In this, the fifth and final post in my series of interviews with innovative new PropTech companies coming up through the PiLabs accelerator programme, I chat to Ting Zhao, Founder and Director of Candarin Home. Ting founded the company straight after graduation from the University of Nottingham, as a way to assist students from overseas with finding suitable accommodation, and bridging any potential gaps in communication between students and landlords.
- Part one – Urban Intelligence – pulling important built environment data together in one place
- Part two – Industry Hub – finding the industry people you really want to know
- Part three – Get Office App – creating an engagement platform for all things office
- Part four – Insight Residential – the big data system for real estate
What made you apply for the PiLabs accelerator in the first place, and what is your ultimate ambition during the time you have there?
It was last November that I heard about Pilabs from my past mentor in UCL Advance. I am very excited to hear about this special program. This program is exactly what we are looking to join, because we are very focused on building our international student accommodation-booking platform. We have been developing our business for two years. However, I have taken these two years business experience as a big trial marketing example. The trial marketing is very successful, and has proved that international student accommodation is a huge market. Therefore, it is a good time for us to develop into a proper and scaled business. Our ultimate ambition here is to develop a user-friendly app that can help international students easily solve all their accommodation problems.
Tell me what Candarin Home is all about? What are you trying to do?
Candarin Home is a student accommodation-booking platform. Moreover, it brings a professional student accommodation service to the private renting sector. It provides day to day maintenance services, weekly cleaning services, and fast internet services to student rented flats and houses. What we are trying to do is help international students stay comfortably and relaxed in their accommodation. Besides, for landlords, we provide a hassle-free letting services, and we also guarantee the rent. We make sure both students and landlord will be satisfied with our service.
What are the challenges faced by students coming to the UK and how are you helping them using technology?
The biggest challenge is the language barrier. In finding an accommodation, most students will find it extremely difficult to negotiate with the agencies/landlords. The second biggest problem is the cultural difference. Most international students lack the basic property maintenance knowledge, particularly if it is their first time studying abroad. Through our friendly app function, international students can easily book their accommodation, and also easily update their property status. We are also looking to add links to other products and services, such as taxi companies, nearby restaurants, gyms, hair salons, and stationery shops into the app, thus helping students to more easily integrate with their local environment.
How are you different from other student businesses here in the UK?
Compared with other student booking platforms, we provide many more choices (student accommodation blocks and private renting combined). Compared with the local agencies, we are more service-focused. We aim to look after the students day by day, rather than running a one-off service. For landlords, we look after their property better, based on our free maintenance services.
What are the challenges you face as a business in this space to achieve your ambitions?
Firstly, we are looking for a CTO, who can understand both English and Chinese, not only the language but also the culture. As you know, in China, Google is blocked… so we cannot use Google to promote our website, nor its maps system. Secondly, we are still in negotiation with suppliers to effectively meet our demands. We are also working on building our landlord portfolio, as a matter of some urgency!
If you would like to learn more about Candarin Home, do pay a visit to their website.
Check out the other interviews in the PiLabs accelerator programme series:
- Gavriel Merkado from Insight Residential
- Thijs van der Burgt, Founder of OfficeApp
- Savannah de Savary, Founder and CEO of Industry Hub
- Daniel Mohamed, Founder of Urban Intelligence