Since joining Pi Labs’ first cohort three years ago, Airsorted has grown from bedroom startup to leading global proptech player. We caught up with co-founder and COO Daniel Scott to find out what they’ve learned along the way — and what comes next.
When Pi Labs first launched in 2015, our mission was simple: to identify and grow the best new technology companies seeking to disrupt the property industry. Today, one of the most rewarding aspects of our work is seeing these ambitious startups succeed through sheer hard work. Airsorted was among the first ten businesses we ever invested in through our pre-seed programme. Over the past three years, they’ve gone from strength to strength, and from a hungry young startup to a global proptech disruptor. This is their story.
From concept to launch: The rise of Airsorted
Airsorted was founded in London three years ago, around the same time that Pi Labs launched as Europe’s first proptech venture capital firm. The Airsorted business model is simple: property owners pay a 15% commission for it to manage rentals on their behalf. For additional fees, it also provides cleaning and property maintenance services. Like many new businesses, the story begins with founder and CEO James Jenkins-Yates observing a gap in the market.
“Our founder James came up with the concept for Airsorted when he rented out a spare room in his London flat and found it difficult to get reliable help with cleaning and providing guest access while he was away,” says Daniel Scott, the company’s Chief Operating Officer and one of its three co-founders. “In researching the players in the space, he found that the market was underserved. So on Boxing Day in 2014, he threw up a landing page and some Facebook ads to test whether there was an appetite for this service. It generated enough interest to convince him that this was a business worth pursuing.”
From there, Jenkins-Yates brought together a founding team, and together they applied to join the inaugural Pi Labs cohort. They were one of the five companies that we accepted as part of our first programme.
According to Airsorted, the initial benefits of working with Pi Labs have been many. “First, there was having free desk space in a vibrant London office, which attracted a lot of talent to the business that we might have otherwise missed out on. That’s so important when you’re just starting out,” Scott explains. “Second, we got access to all the vital ingredients to build a successful business: industry expertise, mentoring opportunities and introductions to leaders in the space. Third, we were able to use the association with Pi Labs to differentiate ourselves from the competition.”
Scaling up with a customer focus
Growing their business is undoubtedly one of the most difficult challenges entrepreneurs in any industry face. Unexpected problems almost always arise and knowing how to solve them is an absolute necessity for sustained success — especially in the rapidly-changing world of 21st-century real estate.
Airsorted have been careful to retain their customer focus as their operations scaled from a founding team of three to a multi-million-pound company that has more than 200 staff. Every step of the way, they sought out customer feedback and paid careful attention to it. To solve problems, they adopted a lean approach: identifying the minimum required solution to answer the question, ‘Is this having an impact and solving the problem as we imagine it could be solved?’ and then implementing it on a small scale to test its viability. It’s a formula that continues to pay off.
“In a traditional company, when a problem, challenge or opportunity presents itself, the tendency is to create a solution and execute on that over a period of months or years,” Scott explains. “But what they often fail to do is analyse along the way whether the solution they’ve identified will result in the impact they’re looking for.”
“James’s original Facebook campaign is a great example of how we do things differently at Airsorted: he created a basic website and threw a marketing budget of £50 behind it to test the idea,” Scott says. “While some might assemble a team first, spend months trying to find their perfect hire and create a full business plan, we were able to answer some fundamental questions probably six months earlier than a lot of other companies.”
Investment is just the beginning
At Pi Labs, we meet a lot of startups that initially view investment as their ultimate goal. But our experience tells us that winning investors is far from the end of the journey — in fact, it’s just the beginning. This lesson rings especially true for Airsorted.
“Investment is a validation of your work to date, and that’s incredibly useful because at times you’re debating different strategies. You pick one, and then you get validation of that decision from the investment community. We’ve had four rounds of investment including the pre-seed round, and we’re very lucky to have another one coming up,” Scott says. “I think investment quickly gets you to a place of understanding not only how the business will work but how well it works too. That’s invaluable — but it’s certainly not the end of the road.”
To date, Airsorted has raised investment of £8.75 million and scaled to become one of the largest global short-let management platforms with operations in 26 cities worldwide. This summer, it achieved a major milestone: generating over £1 million in monthly revenue for the first time. It is the first Pi Labs portfolio company to hit this landmark. Pi Labs is proud to have been with the team every step of the way, having invested in each of the four investment rounds Airsorted has raised to date.
Not every startup succeeds, but for ambitious entrepreneurs, the proptech industry is one of the most exciting spaces to launch a new business in 2018. As Airsorted demonstrates, many areas are still ripe for disruption and innovation, and the opportunities to make an impact are huge. The right investment partners, however, are essential.
At Pi Labs, we work with startups that take disruptive, different approaches and nurture strong, value-driven relationships with them. This can make all the difference to their progress. As Scott puts it: “Working with Pi Labs, especially at the earliest stages, was absolutely crucial in getting our business idea off the ground. I’m honestly not sure we could have reached the point we’re at today without Pi Labs’ continued belief and investment.”
About Dominic Wilson:
Dominic is Co-Founder and Managing General Partner at Pi Labs. He leads the firm in a general capacity with a specific focus on investments and investors. He also sits on the boards of Brolly, FalconDHQ and Office App. Dominic has a wide background in Private Equity Real Estate worked with both AEW Europe and Savills Investment Management and transacted over €3bn of deals across Europe. Dominic has a degree in Law with French from the University of Birmingham and an MBA from the London Business School.
About Pi Labs:
Pi Labs is Europe’s first VC firm to focus exclusively on proptech investments. It has established itself as a pre-eminent global leader in the early stage domain in this vertical. To date, it has made 35 investments including Airsorted, Land Insight and Plentific. Pi Labs is global in its focus — it has backed founders from 19 different nationalities. To date, its portfolio companies have raised over $140m.