The future of (shared) living through the eyes of 100+ operators — Part 1/2

By Michael Steinmann

What are the biggest challenges to creating the perfect coliving experience? This is what we found out when listening to the residents.

Over the last 12-months, I have talked with over 100 operators in the shared living scene as part of my Entrepreneur-in-Residence journey at Builders and now as the co-founder and CEO of Obeyo. This is what we found out!

Our mission

We believe that living in the city and life as a whole should be more social. This is why we embarked on a journey to find the most social living concepts and ended up with the co-living segment and speaking with 100+ operators in the field.

We wanted to understand how these operators are creating those emotionally enriching living experiences and, based on that, empower all residential operator to replicate those experiences within their buildings, too — no matter if student accommodation, buy to rent, multifamily or even conventional residential tower.

Structure of this mini series

The mini-series will be structured around the following core topics:

  • Part 1 covers the key obstacles and requirements on the member side
  • Part 2 will cover the core challenges and expectations on the operator side

As always, thanks to everyone who likes to contribute by adding their observations and thoughts here.

The perfect (shared) living experience

From interviewing current residents and analyzing lots of feedback and reviews about publicly available apps, we identified four main problems/requirements for the residents that hamper the perfect living experience. Those are around topics on:

  1. Member onboarding
  2. Meeting in the moment
  3. Staying connected
  4. Smart recommendations

1. Member onboarding

“When I arrived, I did not know anyone; I felt stressed, insecure, doubting if I made the right decision to select this place, to begin with.”
Peter, 23, Germany

Everybody knows how one feels when moving into a new city or country and does not know anyone yet. At the same time, you probably also know that how you start a new experience sets the tone for the rest of your stay. This makes the onboarding stage a very important stage in your residents’ journey. For the resident to get a great start, but equally important for your business to create long-term value and loyal customers.

How can this be different?

Well, the best-case scenario would be a feeling of coming home. Do you remember how you felt when having been away from home for a couple of days or weeks? It might have been for business, or a vacation, or just a weekend away. You probably felt at home, safe, supported, relaxed, and empowered.

What if we could replicate this feeling?

Helping your new residents start their time with you on the right foot will help them make new friends early on. This, in turn, has proven to increase their chance to extend their stay beyond their initial by another 40% and increase their overall satisfaction living with you.

On the flip side, if we do not address this issue, the first impressions matter in setting the tone for the entire stay. A lousy start turns into a more negative experience of the whole stay and less engagement. The difficulty of getting to the right start reduces the chance of being positively integrated with the rest of the community. Unfulfilled expectations, perhaps early termination of stay

So what would it take to create the perfect start?

Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Help your new members transition easily into their new home;
  • Help them connect with the people that are similar to them;
  • Help them connect with other people they will be living with;
  • Make sure they know other people before they arrive;
  • Make sure you exceed their expectations before the first day.

And now?

Something all it takes is a small idea or two to get onto the right path. If you are, however, wondering how you could facilitate onboard and the feeling of home with tech, here are some screenshots of how our app picks this up for you:

2. Meeting in the moment

“I love to gather people after work for a drink — this is how I make new friends. The big events are just not my thing, they feel fake, and I never manage to bump into the right people if I decide to go; there are just too many.”
Sandra, 25, UK

The second problem that we identified is that everyone is looking to connect with their tribe. Typically, the overall community is too big and too diverse to build meaningful relationships. Next to that, while smaller events are a good way of mixing and mingling with other people, most members also do not know what they will be doing five weeks from today.

Now imagine it’s 5:30, and your resident, let’s call him Peter, is just wrapping up his workday. He is in a good moment right now and feels like getting a drink with like-minded people to celebrate life. But how can he connect and inform those like-minded people and coordinate with them about his plan?

How can this be different?

This might be different if there was an easy way to access like-minded people who feel the same way I do about doing a certain activity right now. And this, in return, leads to so much more for your community than just a few people going out together. It is in these low threshold interactions that make new friends and strengthen existing relationships. Most importantly, if set up correctly, this does not even require the operator’s involvement, but it should function as a self-organizing community. This empowers you to deliver on your community promise and empowers any residential living operator to add a social and community layer to their building.

But those interactions only work if they are structured around your residents’ individual needs and desires at that specific moment. A big generic community event might feel overwhelming for your members and won’t empower them to truly connect with a handful of the most relevant people on a deeper level.

On the flip side, if you do not find a way to empower residents to connect through those low threshold events, the community weakens. Those informal low threshold meetings are the glue that holds your communities together. They strengthen the number of personal connections between the various members and allow new connections to form around specific interests and passions. If those connections are lacking, this leads to fewer interactions and fewer integrations with the newly arriving residents. They are ultimately resulting in less interaction and harmony across the entire community and a less engaged community.

What would it take to make this happen?

You could think of the following:

  • Give your members a way to identify and connect with relevant peers around topics quickly they are passionate about whenever they feel like it;
  • Give your residents a way to organize and coordinate their low threshold events and a way to invite the relevant members of the community to join them;
  • Help your members identify others who have the same interests then they do;
  • Allow them to form subgroups around certain interests.

This is how our tech based on these findings could help your residents, and you bring your building to life:

3. Staying connected

“I am always running into interesting people at events, but asking for their contact details feels awkward. Also, there are more of us living in a different building not too far from here, but staying connected with them becomes even more difficult.”
Andrew, 27, USA

The third challenge on the resident side is staying connected with the people you have randomly interacted with without the awkwardness of asking for contact information. This might be misunderstood or is something they don’t think about at that moment in time. Also, residents are looking for ways to stay connected even if in person might not be possible for some time or between those meetings.

How can this be different?

In the best-case scenario, the operator would empower everybody to easily find and connect with people who are interesting to them if the interest to connect is mutual.

Solving this problem also leads to more diverse and stronger individual relationships within the community, ultimately leading to more extended stays. Suppose the community does not receive the support it needs to come together and connect. In that case, it will suffer and eventually might turn sour, which once that happens requires a lot of effort, energy, and goodwill on all sides to turn around again.

What would it take to make this happen?

  • Provide an accessible directory of all your members that is searchable and allows all your members to connect;
  • Allow them to access each other’s profiles to facilitate interaction and connections;
  • Perhaps empower them to even connect within this directory to decide whom to exchange contact information with and whom not;
  • Interestingly enough, residents were not looking for another app to chat with. Instead, keep their communication on the channels they are already using.

4. Smart recommendations

“I did not expect that living with so many people can feel quite isolated and intimidating at time. I know there are people that I would click with, but how do I find them?”
Saskia, 24, Poland

The fourth problem we identified on the member side is that people would like to easily tap into the power of the social, personal, and professional networks around them. The challenge with communities is that the bigger the community, the lower the probability that they randomly run into the most relevant people to meet.

How can this be different?

In the best best case scenario the operator provides their residents with guidance to easily connect with those people that might be most relevant to connect with either professionally or personally. This could be happening through conversations with the community host that has a good overview about (their part of) the community. Or it could be facilitated through an intelligent search that allows me to search the member directory for instance based on interests, names, professions, events, etc.

If you are not providing ways to tap into these available networks, the real power of the community you are building stays unharnessed. Your residents and yourself are missing out on a significant value that is worth tapping into. If you succeed in pulling this off, your members will receive even more value from their stay, making it more likely for them to stay longer and speak highly of your brand and locations.

What would it take to make this happen?

  • An amazing community manager/host with the gift of being a great connector and the time it takes to listen and connect them;
  • Creating an easily accessible overview of your people and their passions, interests, and needs could even become a big hall of fame picture wall somewhere in your location;
  • Also, make sure you give your people a way to connect with ones they have identified as a relevant link.

Summary and way forward

I hope this article helped you better understand how to improve your resident experience — through the eyes of your residents. The second part of this series will complete this picture by adding the learnings from the 100+ conversations we have had with shared living operators — and provide you with some practical examples to improve your operations.

So stay tuned!

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.

Reach Michael at: