When GO p.l.c. launched its GO Ventures initiative last year, it intended to provide the medium that could help innovative ideas flourish and become tangible realities. “What we never imagined was that we would end up supporting disruptive ideas that can also challenge the status quo of certain long-established sectors,” says PAUL GRECH Senior Manager of Strategy and Insights at GO.
“Notwithstanding the current challenges in all markets, there’s a digital revolution out there and our drive remains that of being at the forefront of this revolution. Through GO Ventures, we keep pushing the private sector to remain a protagonist whilst helping to nurture and retain home-grown talent,” says Paul Grech who at GO Ventures is tasked with the financial analysis and assessment of the strategic viability of proposals.
Recently, GO Ventures concluded an equity financing deal with a new start-up called Sqmeterz, an online marketplace for mid to long-term property rentals. Sqmeterz is committed to deliver an instant, enjoyable, transparent and above all, affordable experience to those who want to rent a property.
“Perhaps the strongest element that is set to make this new platform successful is that Sqmeterz is guaranteeing low fees for landlords and zero fees to tenants. This, coupled with the innovative way of how the platform is set to disrupt the local rental market is what attracted GO Ventures to invest in this proposition,” added Paul.
“There is no doubt that the rental market has been growing rapidly with the proportion of younger tenants, known as Generation Rent, increasing markedly. Renting is not exactly cheap with tenants and landlords bearing a significant share of the total transaction costs. This is from where I set out and I was determined to do something about it. So together with my father and my brother, we started working on how to change what was a very long established and traditional marketplace. That is how Sqmeterz was conceived,” reminisces Luke Curmi,” the brains behind Sqmeterz referring to the origins of his start-up as “a purely family affair”.
Describing what led him to embark on this project, Luke explained that he wanted to mainly address three current pain points in the local rental market namely the exorbitant fees, the laborious and time-consuming viewings and the lack of transparency.
“I have shared the experience of personal friends of mine. Renting property is becoming increasingly expensive and when one takes into consideration that currently, most tenants pay 50% of the first month rent to the letting agency and the other 50% is paid by the landlord to the letting agency, one understands better what is driving prices up. In addition tenants have to pay a lump sum of money to put down a deposit to cover potential damages. This is what led to me disrupt this status quo with a platform where tenants pay 0% fees and the landlord pay only 25% of the first month rent. In addition, Sqmeterz will provide a Landlord Protection Guarantee whereby in the event that the tenant causes damages to the property in excess of the deposit amount, Sqmeterz will cover the Landlord for up to €250.” I believe that this is a win-win for both the tenant and the landlord.” adds Luke.
“Other key strengths of the platform are self-listings of properties by landlords in just five minutes, virtual viewings reduce the number of wasted in-person viewings, physical viewings are coordinated and booked online and contracts and other documentation are digitally executed.”
Luke also mentions the unparalleled transparency offered by the platform., “all tenants are screened and their profiles are verified before being uploaded on our online platform and through a secure messaging system, the landlord and the tenant can communicate openly and directly. We are building a community of trusted tenants and reliable landlords.“ he added.
“We have managed to launch the Sqmeterz online platform in 12 months from when it was originally conceived having achieved all our milestones in time. We have other plans as we shortly expect to start accepting listings of business and commercial properties. Our ultimate ambition is to take our platform to a foreign market,” Luke concludes.
“With the Sqmeterz online platform we have managed to fill the gap in the market for ‘digital property renting’ a concept that is bound to challenge the current status quo of the rental market – a status quo that is clearly a candidate for disruption,” added Paul Grech.
“This is why through GO Ventures we are supporting start-ups that can change what has been done for years. Sqmeterz is a start-up that also has a strong social purpose – that of reducing the cost of renting a home whilst at the same time also reducing the cost to landlords. By lowering the transactional cost Sqmeterz will help tenants to move to more suitable accommodation. Being actively involved in changing the status quo is our way of bringing disruption. But the majority of start-ups that will succeed are not those that just try to be disruptive but those that bring efficiency and alignment to the market and change the customer experience,” he concluded.