Our Q&A series is an opportunity for our European team, headed up by Dilan Omari to discuss all things PropTech, Start-ups, and Career with different founders from across the continent. Each week we will ask PropTech innovators burning questions and quiz them about their product, we hope you find it insightful and enjoy getting to know the founders as much as we have.
This week we have been in touch with Dr. Josef Vollmayr, Co-Founder & Managing Director of limehome.
At limehome, we design a better place for people who want to change their way of travelling, living and working. With our premium apartments furnished in a contemporary look, in high quality, and at exceptional value for money, run by our radical digital operating model. We also provide a better place for people to grow, have a lasting impact and fun together. We encourage our limehomies to host with heart and shoot for the stars. This enables us to achieve our vision of being the most loved brand in travelling, accommodation and serviced living. Where we are making stays more enjoyable for everyone through our digital-enabled guest journey. We support mindsets with innovative ideas and big dreams which question the status quo. This is the culture we live in. Through our Tech DNA, we are live in more than 90 locations in Germany, Austria, Spain and the Netherlands – and this is just the beginning.
I co-founded limehome in 2018 together with Lars Stäbe and this was a major step outside my comfort zone. Before founding limehome I was working at McKinsey, where visiting clients across Europe basically every week was part of the job. So naturally I racked up quite a bit of stays at hotels in various European cities. Seeing myself that the conventional, manual customer journey wasn’t as seamless as it could have been, I understood that there was inherent potential for disruption. I also realized that outside of work, I preferred alternative accommodation options despite their typical flaws. From our point of view there was a clear market niche for a technology-enabled apartment concept in Europe, so we quickly founded limehome to be a first-mover in this burgeoning market and novel asset class. Therefore, I was rather new to the sector.
I am Co-founder and managing director. Together with Cesar de Sousa Freitas, my Co-MD, we are jointly responsible for the strategic orientation of limehome. While Cesar is focusing more on finance, tech and HR, my emphasis is on our expansion, operations and marketing. A major part of the role, however, is about enabling and developing our team members, hiring the right people and implementing a high-performance and fun culture with our teams. Last but not least, the role needs to fulfill external needs in representing limehome to investors, business partners, the media and the European Proptech View.
After spending more than 1000 nights in hotels and having had experience of other industries on how technology can automate processes and elevate customer experience, we knew from the beginning that there was a gap in the hospitality market. We therefore decided to test an initial version of our product very early on to see how guests would react to it. Our first guests’ feedback was (surprisingly) good across business and leisure travelers alike. Armed with this initial feedback, we quickly realized that what came to be limehome would be a great service to make things easier for business travelers and leisure seekers alike and so we noticed early on that we were on the right track. Looking back on the past three years, our digital journey now is on an entirely different level, as we started without significant automation of the backend processes – which we now have. Also our physical product made huge strides, both in our design and in terms of quality and the level of costs.
While the demand side is not a problem, our bottleneck is rather the supply / real estate side, as we are rolling out our technology and product in properties.
I think we have similar challenges as many innovative companies in this space. For example, the decision cycles on the real-estate owner and investor side are still very long and patience is not necessarily one of my virtues. Also the market is very fragmented and intransparent and thus personal relationships matter a great deal. Likewise, financing conditions are crucial to a deal, not necessarily the best economic concept.
First of all, we hope that the impact of the Corona pandemic on all of us and also people’s travel behaviour in particular will slowly abate. Although we were able to cope well with the situation and are growing according to plan, our business is based on travel.
Secondly, limehome as a company is again going to reach a new growth stage – now we have more than 100 properties across Europe and that requires constant improvement of our internal processes. But also externally we will continue to grow – we are planning to expand into two additional European markets in 2022.
Thirdly, on top of our web-based app, we will also roll out a native app for our guests, which is going to further elevate the digital experience of their stay.
We want to make stays more enjoyable for everyone and “everyone” definitely includes Europe. We want to be present with a limehome in all relevant cities in Europe over the next few years.
There are three main factors influencing the sector this year.
First and foremost, inflation: Sky-rocking energy prices and construction costs are making investment decisions much more complex. In this regard, ongoing projects might need to get reassessed. As a direct consequence of inflation, capital will also get more expensive.
Secondly, it will be interesting to see what the post-covid work environment will look like. It’s still hard to predict to what extent home-office policies will last, but this year will show. The outcome of this will have a large impact on many PropTech startups directly but also indirectly through investment decisions into residential and office assets.
Thirdly, ESG in general and energy efficiency remains a key topic. The rising social and political pressure on CO2 targets has started to become a real economic lever, due to the now much higher energy price.
The year will continue to be especially turbulent, but times like these offer opportunities for innovative companies in this space to grow.
Just do it, there’s a lot to do but you have to bring some persistence to this game.
In addition – having a network within the industry is important. Start building the network early on or bring someone with an existing network into your venture.
It’s good to see that the dynamic of the US fundraising environment finally also came over to Europe. European Funds now have much more access to capital for late-stage investments. It’s also great to see that multiple tech hubs in Europe and even within Germany have developed. This is definitely a great foundation to keep and attract international talent and secure long-term innovativeness across Europe. However, I have to admit that I am sometimes lacking the creativity to understand some of the valuations (with sometimes three-digit revenue multiples) in the market. As such, there seems to be a high capital deployment pressure in certain business verticals.
LMRE are specialist PropTech recruiters, if you need help growing your business or making any key hires please get in touch via the form below!
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