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Towards a Better Kind of Home


Development

Five years ago, I founded Common because I saw that the urban rental experience was broken. We started with coliving — a need I personally understood, and one where Common was able to create a better product for both owners and renters — but we always had an eye on the bigger vision of making housing better. Coliving’s success got us to where we are today, with over 17,500 units under development across 26 cities, and with an incredible opportunity to rethink residential management. With an eye to our continued expansion, today we’re announcing a $50M Series D led by Kinnevik with participation from existing investors Maveron, 8VC, and Norwest.

In the early days of Common, we made an important choice to build a full-stack residential management platform that encompassed operating, leasing, design, and capital markets, rather than just an app. Building a full-stack management platform wasn’t an easy choice, but we saw that the entire residential operating system of property management and leasing was fundamentally broken, and fixing it would require replacing the entire system rather than putting a software patch on top.

We knew that by rethinking the entire platform, Common could unlock a far greater opportunity to create a new kind of housing company rather than merely optimizing a broken system.

The choice to fundamentally reconsider how property management works was a pivotal one, and over the past few years has taken us well beyond coliving. We rethought the entire residential management process with an eye toward what technology is capable of today — with innovations in automation, big data, AI, and the ease of software development — rather than bolting technology onto old ways of doing business that haven’t changed since the 80s. Doing so has enabled us to bring value to a wide variety of residential assets and form partnerships with some of the world’s largest owners and developers.

Our decision to build a full-stack operating company led us to today’s expansion of our vision: to make Common not just the best coliving company in the world, but the best housing company in the world. Earlier this year we launched Noah to improve the quality of management of the more than 20 million workforce housing units in the US, a market segment often overlooked by technology and capital. And in 2019, we launched Kinto make a better kind of housing for families with young kids. We’ve also continued our partnerships with institutional owners, most recently joining with Nuveen Real Estate to take over two large, Class A residential buildings.

Rebuilding residential management from the ground up requires a special kind of schlep blindness. It’s going to be a long haul, but the prize is enormous: last year, residential rental was a $253 billion industry.

As we succeed at building a better kind of property manager, there are opportunities to do unique things that build upon a network at scale. Here are a few things I’m excited to tackle in the coming years:

  • Using data to build better homes. Common is unique in that we are an integrated residential designer and manager — two functions that are typically segregated with minimal overlap or feedback. By integrating design and management into one company, we are able to seamlessly incorporate learnings and data from our existing portfolio into future homes. While some insights are exciting (“What amenity spaces get the most use, and when?”) the mundane ones (“How many gallons of hot water does a coliving tenant use?”) are just as impactful.
  • Serving new audiences like remote workers. We recently announced our Remote Work Hub RFP, an initiative that believes the new power behind economic development in emerging cities comes from attracting renters, not large corporations. Through the Hub, we’ll design and develop the first work-and-live building that accurately addresses the growth of a remote workforce in a post-COVID world. We’ve already seen interest from over 300 public and private groups.
  • Enabling seamless movement between cities. Today, we offer Common residents greater ability to transfer seamlessly between buildings and cities than any other property manager. We’re currently opening in one new city per month, and as we expand, the value proposition of seamless movement is all the more powerful.

As an 80-year old, publicly-traded growth equity investor with a long investment time horizon, Kinnevik is the right partner for this next phase of our journey alongside new investors Wilshire Lane Partners and Hanaco. Together, we will build a housing company that works better for renters and owners alike.

Brad Hargreaves

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