DwellDown aims to give hope to Generation Rent

25 Jun 2018

Chris Lynch, managing director of DwellDown. Image: Shane O’Neill/SON Photographic

Our Start-up of the Week is NDRC-based DwellDown, a discovery engine for tenants and young professionals searching for a home.

“We compile data through several propriety channels to help people find the right place to call home,” explained DwellDown founder and managing director Chris Lynch.

“Our goal is to create a suite of tools that encompasses every need of the tenant when searching for a home.

‘Our ultimate goal is to create a platform that every tenant can trust and use to find the perfect home’

“DwellDown is currently the only site that offers verified user reviews on rental experiences, side-by-side comparison tools of addresses, neighbourhoods, and aggregates available lettings.”

The market

Lynch explained that DwellDown is solving problems for two separate market segments: users (tenants) and enterprise (property portals).

“Tenants are an underserved growing population,” he said. “We feel DwellDown can be the Nextdoor for tenants in large cities. In Ireland alone, there are over 850,000 tenants and the number is increasing year over year for a variety of economic and development factors.

“In the UK, they have ‘Generation Rent’, which will make up over 60pc of London’s population as of 2025. The numbers in the US are an entirely different ball game.

“Our users identify themselves as young professionals aged 23 to 34 – the majority are living in the city of Dublin.

“Many of these users are working in emerging industries such as tech, making an average wage of €36,000. This segment represents millennials and they are roughly spending between 40pc and 60pc of their monthly disposable income on rent.

“They are very interested in getting the most value for the rent being paid and being happy in the community in which they live.”

On the enterprise side, DwellDown launched its own API with MyHome.ie, one of Ireland leading property portals.

“Each country has three or more large property portals that have millions of highly engaged users. Our value proposition resonates with these portals as they look for new ways to build loyalty and trust with their users.

“DwellDown is a trusted third party that leverages crowdsourcing to bring transparency into the private rental market. We offer accurate area depictions and insights [into] the rental experiences.”

The founder

Lynch has spent the last 12 years working primarily with tech start-ups during their growth phase.

“Prior to Ireland, I worked in New York for SessionM, an enterprise loyalty platform backed by Kleiner Perkins, Highland Capital and Salesforce. I ran their third-party partnership team.

“I moved to Ireland and worked at HubSpot on the UK and Ireland channel sales team.”

The technology

In the past year, DwellDown has developed five pieces of proprietary technology: Verified Rental Reviews, Neighbourhood Insight, Neighbourhood Scoring Algorithm, Side-by-Side Comparison Tool and the DwellDown API for third-party partners.

“We also have the ability of aggregating and mapping available listings for partners, as we do for MyHome.

“We are currently in the process of testing a smart recommendation tool. This tool will use machine learning to compile data based on users’ reviews, search preferences, location and more, and will suggest suitable lettings and neighbourhoods that fit the needs and wants of the DwellDown user.”

Lynch said the start-up has global ambitions and has built its tech to scale.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a platform that every tenant can trust and use to find the perfect home. We truly believe that DwellDown can become the global discovery engine for tenants by personalising the apartment search. We will be able to do this across borders.

“An example: imagine Hans, 27, lives in Neukölln, Berlin. Gets a job in Dublin. Great news, right? Well, he doesn’t know anyone in Dublin or anything about the city or neighbourhoods. What does he do? He can share a bit of information about himself and current rental situation and we can suggest quite accurately a few places that would be the best fit for his home away from home.

“Not only will we be able to help tenants discover the perfect place to live, but we will be able to create a social network through our neighbourhood pages, helping bring communities together.

“We are live in Ireland and the UK and we are looking to expand into other international markets by the end of 2018.”

Lynch said that it is early days for DwellDown but things are going well.

“Though we are only live in Ireland and the UK, we have been visited by users in over 692 cities. We are seeing strong engagement, with 36pc of the people coming to our site converting into property creation. We launched our Neighbourhood Insight page in September of 2017 and have already mapped 73 neighbourhoods in Dublin.

“We developed and tested version one of our recommendation tool and saw 45pc click-through rate for our suggested properties. That number is extremely promising and is telling us to put more R&D into the product.”

Moving on up

DwellDown is actively fundraising and hopes to raise €850,000, which it will use to secure a development team and enough runway for 18 to 24 months.

“The majority of our tech is developed so, going forward, our focus will be on testing our selected international cities. We see the next three to four years as being very vital time in the property space as the number of tenants continue to grow.

“We believe our unique offering for both tenants and property portals should put us ahead of the competitive curve.”

Lynch said that there have been many challenges in getting to its current position.

“This journey isn’t for the faint of heart. You need to take your bumps and bruises and get on with it. It’s important to believe in yourself and your vision, because the majority of people you come across will probably think you’re a bit off.

“I’m a big fan of the Irish start-up scene and Dublin is a great city to start a company for many reasons. There is an engaged community that offers all types of support, plenty of extremely talented people from around the globe. The community is easy to navigate and the people are always happy to meet for cup of coffee to hear your story and help out.”

His advice for fellow founders is to think big. “I would say make sure you are solving a problem for a sizeable market. Follow your gut, but look at your data.

“There is no better time than now to start, but definitely validate your idea for as cheap as possible.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years