There’s a startup in Barcelona that has the potential to shake the real estate market to its core. Founded in 2015 with the intention to change the way that people find flatmates, Badi is now the number one platform for room rentals in Spain, having matched 760 thousand listers and seekers in 2017 and processed 10 million rental requests.
February was a big month for Badi: they closed a $10 million Series A investment round and moved to an impressive new office space fit for a mature company. Despite the rapid growth, the young team led by 26-year-old CEO and Founder Carlos Pierre has remained true to the company’s values and is working harder than ever.
We sat down with Carlos in a pair of bean bag chairs to chat about how he built Badi from the ground up, who he’s had support from along the way and how he’s planning to change real estate for good.
Carlos is currently sharing an apartment with two people he connected with through Badi. He uses the app even when he’s not looking for a flat: chatting with users, sending them rental requests and visiting their flats to make sure everything is working smoothly. “We do have a team of people that do this on a regular basis, but I like to be involved too because it’s a great way to get feedback and even ideas for new features,” he says.
In just two years, Badi blossomed into a tight-knit team of 36 people, and in the next few months, they’re planning to grow to around 50-55. Their plans called for giving up their old office and moving into a bigger space, one that’s perfectly in line with the Badi spirit and where you can really feel at home.
“We wanted an office where you can do much more than just work. You can stay here if you want to have dinner and watch a movie. We have spaces with different functions, for brainstorming, thinking, and having meetings,” he says.
The office has “one of the best terraces in the city” according to Carlos, and probably one of the biggest ones too, with a splendid view of the nearby Torre Agbar and the skyline of Barcelona.
“If Badi didn’t work out, I would have just started something else.”
How the ‘Tinder for Room Rentals’ Was Born
Badi was born out of a fortunate combination of factors in Carlos’s life. He realized that working as an auditor at PwC was far from his dream job at the same time as starting to look for a room to rent in the city centre. He struggled to find the perfect shared home, and spotted an opportunity in the real estate market.
“I’ve always wanted to create something for myself, and at that time I was thinking about new projects every day, and asking my friends and my cousin, Oscar (CEO of Barcelona startup Glovo – ed.), about them. Most of them probably weren’t good ideas. But since I had a job that I didn’t like, I was always thinking about what I really wanted to do,” Carlos recounts.
Once he realized that the biggest portion of the real estate market was “controlled by classified websites with a horrible user experience”, he started thinking that “just by improving user experience” he could “create a much better platform”.
The problem that he faced wasn’t just his, of course. There is a clear trend in the real estate market: rent prices are going up because more and more people want to live in city centres where there’s no space to build new homes. The solution is apartment sharing, which is becoming very common especially among Millenials. And not just in Barcelona but all over Europe (and beyond).
The idea that would eventually become Badi popped into Carlos’s head as he was searching for articles about share rentals.
“I found an article about a girl from the US who posted a room on Craigslist and received a hundred emails and phone calls within 24 hours. Since this was clearly not the way to find the person that she would be living together with, she deleted the ad and uploaded the pictures of the room to her Tinder profile instead. In the description, she wrote: I’m looking for a roommate. In three days, she found the perfect roommate. And it was because she could see the applicants’ profiles, verify them, accept or decline them, chat with them and schedule the visits really fast,” Carlos tells.
That moment was when he realized: what’s missing from this vertical of real estate is connecting people. And he created Badi to do just that. “One month later, I already had the designs for the app,” he says.
The entrepreneurial mindset was already there in Carlos’s family – his father and his uncle had also started businesses of their own – but the idea of starting a tech company was first explored by Carlos and his cousin Oscar.
“Our generation is completely different. We have all these new technologies, and it’s much easier to get customers online,” Carlos explains.
He is clearly one of those people who are always restless, anxious to do something, to create something, in his words, “gente con inquietudes”.
“If Badi didn’t work out, I would have just started something else,” he declares.
“The articles you see are always about good news. I think this can be inspiring, but it doesn’t show the whole picture.”
Starting Your Own Business in Your Early Twenties: Is It a Good Idea?
Carlos was just 24 when he founded Badi. When I ask him about the advantages of starting your own business at such a young age, with almost no work experience, Carlos replies:
“There’s a quote that says: ‘The best people are the people who don’t know how to do something, because they are the ones who are going to find a way to do it.’ I think that’s the advantage of being young and having no experience.”
According to Carlos, a startup needs a mix of experienced people who have worked in other tech companies or startups before, and inexperienced people who believe that anything is possible, you just need to find a way to do it.
Carlos is lucky enough to have someone close to him who also started out as a twenty-something and runs a ‘hot’ startup in Barcelona. Carlos and his cousin Oscar Pierre, CEO and Co-Founder at Glovo, really understand each other’s problems and always support one another on the not-so-glamorous side of startup life.
“The articles you see are always about good news: startups closing big rounds, young people having a lot of success, and so on. I think this can be inspiring, but it doesn’t show the whole picture. There are a lot of bad moments: sometimes you think you may have to shut down your company, sometimes you cry. So it’s great to have someone you can talk to. When we go for a coffee or a beer with Oscar, it’s to share these moments,” he reveals.
“The startup that’s really going to change the real estate market is the one that eradicates agencies.”
What’s Next for Badi?
Carlos has very ambitious plans for Badi, but he’s always making sure to keep his eyes on the road ahead.
“This year, we’re focusing on expansion. The most important cities for us right now are Madrid and Barcelona, and in the coming weeks, we’ll be launching in London, Paris, and Amsterdam. We want to become more international and less local, because we have noticed that there is a lot of movement between these cities, people moving from Barcelona to London or the other way around, for example. It’s better for us to grow in several cities at the same time, like Airbnb did. After this year, we want to become the number one platform in Europe. So if you think about apartment sharing, you’ll think about Badi,” he says.
Their mid-long-term plans also include branching out to include full accommodation rentals.
“I think the startup that’s really going to change the real estate market is the one that eradicates agencies. That’s the ultimate goal. We started on the vertical of share rentals, and this year we are going to launch features that are tools for the user to be able to do everything: schedule visits, send contracts online, make payments, etc. So by the end of the year, our platform will be 99% prepared for full accommodation rentals,” he says.
The way Carlos sees it, agencies just add friction – money and time – to the process.
“The only thing that they do is post your photos on classifieds websites, which is something that you can do yourself. The reason why people choose to go with agencies is because they don’t want to deal with all the legal stuff or schedule the visits themselves. The solution is to create a platform where you offer a self-service solution for all of that, and you understand the entire process,” Carlos concludes.