Sydney-based property management startup Hometime is expanding into new markets and gearing up for even more growth, after seeing 750% revenue growth over the past 18 months.
Founded in 2016 by Dave Thompson and William Crock, Hometime manages properties in the short-term rental market, and in May last year secured a marketing partnership with Airbnb.
In August 2017, the startup secured $1.5 million in seed funding, led by tech accelerator Asia Principal Capital.
Now, it’s expanding its services into two new markets, the Sunshine Coast and Byron Bay, adding to operations in the Aussie hubs of Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Brisbane, as well as Auckland in New Zealand.
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Speaking to StartupSmart, Crock says Hometime has seen 750% revenue growth over the past 18 months, and is currently processing about $24 million in annual gross booking value.
“And we really expect that to triple over the next 12 months,” he says.
In fact, Hometime is gearing up for a big year ahead, with another capital raise on the cards.
“We’re feeling confident in the business model now, and we’re in the scale-up phase, so we’re going to go hard,” Crock says.
The founders are looking to take Hometime to 15 more markets, including Queenstown in New Zealand, as well as heading further afield in the Asia Pacific region.
“It should be an exciting year ahead, and I think we’ve only just really started to see the business accelerate,” he adds.
Learning and tweaking
This latest expansion comes after Hometime has been working on “trying to perfect the operational side of the business”.
So far, the startup has been expanding slowly, one market at a time, before the founders felt confident launching in multiple markets at once.
“It takes a bit of time to mature your business model so you can expand and maintain high level of service delivery,” Crock says.
Scaling the model, bringing partners on board and building on revenue gradually has meant “we’ve stress-tested the business along the way”, he adds.
“You learn, you tweak … and over time you get to a point where you’re good.”
The significant growth has come from a multi-pronged focus, Crock explains.
Organic traction through Google and Facebook account for “maybe half of the overall growth”, he says, while partnerships, like that with Airbnb, have also been “really influential”.
However, a lot of growth has also come from five acquisitions, including fellow Aussie property management startups HostKeep and Hey Tom.
Now, Hometime has 90 employees on board, including a “big contingent of remote staff”.
One of the challenges in managing both a remote and an acquired workforce has been maintaining the culture of the startup.
It’s been “a learning curve”, Crock says.
“We’ve been big on remote culture for a long time,” he says, with a lengthy hiring process including a peer review and a meeting with either one of the co-founders or Kieran O’Neill, general manager for Australia and New Zealand.
The first 50 or so employees hired through this process have “formed the cultural core of the business”, Crock says.
But when bringing in a significant number of people with another business, there’s always going to be friction, he adds.
It’s up to the founders to set the tone, showing “this is a collaborative merge”.
When onboarding in this way, founders should be prepared to allocate a significant amount of time to the transition Crock says, showing respect for the acquired company and their way of doing things, and committing to learning from each other to figure out the best model.
“It’s important to set the bar early,” he says.
When onboarding Hey Tom, for example, “we sat down with everyone and explained the opportunity, to get the buy-in early,” he explains.
“We still had conflict, we still had friction, but over time, as long as you give people a voice and you’re very transparent about why you’re moving in this direction or that, overall people are happy, and they’re happy to be part of a growing business.”
Small chats, big consequences
When it comes to securing partnerships and achieving high growth fast, Crock says a lot depends on the industry you’re in.
However, there is one “surprising” thing he’s learnt along the way.
“Get out in your industry and have as many conversations as you can with influential peers,” he advises.
“They might be potential partners, an adjacent business, or even unrelated but successful businesses that might have a similar model,” he adds.
And, while those conversations may start off vague, “it’s amazing how many of them eventuate into meaningful relationships that can directly affect the growth of the business”.
According to Crock, Hometime began its relationships with Airbnb when the founders “rocked up” to a community event. Six months later, they were helping host and run the events.
Initially, they weren’t sure the effort was worth their time, Crock says.
“But fast-forward a year later and it resulted in a partnership with the behemoth global successful startup.”
Small conversations may initially seem fruitless, but they’re all about building connections, he says.
Then, when big companies are looking for partners in Australia, “who comes to mind?”