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A French PropTech View with Saskia Fiszel, Virgil

3.5.22

Welcome to ‘A French PropTech View, with Elsa Vaillant our Q&A focused on French PropTech’s.

Our Q&A series is an opportunity for our French team, headed by Elsa Vaillant to discuss all things PropTech, Start-ups, and Career with different founders from across the region. Each time 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 Saskia Fiszel, Founder & Managing Director at Virgil.

Buying a home in a big city has become really difficult for young professionals. Not to say impossible. 

Even with a good salary, one needs to make untenable compromises and buy a home that’s too small, too expensive, too ugly, or too far. In Paris, a first-time buyer can only afford an apartment one third smaller than what they currently rent. 

Virgil is the best way for the next generation to reach wealth through home-ownership:

  • You pick your home. Virgil buys it with you and invests up to €100k in equity next to you. Once you move in, you truly are at home : Virgil remains a sleeping partner.
  • Virgil has redesigned the entire home acquisition process: our team is on your side at every step of the process and takes care of everything, including securing the mortgage and handling contractual formalities.
What has been your experience starting a PropTech in France?

Before building Virgil, I was part of the core team that developed onefinestay across Europe — a company which revolutionized high-end hospitality, by providing the services of a five-star hotel in private homes. In 2016, we sold onefinestay to AccorHotels for 150 million euros. 

At onefinestay, I met Keyvan Nilforoushan (at the time, Deputy CEO of the company), and he is today my business partner. 

This is also where the initial idea came from. At onefinestay, we were surrounded by young professionals, aged 25-35 years, all coming from prestigious universities and earning comfortable incomes. We realized one thing: the one deciding factor in whether they became home-owners was whether their parents were able to make a significant financial contribution. 

 

How do you feel the French PropTech market has changed over the past few years?

Real estate is a highly regulated market in France. Therefore, it took some time before French entrepreneurs started tackling it. And when they did, most of them targeted existing products and services – such as brokerages – with a goal of doing better, faster or cheaper through technology. 

In contrast, Virgil is doing something that has never been done before. We have invented a new way for young professionals to own homes, and a new asset class for real estate investors. Recently, other breakthrough innovations have also appeared: this is great news as it means the market is now ready to truly change. 

 

How are you finding the French funding landscape? What has been the process like for you when raising funds for your PropTech?

Our fundraising experience was a bit different than other entrepreneurs thanks to our backgrounds: people who invested at the first round already knew us, we were creating Virgil after several successful entrepreneurial endeavors, and we were able to easily raise funds at the very beginning of Virgil in 2019. 

At that time, investing in PropTech was not as attractive as it is today. It is great that today the funding landscape has gotten much better for PropTech entrepreneurs. 

 

How are trends within the French PropTech industry impacting your activity?

Virgil supports the new generation in one of their major life projects. We are here to help them buy an apartment that corresponds to their needs and to the way they want to live today: 

  • Many of our clients work from home: with Virgil, they have the extra room to do so
  • Young people who want to be flexible in their professional choices: with Virgil, they finance their project with more equity in order to limit their mortgage – or keep some savings aside for the day they will do their own thing.
  • Our clients are emotionally attached to Paris : they are ambitious and convinced that they want to start their career there. They are not ready for exile.

 

What are your predictions for the French PropTech market for 2022 and beyond?

The French PropTech market is getting more and more mature : 

  • 500 French PropTech startups 
  • More and more scale-ups
  • A few unicorns 

Looking at the financing part, in 2021 PropTech was already the 3rd most attractive sector for investors  and I predict that this trend will continue in 2022. On top of that, I expect some French VCs to specialize in this industry, as has already happened in the US and the UK. It is likely that some of these VCs will be tightly linked to existing real estate behemoths. 

 

What are your expansion plans for 2022 and beyond?

Virgil is relevant anywhere demand is high while supply is limited. That means most cities in the world. And we firmly intend to be in every major French and European cities. To support our growth, we have 30 positions open, driven by Virgil’s ambition and impact. 

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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