Earlier this year, we had a chance to chat with Luke Nolan, CEO and founder of Student.com at the NOAH conference in Tel Aviv. Student.com is the world’s leading marketplace for international student housing, helping students find their perfect home abroad.
Founded in 2011 and based in London, the company differentiates itself from the other real estate marketplaces by focusing on the untapped student accommodation market, by connecting students to professional landlords; identifying and exploiting a niche in the property market. Studying abroad is an incredible journey, full of adventure, and Student.com aims to make studies abroad as good as possible. Since its start, the company has helped tens of thousands of international students find their perfect homes abroad. Learn more about Luke’s entrepreneurial journey in the interview below.
What is Student.com, how did you begin, and what problem do you solve?
Student.com is the world’s largest student accommodation platform providing students with a perfect home away from home with properties in over 400 cities across the globe, and a total listing of over 1.25 million student beds. Student.com brings together all aspects of accommodation – from room types, to the local area and accommodation features – into one central marketplace, meaning for the first time students can truly compare accommodation wherever in the world they want to study. Student.com is a free service for students, including guidance from our expert bookings team. The company idea started when I moved to China to learn Chinese and I had no idea where to live and the first mistake I made was picking somewhere on “the wrong side of the river”! Finding a place I could call home was an adventure in itself and I relied on recommendations from the people I had just met, but it took weeks of going from place to place until I found somewhere I could truly call home. Being a foreigner in China, many of my friends who were planning to study abroad also asked me this question and the more it happened, the more I thought this was a problem that needed solving!
What type of accommodation do students prefer? Co-living or solo?
Student preference on accommodation tends to be culturally led. We find that a lot of students from the US are used to sharing rooms, so they would automatically look for a dual occupancy room. Whereas students from China prefer rooms that have furniture in certain locations, helping Feng Shui. European students prefer proximity to local amenities and city centres, and UK students often go for locations with good communal spaces. It entirely depends on the individual, which is why we have created the Student.com platform to meet those needs for students when searching for accommodation.
Tell us about the investment story of Student.com so far?
From original concept to today, Student.com has received $80 million dollars in Series C+ VC funding. With that funding, and the global Student.com team, we have secured over $600 million in gross booking value to date.
What’s a focus of your marketing strategy?
Student.com is about tailoring the experience to meet the requirements of our market – Generation Z – from platform development to marketing. Changing the way brands interact with them, Generation Z has turned traditional marketing on its head, which is why we have taken an agile approach to our digital marketing. Ultimately as long as we are engaging and communicating with students across the world, then that is our focus.
What advice do you have for other people starting businesses?
It’s simple really – start as soon as possible. People can often spend an endless amount of time overthinking it, which can kill off a great business idea before it has had a chance to succeed. Alongside that, my other piece of advice would be do not fear making mistakes as it’s part of the process – be ready to make lots of changes and learn as you go along.