Disrupting the residential rental market

Read time 4min 20sec
HouseME CEO Ben Shaw.
HouseME CEO Ben Shaw.

HouseME CEO Ben Shaw has experience in entrepreneurial ventures, fundamental company valuations and analysis, trend-spotting and research as well as online communication and branding. Most recently he has made a name for himself in the tech start-up market in SA launching HouseME, a digital platform that was first launched in Cape Town and most recently in Gauteng.

HouseME's free tenant-screening - coupled with a tenant-rating system - incentivises responsible behaviour, while the online bidding platform allows tenants to bid on properties they want, and then guarantees rental payments to landlords. Landlords have benefited from a 9% upside through this mechanism to date. With its 2.5% property management fee, HouseME has grown larger than numerous traditional agency franchises - managing close to 150 rental properties, with more than 80 marketed across the country.

Shaw says: "We are very excited to have launched into Gauteng. We maintained that we'd only extend our business beyond the Western Cape once we'd proved the success of our platform, so this expansion marks a significant moment in HouseME's story. We are now fully operational in a far larger market, with new business partners, a larger team, and our incredible new management suites."

Shaw says the transparency and efficiencies realised through HouseME's platform allow "Uberised", on-demand services to be available to landlords at a fraction of traditional fees. "In Cape Town, every single landlord offered these services has chosen them over the current alternatives, and we're expecting a similar response in Gauteng.

"There is speculation that the future of business will be created in Silicon Valley. We believe HouseME might one day be seen as an example of how Africa can produce world-class business technology," concludes Shaw.

ITWeb Events spoke to Shaw about his thoughts on disruption, how HouseME has disrupted the property market in two years and why he is presenting at the ITWeb Digital Economy Summit on 7 and 8 November 2017 at the Focus Rooms, Sunninghill.

ITWeb: What is a disruptor in your opinion?

Shaw: A disruptor tears to pieces the status quo with a new paradigm for business. Using a sporting analogy, instead of focusing on improving play, a disruptor plays a different game - by changing the rules.

ITWeb: As a disruptor in the residential rental market - can you tell us a bit more about what you did, why you did it, how you did it?

Shaw: HouseME, as mentioned above, is a digital rental management platform. We are online and always accessible, handle all management required of what has traditionally been an archaic profession, and as a platform serves both tenants and landlords in providing benefits to renting.

We are passionate about fixing a fundamentally broken market which has been underserved for far too long - and we use technology to assist. We have focused on scale and efficiency - two things technology brings that the current incumbents cannot. Our offering is at a fraction of agency fees and our vision is to make renting accessible, transparent and non-discriminatory. This drives all that we do.

ITWeb: Why are disruptors considered to be a threat to incumbent business? What in your opinion should they be doing to stay in the game?

Shaw: The real question is whether the incumbents can play with changed rules. A disruptor moves an incumbent into an unknown playing field, and pits the incumbent's resources and experience against new thinking and momentum. The best way to remain relevant and growing is to develop new thinking and ask hard questions of the current business models - "We've always done it like this" is not going to cut it.

ITWeb: What do you see as the biggest drivers/motivators of change being in the next five years?

Shaw: Frustration with inefficiencies. The core of most if not all disruptions begin there.

Bandwidth is a major constraint and I think many more innovative solutions will be created as SA has access to technology and the efficiencies it brings.

ITWeb: Why did you say yes to presenting at the upcoming Digital Economy Summit? What is it that you bring to the table and what do you want attendees to take away with them after your presentation?

Shaw: I'm looking forward to talking about how differently tech start-ups see the world, and the threats that start-ups pose to established businesses because they continue to enjoy the status quo. I hope that attendees understand a bit more about disruptive strategy, and are more aware of how technology start-ups are able to challenge the most stable of markets.

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