When he was a child, Valentin Scholz wanted to become an architect, but soon realized that he was a much more talented programmer. After having been subjected to the housing market in four different European cities and working as Head of Growth at Revolut, Scholz was inspired to start Kiko.
I lived in Vienna, Milan, and Lisbon. Now I live in London. These cities have one thing in common: finding a good, affordable apartment is equally difficult. There are many reasons for this.
The main problem is price. In recent years, housing costs have increased significantly more than the average income. Inexpensive, high-quality apartments still exist, but they are not accessible to everyone. The housing market across Europe is completely opaque.
Most agencies and property owners do not advertise their best apartments online. Why make it accessible to everyone if you can use your own network? This saves time, effort, and costs. If you don’t happen to know somebody who knows somebody, you will never encounter such an offer. You will only see the "junk" that is difficult to rent out and often ends up on advertisement platforms.
But the price/performance ratio in such an intransparent market is not the only nuisance. The tedious process of searching for and finding apartments, which I have experienced myself in different ways, is just as stressful. In Vienna, everything was based on trust. If I liked an apartment, I had time to think about it for a little while. In Lisbon, it once happened that the property was given to someone else while I was still viewing it. And in London, I was already sort of happy when it took me less than an hour to get to a viewing appointment. In the end, however, all these experiences had one thing in common: my decision was always based on the first impression I had in the few minutes I could spend in an apartment.
A few months ago, I founded Kiko to help people find the home of their dreams—at an affordable price. We want to open the housing market to everyone and provide better service to both tenants and landlords. It starts with the selection process. We create high-resolution 3D models of apartments, allowing for virtual tours à la Google Street View. You can view the apartments at any time, measure it, and identify which pieces of furniture can be rented and which can’t. Kiko makes sure to check both the quality of the apartment and the references of potential tenants. As with Airbnb, the landlords can then decide whether they want to rent an apartment to one of the applicants.
Our minimum goal is to list one million apartments worldwide on our platform within the next four to five years, but this is only the beginning.
We want to enter an age in which we can efficiently manage what happens in our own apartment. If we look closely, life at home has hardly changed in the last hundred years. Of course, everything has become more modern. Now everyone has their own shower, toilet, and kitchen. But at the same time, there is still great potential for automation in apartments, which could relieve us of many daily tasks. The use of remotely controlled smart locks alone would offer many new opportunities. I would no longer have to sit at home to wait for a handyman or the mail. Instead, I could grant access to my place from anywhere. In the future, I may also no longer have to go shopping because I will have my fridge refilled automatically. And I could possibly return from vacation with a new closet already assembled in the bedroom. Maybe I will even be able to rent out that closet. The future means the further expansion of the sharing economy.
What works for Netflix and Spotify could be done in a similar way with furniture.
Why not rent a couch instead of buying it? Instead of the full price, you would pay a monthly rate. And when you finally get tired of that couch, you simply rent a new one.
In my childhood, my friends and I explored this vision of the future in the reality simulation game SIMS. We created the apartment of our dreams there too. This is a cool lamp, there’s a designer couch... the bed is already boring, click, it’s gone, I’m getting a new one...
It’s a sweet memory, but what’s really exciting is that in a few years we may have these opportunities in real life.