Cape Town rental listings platform Ekaya, fresh from a ZAR1.4 million (US$130,000) funding round, has introduced a VIP Concierge service to help users find the perfect property on the site.
Ekaya allows house hunters to find rental properties via the web or mobile, with landlords able to list available properties, vet applicants and collect rent through the platform.
The startup was a graduate from this year’s 88mph accelerator programme in Cape Town, and currently hosts around 2,000 daily rental listings in Cape Town alone. In September, the company closed an angel round from investors including Justin Stanford, Daniel Guasco, Wayne Gosling, Sebastian Stoddart and Guilherme Steinbruch, which it will use to expand in South Africa and further afield.
The Concierge service, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Justin R. Melville told Disrupt Africa, is a service Ekaya plans to advertise internally to its users and via social media in order to provide greater assistance in the process of finding a new home.
“Ekaya Concierge is a VIP service for our users. You send us what you’re looking for and we go out find you some great prospects to get you going on the road to finding your new home,” Melville said.
“We’re a very customer service-oriented company so we do what we can to help our users. Concierge has also been a great way to glean what people are looking for and what troubles they’re having in finding it which is immensely important information for our product design road map.”
He said in adding a “little bit of service and style” to house hunting, Concierge was part of Ekaya’s mission statement of making renting better.
The site is free for both listing landlords and browsing prospective tenants, with Ekaya’s monetisation linked to premium features currently under development, such as a new vetting system and security deposit replacement.
“Ekaya users can expect a smarter application and viewing process, simple and transparent rental payments and a revolutionary new way of handling the security deposit. Ekaya is passionate about building the “trust layer” for the rental space and delivering exceptional value through technology and services,” Melville said.
Though the startup does have plans to expand to Johannesburg and Durban in the coming months, the primary focus throughout the 88mph accelerator and in recent months has been to finetune the service in Cape Town before any further rollouts. Having been in private, invite-only beta testing previously, Ekaya launched to the Cape Town public on September 15, aiming to make the renting process easier with features such as “list-once technology”.
“Our test programme has gone really well and demonstrated strong interest from the market for a service like Ekaya. With the economics of renting, there’s a strong desire to “do it yourself” from landlords and now Ekaya is bringing them the tools they need to do it better. For guys and girls looking for a place to rent, we’re seeing strong engagement figures which means our greatly enhanced search and discovery system is working,” said Ekaya chief operations officer (COO) Ruark Ferreira.
Melville said the team was excited by the level of investment it has been able to attract, particularly with the calibre of the likes of Stanford and Groupon South Africa co-CEOs Gosling and Guasco.
“Not only is this a sizable angel round, but also all of the individuals involved are highly successful tech entrepreneurs and leading early stage investors with global networks. Their support is game-changing for a little startup like ours,” he said. “The Silicon Cape startup ecosystem has come a long way and matured to the point where ambitious entrepreneurs like us finally have the fertile soil we need to design, build and grow technology businesses for the global stage. I’m looking forward to the public reaction to our work as we continue to make the business of renting better.”
Stanford said for too long finding a home to rent or great tenants, and concluding that deal, had been a “difficult and opaque process”.
“No longer – Ekaya’s brilliant team has given us a stunningly designed, user experience oriented home rental solution for tenants and landlords, that works beautifully on both web and mobile, and has a trust system built right into it,” he said.
“These are the kinds of startups we want to see, as angel investors, coming out of the Silicon Cape ecosystem – solving real problems and making peoples lives better with elegant technology solutions.”
Gosling said: “Ekaya are an incredible team with a unique vision that we feel will define the next era of property renting not only in South Africa but around the globe.”