Big news have just reached our port. Portuguese startup, Uniplaces, has raised 24 million dollars, from Atomico and other leading European founders, to transform the global student market. The Lisbon based startup, now sets sail with high hopes, to keep reinventing how students find and book accommodation across the globe.
With this in mind, our crew has spoken to Miguel Amaro, co-founder of Uniplaces, about how they raised the investment and what’s coming up next, and how setting up the startup in Lisbon influenced their success.
It wasn’t long ago that Miguel Amaro, alongside co-founders Ben Grech and Mariano Kostelec, pitched Uniplaces for the first time in Lisbon. Of course that the way they wanted to solve the student’s accommodation problem was different, that the business model wasn’t quite there yet and that the online booking platform wasn’t even built. However, something never changed since that very first pitch, and that was the founders’ vision. They wanted to change and improve the whole student experience, starting with accommodation, and become a trusted global brand.
That was 4 years ago… Today, Miguel Amaro, Mariano Kostelec and Ben Grech, have just announced from the Google HQ in Dublin, that they have raised one of the biggest Series A rounds in Europe this year, led by Atomico and including previous investors, Octopus Investments, Shilling Capital Partners and Caixa Capital. So, how did it all happen?
The tricks for raising one of the biggest Series A in Europe
It may seem easy for a startup with an impressive growth and that has expanded into 38 cities, to raise one of the biggest Series A rounds in Europe this year. However, reaching this milestone wasn’t at all times easy.
“Actually, from the first talks with prospective investors to pitching our dream, we were talking with different investors every day for maybe six to nine months” says Miguel. They pitched in 3 different continents and in nearly a dozen countries. In the end, it all came down to finding the perfect match and choosing the right partners.
What to do with the 24 million dollars
As it turns out, Uniplaces will now focus on developing their platform and growing their product team, in order to improve the experience of their users. And here is where mobile plays a crucial role. “A key part of our product strategy will be developing our mobile proposition which we will be investing in heavily”. Is a mobile app coming soon?
As to geographical expansion, Uniplaces will focus on the markets they’ve already reached “consolidating its market position in 9 countries such as UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Austria, Portugal and Netherlands”. However, Miguel doesn’t exclude the possibility of keeping an eye out for new market opportunities, including the US, China and Brazil, even if the goal is to “build the business off a solid foundation in core markets”.
A Lisbon based startup… from tagging along the hype to making money stretch
As Miguel Amaro puts it: “Launching in Lisbon was one of those big decisions for Uniplaces”. They needed “a small market to test the product and model before scaling, and Lisbon was that lab-market”.
Looking back, Miguel admits that it was a great choice and perfect timing because “the first incubators, such as Startup Lisboa, were being formed and looking for people and ideas to invest in”. The low costs of living compared to the good quality of life, convinced Uniplaces, throughout the time, that Lisbon was the perfect city to launch their product and center their operations. “Low rents, services, and wages were critical in the early days. When you are still bootstrapping, it’s really important to make sure you can make the most of what you have” explains Miguel. Not to mention the “great talent available with the hunger to create the first billion dollar company out of Lisbon”.
Will Uniplaces be the one? For now, what we can say is that, after this round of investment, they’re one step closer to meet their long-term vision which is to change and improve the whole student experience across the globe.
In any case, we’ll be watching closely and so should you.
Editors note: a previous version of this article claimed that the investment round Uniplaces raised was “the biggest in Europe this year”. Having, after publishing the article, found evidence of at least one bigger Series A round in Europe in June 2015, LendingVest (around 33 million dollars), we decided to edit the article to reflect that reality.