Dubai-based startup Stake is offering retail investors from across the globe the opportunity to buy fractions of rental property in UAE’s marquee city and earn regular income. The startup, founded in 2020, claims that because of Dubai’s real estate rules it has managed to attract investing users on the platform from more than 80 countries in the world.
The company, founded by Manar Mahmassani, Rami Tabbara and Ricardo Brizido in 2020, has raised $8 million in a pre-Series A round from investors like BY Ventures, MEVP and Vivium Holdings to expand its portfolio and launch in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The company first raised a $4 million seed round last year.
“This round is a testament to what we are building at Stake and our mission to bring access and liquidity to the oldest, largest, and most sought-after asset class in the world. The proceeds will allow us to expand into Saudi Arabia and Egypt, continue attracting the best talent to the team, and cement Stake’s position as the category leader in the MENA region,” Mahmassani said in a written statement.
Tabbara told TechCrunch over a call that after being in the real estate business for more than 15 years, he realized a lot of people want to invest in the MENA region but can’t afford to put in large chunks of money without paying huge commissions to brokers and developers. So he wanted to accelerate the process of investing in real estate with Stake.
The firm says it lists premium properties on its platform that are already on rent. To acquire a property, Stake looks at factors like location, build quality, view and if it has tenants. Tabbara said if the property is not rented, the company uses its data to list properties that could be rented out quickly. Stake has paid over AED 1 million ($272,249) in rental income to investors, which is credited every month.
Stake currently manages more than 44 properties with a combined value of AED 56 million ($17.9 million). The company claims that it has achieved an average 17% monthly growth rate in both investors and assets under management (AUM).
“Our platform currently boasts 42,000 registered users and more than 2,100 active investors on the platform. While we have users from many countries on the site, folks from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the U.K. and India are our top five investor bases,” Tabbara said.
Users can quickly register with the platform and invest from as low as AED 500 ($136). Because of Dubai’s investment rules individual investors can only invest up to AED 183,500 ($50,000) per year. The proptech company also limits maximum ownership by a single investor in a property to 33% to evenly spread out gains.
The firm doesn’t rely on financing to acquire homes. All the money to purchase a property comes from the investors. While Dubai’s property rule allows for partial deeds, there’s a cap of four investors, so Stake creates a special purpose vehicle for each property to facilitate deed registration. All properties usually have an investment term of five periods, but a house’s value goes up 30% in the market, and the investors can vote to sell it.
Stake’s business model relies on various fees. When investors purchase a property, the company charges them 1.5% with an additional 0.5% charged annually for maintenance. Plus, there are 0.2% Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-money laundering fees up front and 0.1% annually from the second year of the term. The company also charges investors 2.5% as an exit fee when they sell their stake. What’s more, if the property is sold at a higher rate than its acquisition, Stake takes a 15% cut from the profit. The company is not profitable yet but has achieved 470% year-on-year growth in terms of revenue.
In the next 12 months, apart from launching its platform in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the company also wants to build a second-day trading platform, where investors can sell their stake in a property to other investors. Stake is focusing on launching a way to let people invest in vacation properties that go on platforms like Airbnb — something that platforms like Komoco and Here are trying in the U.S.
In the local market, Stake’s closest competitor is SmartCrowd, which raised a $3 million bridge round in June. Tabbara claims that his company has already surpassed SmartCrowd when it comes to AUM.
“We are banking on our team, technology and experience in dealing with different properties to become the most prominent real estate investment platform in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region,” he said.