Entering Coliving at Scale with Florian Färber. #rooftalks Ep. 3
Listen to Florian Färber, Founder and CEO of The Base, as he shares his experience in entering coliving at scale.
We released our third Rooftalks podcast with Florian Färber, CEO and Founder of TheBase. Together with Florian, we will be talking about his journey and learning when entering coliving at scale, and what challenges he needed to surmount to get into this market.
TheBase as an answer to a critical business need
Before founding TheBase, Florian founded Zipjet, an on-demand laundry service platform in Germany. As their team grew bigger and reached over 100 employees, housing their international colleagues became critical in retaining talents and growing the business. A need that piqued Florian’s interest in professional living solutions. Finding affordable and fully furnished apartments became a driving need for the company — but soon after, a third requirement emerged: The need for easy access to a social community to answer urban loneliness and truly make people feel at home. Important not only for the individuals but also as a business necessity. Otherwise, Florian realized that his new employees would just quit their jobs and fly back to their home country.
What can we do to combat urban loneliness — was the more significant question that emerged and became a driving force for TheBase until today.
In combating urban loneliness, coliving became our north star.
Thus Florian started his new journey and founded TheBase, utilizing the power of coliving to combat urban loneliness. Therefore TheBase targets young professionals living in European metropolitan areas aged between 20–30s and emphasizes the social perspective of coliving betting on young people being willing to sacrifice their personal space for broader access to social opportunities and events. To create such a community, one needs to think big, consider the specific demographics, and determine what makes your community tick. Then community becomes more than just a buzzword, “you need to live, inhale, foster, work and cultivate it ……. If not, you will just have a boring shelf of boring buildings.”
Biggest challenge? Secure first site!
Entering coliving with no real estate background, Florian has to build his new business from the ground up: creating a network, reaching out to potential developers, owners, investors. He kept calling and waiting. Securing the first site was the biggest challenge to conquer. To overcome this challenge, he needed a lot of dedication (2 months of endless calls, work 16hrs per day), resilience (to overcome the frustration of rejection), and a bit of luck as the solution sometimes appears from an unexpected angle. In this case, one of his friends that he asked for some advice regarding the right real estate KPIs casually mentioned that he might know somebody who might be able to offer him the first site. The excitement turned into a passionate business plan; a phone call turned into dinner. Two weeks later, he got the chance to see the landlord — initial ideas were exchanged, more refinements were needed on both the concept and the numbers. But after two more weeks and endless hours of work, lack of sleep, boldness, and persistence, he had achieved what he wanted: securing his first site.
Remember, real estate life cycles are loooooong.
Unlike Florian’s previous tech industry experience, the real estate life cycles are longer. For example, it would be as quick as 60 days from ideas to the app store when producing an application from scratch. However, this is by no means comparable to the real estate industry. Even the negotiation to secure the site could take half a year. To transform the conceptualized image into a reality, things need at least 2–3 years. “So if there’s anything I wish I could have known earlier, then it is that the real estate life cycles take time. A very long time.”
Happiness and fulfilment as the core metrics in coliving
When it comes to core metrics in the coliving industry, Florian said he did not recommend inserting too many KPIs into community building and community health, mainly since it is tough to quantify the outcome. For example, would you measure how many friends one gained after a six months stay or so? Instead, his approach is to treat this KPI more as an overall experience reflection. “At some point, somebody moved out, and some days, weeks, months or even years later, when he looks back, I’d like them to realize that during the time they lived in theBase, they experienced a very fulfilled life. That’s the only KPI I want to have.”
Ensure diversity in your target audience
TheBase utilizes two different approaches to find new residents, B2B and B2C. While in Berlin, there is a substantial market for corporate housing with many fast-growing tech startups, such as Gorilla, Zalando, NO.26, Flink, TheBase is very selective in not admitting too many of their employees into their community. While TheBase could be a perfect transit station for people who work for those startups and are moving into the city, Florian has no interest in creating a building for people in the same occupation and working for the same company. This is boring. And boring is dangerous. Instead, TheBase ensures diversity in their residents by being open to anyone, no matter personal or professional background and stage in life — this is how you create a vibrant community and a great starting point for lots of personal and professional growth.
Tech helps foster togetherness.
For Florian, Technology should always “facilitate human interaction.” The chemistry inside the building will grow itself. Social interactions are the essence of the coliving experience. They are the seed that people will carry with them beyond their initial stay: And this seed could start an entrepreneurial idea, a relationship, a lifetime friendship, or simply a great night out. We have seen too much isolation and loneliness in the last few years. And here we want to help, through technology, in connecting people. Here TheBase sees itself as giving people a base. A base to connect. And a base to grow.
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About the author
Michael Steinmann is the Co-Founder and CEO of Obeyo. With more than 15 years of experience in growing and scaling SaaS companies, he is always up for connecting and conversing about the present and the future of residential community building.