Franz Hoerhager co-founded Austro-German property tech startup Bambus together with Patrick Wollner. Previously, he was a private equity investor in the infrastructure and realestate market at Macquarie Group in New York and London. Calm/Storm invested in Bambus‘ pre-seed round.
Austro-German startup Bambus helps homeowners remain financially flexible even after a big investment in real estate, improving their well-being as we live longer and more complex lives. Franz Hoerhager on throwing plans overboard and the value of heading into rough weather together with his co-founder Patrick Wollner.
Starting a company is always a wild ride. I remember giving a pitch where everyone was super excited, and at the next one, people asked whether I had lost my mind. There are periods when people turn their backs on you, and then everyone loves you again. What was most demanding was having to change everything and throw our plans overboard multiple times, because it was impossible to have certainty about anything. There are so many things that can go wrong; startups are never short of storms.
However, I hope we have more storms ahead of us. Because that is where we see value and joy. Why are you helping your customers? Why are you providing something others do not? It is not about sitting out the storms. On the contrary, you tempt it – you create the storm. Intentionally or unintentionally, founders are not trying to ease the breeze but keep pushing for the wind to pick up! Even if you perhaps push too hard – when the storm arrives, that is the moment when you really focus and make lasting changes.
“When the storm arrives, that is the moment when you really focus and make lasting changes”
Patrick and I became founders not because we decided to change the real estate market, but because we wanted to improve the lives of homeowners. Which, depending on the region, constitutes nearly half of all households. The value of private homeownership in Germany and Austria alone surpasses six trillion euros. But property does not only make people rich; it also restricts its owners, because their wealth is locked up for years. As a result, they often feel a huge burden. It makes them illiquid and inflexible, not only in their investment strategy but also in terms of their life. Private real estate owners often cannot manage their assets the way professional investors do. With Bambus, we want to fix that. We are providing a one-stop solution for property owners to diversify their assets without having to sell their property.
“Property does not only make people rich; it also restricts its owners”
In Europe, especially in Germany and Austria, people save money for years to buy a house one day. Then they finally acquire it, and from there on sit on this huge “pile of wealth” until it is passed on to the next generation. But the world has changed dramatically. For a single mother, to bequeath her house to her kids when they are 50 years old is not necessarily the goal. It is likely that she is on a minimum retirement scheme and feels poor in her spending abilities, while living in a house that is worth a million. Also, kids may not want to move into their parents' houses or build a house in the backyard anymore.
A grandfather prefers to be able to regularly visit his grandchildren abroad rather than staying in his high value but empty house. There are many more things you want or need to do with the money you saved throughout your life than just to lock it all up until you pass.
But then you realize your bank cannot offer you a solution that fits your situation. That‘s when people become extremely frustrated. Bambus’ goal is, firstly, to shed light on the options that exist for homeowners in a transparent and easy way. Then, we try to understand the individual situation and what they need compared to what they have right now. And then we provide the tools so customers can implement the best financial structure for their situation.
“We can enable households to act more like small companies”
Soon, Bambus will develop its own financial products to meet the real needs of everyday people. We think that we can enable households to act more like small companies and be more independent when deciding about their (hopefully) increasing wealth. Real estate is just another financial asset that we will democratise. Because everyday people should be able to access it in the same way investors can– that is only fair. And in five to ten years, I see Bambus as the financial home for every home, taking care of people’s financial health.