Building A New Standard for Operating Shared Living with Obeyo
A Glimpse Into Our Journey And Those We Share It With
9 months ago we set out on an ambitious quest: to redefine operating shared living. Today, we are proud and humbled to have had the opportunity to speak with 100+ operators to shape and validate our product concept, and to have partnered up with a handful of visionaries and thought leaders in the shared living space as co-creators and launching customers. Jointly we are pushing boundaries on our quest to create a superior operating and living experience through obeyo.com.
To introduce our partners, and to dive deeper into their journey, goals, experiences and expectations, I am thrilled to have here with me Frank from Bounce Coliving, Williams from B-Hive Living, Nissi from Hei Homes, Filipe and Rodolfo, both from Beds, Laurence from Bedrock Coliving and Guydo and Nicolaas from Groupius Wonen.
Michael: First of all, thank you very much for being on this journey together. For us, it’s a huge confirmation that you all have decided to partner up with us to create a new standard in operating shared living. Today, we’d like to shine a light on all of you — and share more about your story, and your goals, as well as your experiences and expectations for the future.
Why partnering up
So to start: why did you decide to partner up with us?
Laurence (Bedrock Coliving): At Bedrock Coliving, we are all about creating a superior coliving experience. That is why very early on we realized that just patching together various existing tech products wouldn’t do our ambition justice to offer an outstanding experience to our members. That’s when we met you and got impressed by your approach of carefully listening to the market first, and were very pleased to discover that like us, you too were very focused on the members and their experiences. And as we do not have the scale to develop something in-house, the decision to partner up was easy: We were looking for someone with a deep understanding of the shared living market to become our trusted tech partner — and found that in you.
Michael: Talking about scale, Filipe, you are certainly building towards that scale; why did you still decide to partner up with a third party to cover your tech needs instead of developing something in-house?
Filipe (Beds) — Yeah, that’s true. However, scale is not the only thing you want to consider before jumping into developing your own technology. We understood early on that developing our own tech would require a considerable amount of time, resources, and energy — to develop it and also to maintain everything afterwards. And those resources, energy and time you are taking away from your businesses core activities, such as expanding your portfolio and scaling your operations. So early on, we decided not to develop any tech in-house but find the right partner to help us get that part of the equation right. And you guys and the amount of knowledge you have collected and made available convinced us that we had found the ideal fit.
Michael: How has that been for Groupius Wonen, Guydo — why did you decide to join us on this?
Guydo (Groupius Wonen): With Groupius Wonen we are a first mover in the Netherlands focused on bringing strong community elements into senior and active living. As we all know, coliving is an excellent concept, but we also realized that community and connections are essential in many other living arrangements. So when we saw the product you guys are creating, we felt that this is a product that can also power our community. And while there might be some differences in the age or youth of our audience, the needs are very much the same: connection, shared experiences and hassle-free living.
Michael: Frank, you guys are developing a rural and remote coliving concept in the US. How and why did you end up choosing Obeyo?
Frank (Bounce Coliving): Indeed! I have always been passionate about nature and started to wonder why most of the coliving locations are in an urban setting. So I realized that there is a gap in the market that I am passionate to help fill. Initially, we plan to operate a decentralized setup where we are maintaining several locations in close vicinity of each other. Of course even in this distributed set-up we are still keen to create a community, and as not everyone is living in the same building, we wanted to have an app to do so — which ideally would also help us do a better job on the operational side. Of course, that we can shape and co-create the product through our feedback is a great extra in our collaboration that we did not dare to dream about.
Collaboration so far
Michael: Talking about the journey — how did you guys at Hei Homes end up working with us and how did you experience our collaboration thus far, Nissi?
Nissi (Hei Homes): We are a boutique coliving provider in Singapore and are running a very manual and distributed operation. We are getting ready to scale and are eager to do it through technology. So we reached out to you as one of the products we have found mentioned in the Coliving Apps Guide from Conscious Coliving — and from all the ones we have talked to, you guys stood out as being very dedicated to shared living and community building. And quite frankly, all the interactions we have had and the interactive workshops are a great way for us to get a better impression about the product but also help shape what the product should and should not do. And quite frankly, what you are creating in terms of design, user experience, and user interfaces is very spot on!
Michael: Speaking about interfaces, I think that is a bit of a pet peeve for you, Frank. How do you then experience our collaboration so far?
Frank (Bounce Coliving): I really enjoy working with you guys! I have a software consultancy background, so I know how difficult it can be to put the right product together. I honestly think you guys are doing a great job listening to the market and focusing on the biggest problems at hand first. I appreciate the involvement that we as a launching customer have in this and the level of detail you guys are getting into to ensure that the product will work for us — all this is very encouraging!
Michael: Williams, we have been in contact since our early days when we started our mission back in September 2020. How did you see our conversation and later partnership evolve?
Williams (B-Hive Living): Very true — it has been quite a while already! I am usually very open to these initiatives as I am very interested in technology myself and always happy to help. To be completely honest, initially, this was just about sharing experiences and helping the field advance — also as we just had decided on another tech provider. Over time, however, I understood that you guys are a very serious alternative that is truly dedicated to the shared living market and that you have spent the time to deeply understand its specifics. And the quality of that analysis and the ability to condense knowledge into a product captured my interest. Now I am very excited to be part of this and am looking forward to co-create a product that helps everyone to move forward.
Michael: Filipe, as our first Brazilian launching customer focused on coliving and student living, is there anything you would like to add? How has it been for you?
Filipe (Beds) For sure! Quite frankly, the work that you guys are doing has opened our eyes. So far, we believed that people need to be living in the same location to build a community. Now we understood that you can also build a distributed community, as technology can be the glue that holds everything together. This has been an important realization for us as this approach is very well suited for the more rural setting of the Brazilian suburbs. Many universities are in those rural suburbs, but to get a permission for a large purpose-built location in those parts of the country is more tricky. So we truly appreciate our collaboration also for the ability to exchange with and benefit from the experiences of the other coliving operators around the world.
Expectations for the future
Michael: This is a good bridge into our next topic: What are your expectations for the next couple of months?
Laurence (Bedrock): We are very excited and curious about the journey ahead! The next couple of months are crunch time at Bedrock: We are wrapping up our first coliving buildings and are eager to see the product come to life. The co-creation approach you guys are taking, and the amount of feedback you are collecting all along the way seems very promising! So we are ready for more interactive sessions, and of course, are super excited for the product to be released over the next half year.
Michael: How about you, Williams? What is important to you when you think about the next couple of months?
Williams (B-Hive Living): I appreciate the content you guys are putting out and the insights you are sharing around the learnings you have from all your conversations with all the other operators. I do believe that together we are working on something big for the coliving industry. So from that point of view, I expect you guys to keep sharing all those insights with the rest of the (coliving) world. That’s what I love about the coliving movement and our journey thus far: It is all about learning and discovery first and then feeding those learnings back into the broader community. So next to creating an awesome product, I expect you guys to keep doing that!
Michael: And Guydo, what do you expect the future to hold in store?
Guydo (Groupius Wonen): Us too, we are getting ready to launch our first senior living/coliving location towards the end of the year. So that’s gonna be exciting! On top of that, we are also looking forward to contributing to creating the right tech to provide an excellent experience to our future residents. We will scale quickly, so we need to have the right tech in place to help us get there without the need of adding a big number of people to the core team. There is a lot of ideas we have about how to create the right product — and we are looking forward to contributing those into the project.
Michael: What are your aspirations, and what is the difference that you hope Obeyo will make for your operations and your community?
Rodolfo (Beds): We are already working on the next locations and are also looking to expand into the more rural areas. So we are very excited about the future. Obeyo will help us operate at scale and build a strong community within and across our locations. And the timing could not be better: Now, with the end of the pandemic hopefully coming up, people are eager to socialize again, and we want to be ready to support that. This is where Obeyo will help us build a better community while also supporting us to automate and optimize our operations.
Michael: Laurence, how do you look at the future, and what difference do you expect Obeyo to make?
Laurence (Bedrock): We are about to open our first location and already have the next ones under construction. We are of course very much forward to seeing how these first locations will come to life once we open the doors. And to know that we have the tech side covered allows me to focus more on running and scaling the business. So from Obeyo, I am expecting just that — to get a product out there that will enable me to free up my own time and some time for the team, so we can focus on what matters most: Creating an awesome member experience, and further expanding the business!
Michael: What about you, Nissi? What’s the change that you hope Obeyo will bring for you?
Nissi (Hei Homes): It seems there is one thing that we all have incoming: Like everyone else, we are getting ready to scale. We see demand picking up again and are focusing on identifying the right locations within Singapore — and Obeyo is the tool that needs to power this growth for us. We want to move away from manual work towards a smooth and integrated experience facilitated by technology. Of course, coliving is and always will be about personal interaction, but chasing documents does not add much value to the relationship. So I expect Obeyo to scale alongside our growing operations so that I can rely on technology instead of more hands as we grow.
How to find the right tech?
Michael: To wrap up, for anyone still looking for the right tech — what would you recommend to them on how to find their perfect match?
Williams (B-Hive Living): Finding the right tech can feel like a very daunting task. There are so many different options out there, and it can seem to be a very intransparent market. So the best way of approaching this is to tackle this from a member journey first, really think through how your specific user journey should look like, and then match it with the tech out there already, or being built in the market. Also events are a great way of getting a good overview of what’s out there — the CRETech Fair (formerly FUTURE PropTech) is coming back to London at the end of October. So that’s certainly a good place to be.
Michael: Anything to add, Frank?
Frank (Bounce Coliving): Well, first, to reiterate: a members first approach is critical to get the tech right. And here I am not only talking about your members, their needs and the journey you want them to experience while staying with you. I also think the actual products need to be built in the same way. They should take the members’ perspectives first, whenever you want your members to use it and have fun. Additionally, it’s of course always valuable to ask other operators for their perspective — Co-Liv is doing a great job in getting the coliving field together to talk about these topics. As are the other associations out there that you could link in with. In the end, finding the right tech is a puzzle that every single operator needs to solve, so let’s learn from each other!
Guydo (Groupius Wonen): My advice is simple: Don’t only look at the tech and what the product can do, also look at the people behind it. Do they understand your needs and challenges? How much time have they spent doing so? Or is the product they are offering more a product that has been shaped for a different purpose, such as coworking, hospitality or a traditional rental business. And what’s the organization behind it like? Rigid and slow, or flexible and fast? The exciting piece of this journey is that there is so much movement in the market that residential living could take quite a different shape over the next 18–36 months. As exciting as this is, this also poses a risk to the tech set-up you are building: Your tech needs to be flexible and adjustable enough so that it can support you through this journey. This is where the more mature and established tech companies might struggle.
Michael: And you, Nissi?
Nissi (Hei Homes): For us looking at the existing resources worked very well. If you just Google, you might end up with lots of different options; looking at curated lists is a good way to quickly understand how those options might differ and what could be the best fit for you. Coliving Apps Guide from Conscious Coliving is a great place to start. And of course if you have any questions or doubts, asking your fellow operators is always very helpful, too.
Michael: Thank you guys for taking the time to share your perspectives with us! Once again, we really appreciate being on this journey together and are looking forward to co-creating a world-class product together.
Obeyo — and you
With Obeyo, we are creating a truly international and very scalable product. To develop the best technology out there, our mission is to partner up with the thought leaders and visionaries in the field worldwide to co-create the next generation of co-tech together.
About Obeyo: Obeyo is the first all-in-one operating system and community app for residential living built around the learnings from 100+ shared living operators.