Q&A: These Uni Students Are Cracking The Off-Campus Accommodation Problem, One Booking At A Time

If you’re a university student you may have already come across or actually used The Housing Hub to get off-campus accommodation. The issue of getting accommodation off-campus is a real pain-point and for many there just wasn’t a solution until April of 2018.

We got in touch with Marvellous Nyongoro who happens to be the co-founder of The Housing Hub. The startup has been hard at work solving the pain-point of many students and Marvellous walked us through what they have done thus far and some of the things they are working on going forward…

Techzim: What problem are you solving? (also what is the size of this problem?)

Marvellous Nyongoro: We exist to help students from all round Zimbabwe secure off-campus accommodation online. Every semester, more than 20 000 students will be looking for off-campus accommodation, from all corners of the country. We are here to serve those students, by giving them a transparent and easily accessible search and booking platform.

The Housing Hub site. Landlords can upload their houses on the site and students can book those houses…

TZ: What inspired you to solve this problem?

MN: I once experienced the pain of travelling to Gweru from Nyanga just to search and secure off-campus accommodation. It was draining and expensive for me to say the least. I tried my luck with local agents but their terms and charges were not practical. From that, I told myself, I do not want anyone to go through this again. That’s how The Housing Hub ZW was born.

TZ: How will you be making your money?

MN: Well, we charge a commission on every booking that we receive. That’s how we make money, the more people we get, the more money we make. People really are paying for the transparent process that we’ve built.

TZ: What’s the approach when it comes to user acquisition? (why will people use Housing Hub?)

MN: Word-of-mouth has helped us break into the market. We knew if we could help one person, they will tell a friend and the network effect will take place. So there is that, moving forward, our team is working on building top of the mind awareness using social media because of that’s where our target audience’s attention is. Ideally, when people think of finding a place to rent or finding tenants, they should think The Housing Hub. With that kind of awareness, acquisition will be less of a stretch for us.

TZ: Is there any other business offering a similar service to Housing Hub? If yes, how do you stand out from them?

MN: Yes, we have seen a couple of iterations. Some were before us, some were launched after we launched. We think that the only way to stand out is to deliver value in a manner that enables us to not only win clients wallets but their hearts in the process.

TZ: Have you received any funding or investment? If yes and you’re in a position to disclose, please confirm how much you have received and from who?

MN: Yes, we are quite fortunate we have received some grants, mostly from competitions we pitched at; including the CBZ Young Entrepreneur Award and UNICEF Generation Unlimited Challenge where we came up as First Runner-Ups in both Challenges.

In -terms of dollar value, let’s just say, a little over 5k.

TZ: Anything else exciting you are working on?

MN: Yes, quite a lot. Let me share one. So, we are on an expansion drive -adding more student houses on our platform. To do this, we’re recruiting student agents. All they have to do is secure a house that can accommodate students and receive $10 for every house. The more they get, the more they can earn and payment is instant. We’re doing this to provide an opportunity for students to earn whilst in college, so if they want to save up for something or if they are really stranded, they can count on being an agent of ours as a way to earn. This is open to any college student in any university town in Zimbabwe. We’re taking in people as we speak.

TZ: Thanks for your time and all the best with your business!

MN: Thank you so much for having us. It was a pleasure.

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