funny that you mentioned that Nicolina, about your brother our average Soulroomer is 28-year-old, young professionals, and they really enjoy these connections, it's not only right housing and saving on money and good quality, but also meeting people who can drive you to success at some point in time.
[0:10:22.9] NS: Yeah, and we'll touch on that a little bit later in this conversation too. So obviously, we know affordability is a major concern for many of those looking for a co-living space. In your opinion, what are the types of properties that are the best fit as a listing on soulrooms, and are there any limitations to who should list?
[0:10:44.3] AD: So of course, I say anyone who is basically looking at a multi-family property, which is two bedroom or more is good to list on soulrooms.com, we have our own algorithms on how it works, and essentially what we are doing is we are bringing more right, ticket-rized items into the market and reconfiguring the Real Estate pool, which is available to rent, which is two things which it comes up again and again, maybe really simple, and as a thumb rule, which we realize is, any location that is very critical, is any location where people can reasonably live without owning a car, it's a really great fit for listing on soulrooms.com and gets really rented within seven days and stuff, and the second is any location where a studio is available above $1000 works as well, studio is cheaper than $900 and all, people have more options in those markets, speaking generally of the base salaries in North America, people have more options in those areas, but wherever the studios are above $1000 and $1200, which is in the case of Toronto, Vancouver in a lot of other cities. Soulrooms really works like a charm.
[0:12:14.1] NS: Awesome, so I know Soulrooms vets each tenant application. Can you talk about a little bit the vetting process and how you ensure reliable tenants are renting these units.
[0:12:36.4] AD: So a part of the solution which we try to create is not only to create an extremely fast, smooth experience online, but also to create a great level of safety and security into it, and it sounds like a really wicked question where two things, okay, you need to ensure this huge component of the right people coming in while making it fast as well, not leaving out bits and pieces. We really created a process where you can book really fast while you have a system which actually integrates with your bank accounts directly to generate a more holistic financial view, and identity view, which only credit score sometimes cannot provide. So our technology integrations really can pull in data from your booking, then can also take care of if you're coming from other country or our consumers that are across the world, we are currently known in UK, Brazil, India, and a lot of people really recommend us there. We are able to take all their existing financial aid and generate a rental score to do that, and the other part of it actually goes from there on is because there is a constant interaction in the community and improvement in profile, we really are able to make sure that constantly the right kind of people are entering and approved in the community as well. So it's basically first level of checks, which all the landlords actually want to check, we make sure it's like 3X or 4X that control while making it really fast and smooth without asking for a bunch of documents, because you need to give one connection... Our system takes care of it all...
[0:14:26.9] NS: Perfect, perfect. And in addition to this, Soulroom applications are also sent through your proprietary algorithm to match roommates up, can you walk me through how that algorithm creates these potential roommate matches without giving away your actual algorithm and what is it looking for? I guess one, matching roommates, are you... What are the qualifying things like age, job, income, what are the things that you're looking at?
[0:14:53.8] AD: Oh, we are looking at at this point, more than 150 data points to really watch those, and the first thing is basically happens because when you're living with someone... I was joking with one of my friends that we have lesser liability than Tinder, but more, because now you're not really meeting on a date, you are actually living with someone, you're beyond that, and then we really like to look into perspectives of how you want to... So habits is one major thing, the second is your personality and how you were you and the third is where you want to be essentially in your career. So these three things to sum up all those 150 points, it really gets into... And the beauty currently, what we have done with over the second product launch, which has recently being released, is basically you can do that before even booking the room, so essentially the first set is you can find your soul room using "Find a soulroom" option, and then you can also connect yourself through your social profiles and a basic, very simple questionnaire, which run systems like national landlord processing, which runs your regular updates and understands you as a person, and then gives a match score on the units or rooms which would fit the best with you, and that really solves the entire problem to chat with 100s of people on Facebook groups and trying to figure out whether this is the right person or not, because we know who you are at this point, and who are the people who are living with us, and again, the beauty of it is it improves with time, the longer you live with us, the more we would know your data points, the better we can match it with people, and that's how it goes.
[0:16:47.3] NS: Awesome, so what's a good match score? What's a good one versus a bad match score?
[0:16:52.3] AD: Yeah, like anything above 80% is good, that's it. To be honest, it's very difficult to get 100% match. If we give 100% matches, it's almost impossible. But yeah, anything above 80%, and most of the people who are actually coming to Soulrooms are pretty easy going too, so that really helps in the whole putting together people thing.
[0:17:24.2] NS: Perfect, okay. So you've spoken to this a little bit, but when I did some research, I noticed that one of your key missions with Soulrooms is building a sense of community around those who use your service, can you explain what that means a little and why it was so important to your overall vision for the company.
[0:17:42.8] AD: Because our clients want more longer term customers, so the whole crux is basically we want to support or clients to continue making that additional income and have a hassle-free experience while renting rooms instead of entire units because they are really... Like most of our clients are more than a decade, more than 1000 units, 20000 units under their portfolio and really sees that they rented entire units, but the only thing where we do the long-term rentals better is basically we make sure that consumers are also feeling included and treat this as a long-term home, so the community... So what happens from the consumer side, for us, most of the people actually join Soulrooms for convenience because it's so easy to click a button and then get a room, but they stay there longer, which leads to higher returns for our-clients because of the community, which we are trying to create as a core of our business.
[0:18:48.3] NS: Yeah, that makes complete sense. Awesome. Earlier, I mentioned that soulrooms is now available as an ILS connection through Rentsync's ad syndication tool. What led you to Rentsync or vice versa, and... Did we come to you... Did you come to us? Why did you think it was important to offer so rooms via ad syndication, given that it's unlike many of our other ad connections...
[0:19:12.5] AD: Oh yeah, so it's really interesting. I got introduced rinsing when I was working with one of the large landlords as an Asset Manager, and I really felt this is brilliant because it not only solves forever marketing effort to like market in a lot of ILS' and create good internal deal flow, but also it just organizes the data really well, and when we were working on the project side and go to market side for soulrooms, this... This channel naturally came to me because even though it is not similar to other ILS', but Soulrooms itself is a new marketplace which is coming to everyone, and we want all of the institutional investors and property owners and landlords to make the best use of it... And given the... You need to reduce friction, I'm like a big fan of reducing friction in all areas possible and Rentsync reduced friction for these super busy landlords to really push data wherever they want to, and Soulrooms definitely fit in as a key. And when I spoke to Jason about the idea, it was really fascinated that how we are trying to give another tool to all these landlords to really improve their returns and do something more creative when they're existing inventory...
[0:20:45.1] NS: Yeah, you are obviously speeding up the process and using technology to do so is something that you care about a lot, so it makes a lot of sense for you to use ad syndication as a channel for soul rooms. So finally, what is your future vision for soul rooms? Do you have any big plans in the road map ahead for property owners and renters that they can look forward to?
[0:21:11.2] AD: Yeah, sure, we as a company, definitely want to solve for the entire rental crisis happening in major cities across North America, and we want over 25000 units trading on soulrooms.com over the next couple of years, we already have a pipeline of around 10000 units as of now, and growing by the day. We recently actually started expanding to benefit as well with a new building which has coming up there for all of our clients, we love feedback and we are hearing all of them, and the interesting part, we have a direct Slack chat support right in the back end where our units are pushed in, so where all of them we're doing product releases and improvements by the day, so we... From here on, really want to just be supportive of our consumers as well as our clients to make the most of other technology which we have put together.
[0:22:18.0] NS: So making sure that they're educated, and that's something that I think every technology company startup struggles with, but it's a priority because not everyone knows what the tools that they have right in front of them, so I think that's really important. So Arnab, it's been a pleasure chatting with you today, but before you go, can you please let listeners know where they can connect with you, either online or through email or... On LinkedIn.
[0:22:45.0] AD: Yeah, I think all channels are open, they can directly email me as well, whoever wants to know a bit more about Soul rooms are interested in knowing what we are up to and how they can use the platform to their benefit, they can write directly to me at Arnab@soulrooms.com, and then LinkedIn, Twitter, all channels. I try to be as responsive as possible across both, but please forgive me if I take a bit longer to get back to you.
[0:23:19.8] NS: I think they'll forgive you. Well, awesome, thank you are again, for taking the time to join me on this episode of get synced. And until next time, keep swimming.
E78:The Housing Pulse: Toronto Star's Business Reporter on Canada's Rental Landscape
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