Uniplaces, a U.K. startup founded back in 2012 which runs an online booking platform focused on student accommodation, has pulled in £2.2 million ($3.5 million) in Series A funding. The round was led by prior investor Octopus Investments, which put £700,000 into Uniplaces last November.
Other investors in the Series A include Alex Chesterman (founder of Zoopla and LoveFiLM), Portuguese angel fund Shilling Capital Partners, and Rob McClatchey (former Chairman of University Partnerships Program Ltd and Managing Director of Barclays Capital). McClatchey also joins the Uniplaces board as a non-executive director.
Uniplaces has raised £3.2 million in total funding thus far. We last came across them pitching at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, two years ago.
Co-founder Ben Grech said the new funding will be used for international expansion, with Uniplaces planning to target what he dubbed “major student markets” across Europe. Currently its service covers student accommodation in just three cities in the U.K., Spain and Portugal: namely London, Madrid and Lisbon. Grech listed France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium as targets for expansion.
Uniplaces launched its website in June last year. It currently has more than 20,000 rooms on the site (so it’s managing far fewer than 20,000 properties, given student accommodation tends towards large numbers of rooms per property), with a non-specific “thousands” of student bookings processed thus far and over £5 million in revenue generated for landlords, according to Grech.
Students seeking accommodation can currently browse descriptions of properties on offer, some of which can include a ‘Uniplaced Verified’ badge — which means a company team member has visited the property to check it matches Uniplaces’ quality standards. A user reviews feature is due to launch in future.
The startup handles payment — giving students 24 hours after they get the keys to their place to raise any complaints before it transfers their first month’s rent to the landlord.
Uniplaces business model is to charge a one-off commission on bookings taken via its platform, although it also sells a premium service option to landlords in exchange for an additional membership fee — which includes things like the startup taking photos of the property so the landlord doesn’t have to.
Asked who it views as its main competitors, Grech cited “generalist classified sites” where student accommodation is listed, such as Craigslist and Gumtree, as well as dedicated student accommodation sites like accommodationforstudents.co.uk.
“There’s clearly no global player and the vision for Uniplaces is to become the global, trusted brand for student accommodation,” he added.