1. How and when did you come up with the idea of your startup?
My interest for the tourism field let me decide to pick the master in Tourism Destination Development program and at the same time I was hired as a blogger. My job was to write or record about my typical Swedish experiences and university life, vividly as possible. Often, we went with my fellow-bloggers on interesting local trips, so we had some material to write about. The tourism program also let me go on a lot of inspiring fieldtrips in the region of Dalarna.
While enjoying my study time to the fullest and merging myself into the local community. I noticed that other students weren’t as lucky as me. They had trouble finding a suitable place to stay and expressed their wish to get to know Sweden better, but not knowing how to do that.
My background in tourism helped me to construct this idea. I started to view the students as so to say, long term tourists wanting to know everything about their new home as there is possibly to know about. What is a better way than to do this by sharing homes, traditions, lives through a proud inhabitant of Sweden?
Then I came up with the company name, Honeycombhousing. Bees are caring after one and other, they like to explore new environments, and they are dedicated to work for a common goal benefitting the whole swarm. I thought of this as a metaphor for what Honeycombhousing embodies. It’s not just about facilitating in renting (out) a room. It goes beyond knowing your way around campus and locating the nearest Ikea. Or, just renting out a room and hand over the keys. It’s the social aspect that makes the difference. It’s best described as “Fika”. The Swedish expression for coffee breaks that’s more about socializing than drinking coffee. This Swedish tradition shaped Honeycombhousing to what it is today and sets them apart from other services in providing housing for international students.
2. What is your business model?
Honeycombhousing is a social/cultural-housing platform to connect international students with homeowners on peer-to-peer basis. It’s based on a shared economy business model a with no-cure no-pay principle. The idea is to provide affordable housing for international students with emphasis on the inside experience of Swedish life and the social aspects around it by connecting them to homeowners. These homeowners are interested to meet people from different cultures and would like to enhance their social life and relevancy within the local community. Honeycombhousing facilitates the process to connect both parties, hosting the community and assists in finding the right match.
3. Briefly tell us about what’s happened since your idea until now?
A lot of things happened! It sounds cliché but it has been and still is one big rollercoaster. I call it accelerated learning, also about myself. At first you feel your idea is not gaining any traction, you have no idea which business activities to include but you are too stubborn to give up! Then, the magic happens. Little things but with a great impact. A reference on the main Facebook page administered by school for international students, the first customers asking for help, the first matches and meeting the first customers explaining how their ideal match brought them such a good experience and spontaneously receive the most enthusiastic reviews from customers. We are now even looking to expand to the Netherlands!
4. What’s your biggest success story?
There are plenty of them! One of them is when I joined a local startup competition, organised by the energy company Dalakraft, supporting progressive ideas in the region, with coaching and funding. You needed to collect as many votes as possible to win. I entered the competition and was accepted I started fanatically promoting Honeycombhousing across social media channels and the website. The votes came in but when I glanced at my competitors it turned out I was lacking behind. I decided it was fun to join but did not pay attention to the competition anymore. Then the people from Dalakraft kept calling me, I thought what could be so urgent? After all, I was way behind the competition. It turns out the people from Dalakraft were so inspired by the idea vision of Honeycombhousing they decided to grant me funding and coaching anyway! For me a big eye opener that it’s not only the generic value what counts for an ambitious startup.
5. If you would do it over again, what would you do differently?
I would have signed up for an accelerator program from the start, write a killer business plan to convince investors and would have focused on supply earlier in the process. But it takes time to understand what it takes to be a successful startup and it has been all worth it, even the struggles. Everything worth doesn’t come easy!
6. What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was to bring students and landlords in contact with each other. When the first students and homeowners uploaded their profiles on the platform, very little happened. Although, the contact button was clearly visible. I worried, in real life it would have been awkward silence between people sitting across each other, not knowing who should start the conversation. Then I started to give people suggestions through messaging. For example, 'I might have a good match for you. Did you look at this profile?' What usually programmed filters do, I did manually. Turned out to work well! Of course, this is not scalable on the long term but to understand people’s behaviour online you should try to experiment on the manual level, to find out what could really help them.
7. What’s your mission in one sentence?
Mission Statement: To provide affordable housing and a community platform with the purpose to improve the quality of living by bringing international students and homeowners together, provide the opportunity to experience local and social life, and assisting them in finding a valuable meaningful match to make a difference.
Vision: To become the pioneer and best online provider in international student housing while creating impact through social responsibility
8. What is your moonshot? Why are you doing what you’re doing?
Becoming the most social platform out there, making lasting impressions with people for life. I strongly believe the future of the collaborative economy is beautiful, and I want to be there to be part of that fortunate. I see a glimpse of that future by every successful match made on Honeycombhousing.
9. What’s a habit that you do every day/week/month, that have helped you come to where you are now?
I once saw a one-minute video about the nature of Bonsai trees. They are fully mature after 5 years, but only if you give them every day some water. It doesn’t have to be much water. The video replayed itself in my mind. Just be consistent, give some attention to your business every day and it will grow. So that’s what I do.
10. What’s the advice that someone else gave you and that you took to heart and implemented?
An inspiring founder, with the mission of bringing people together to share meals, told me to apply for an accelerator program. I did and it brought me more progress, connections and inspiration than I could ever imagined.
11. Why is the collaborative economy the future?
I believe social, environmental and economic resources are depleting vastly. To tackle this challenge, we need to change our mind set, start utilizing natural resources in a different way and become less individualistic. Why not make a beginning with that right now?