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Long term room-rental platform Badi launches its service in NYC

As things stand in many countries, renting houses and whole apartments is relatively straightforward, if you can afford it. But trying to find rooms in those apartments and houses to rent has been chaotic for many years and relies on hugely informal networks. Some startups have launched in recent years to address this problem of finding roommates and rooms for rent as the market becomes more competitive.

Roomi (NYC, raised $17M), Roomster is in NYC, and then there’s SpareRoom. All have appeared to try and capture this growing market. And of course, they have Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace as competitors. 

Then there are other co-living companies include Common, Ollie, Quarters, Startcity, X Social Communities, and WeLive.

Backed by $45 million from U.S. and international investors like Spark Capital and Mangrove Capital, including $30 million from Goodwater Capital as their first investment in a Spanish startup, Badi is a Spanish-born startup (founded in Barcelona by Carlos Pierre) which is a long-term room rental platform, operating in cities like London, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin.

It’s now launching in New York City, after claiming to have surpassed more than two million users in Europe. Badi says its web and mobile app now features over 300,000 listings. After soft-launching in November of last year, it claims to be growing booking requests by 370%. 

Pierre says: “Every major city around the world is suffering from overcrowdedness and increasing rent prices. The strong interest from the participants in our beta group alongside the findings from our 2020 survey on NYC indicates that city dwellers are warming up to the idea of sharing and co-living arrangements.”

During its beta in NYC, Badi found that the majority think co-living is a growing trend and shared living spaces with shared resources are viewed favorably.

Badi’s main pitch is that it provides a safe and secure communications channel for users to get to know potential roommates without an intermediary, using a visual verification tool for ensuring renters profiles and photos of the rooms and amenities.

It’s serving a need. The United Nations projects that 2.5 billion people will live in cities by 2050. This will cause rents to skyrocket, of course.

Jiji raises $21M for its Africa online classifieds business

Pan-African digital classifieds company Jiji has raised $21 million in Series C and C-1 financing from six investors, led by Knuru Capital.

The Nigeria based venture, co-founded by Ukrainian entrepreneur Vladimir Mnogoletniy, has an East to West presence that includes Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Buyers and sellers in those markets use Jiji to transact purchases from real estate to car sales.

“We are the largest marketplace in Africa where people can sell pretty much anything…We are like a combination of eBay and Craigslist for Africa,” Mnogoletniy told TechCrunch on a call.

The classifieds site has two million listings on its Africa platforms and hit eight million unique monthly users in 2018, per company stats.

Jiji sees an addressable market of 400 million people across its operating countries, according to Mnogoletniy. The venture bought up one of its competitors in April this year, when it acquired the assets of Naspers owned online marketplace OLX in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Jiji’s top three categories for revenues and listings (in order) are vehicle sales, real estate, and electronics sales (namely mobile phones).

With the recent funding, the company’s total capital raised from 2014 to 2019 comes to $50 million. Knuru Capital CEO Alain Dib confirmed the Abu Dhabi based fund’s lead on Jiji’s most recent round.

Jiji plans to use the latest investment toward initiatives to increase the overall number of buyers, sellers and transactions on its site. The company will also upgrade the platform to create more listings and faster matching in the area of real-estate, according to Mnogoletniy.

For the moment, Jiji doesn’t have plans for country expansion or company purchases. “Maybe at some point we will consider more acquisitions, but for the time being we’d like to focus on those five markets,” Mnogoletniy said — referring to Jiji’s existing African country presence.

To ensure the quality of listings, particularly in real-estate, Jiji employs an automated and manual verification process. “We were able to eliminate a high-percentage of fraud listings and estimate fraud listings at less than 1%,” said Mnogoletniy.

He recognized the challenge of online scams originating in Nigeria. “We take data protection very seriously. We have a data-control officer just to do the data-protection verification.”

With the large consumer base and volume of transactional activity on its platform, Jiji could layer on services, such as finance and payments.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions about adding segments other than our main business. We decided that for the next three to five years, we should be laser focused on our core business — to be the largest marketplace in Africa for buying and selling to over 400 million people,” Mnogoletniy said.

The company faces an improving commercial environment for its goals, with Africa registering some of the fastest growth in the world for smartphone adoption and internet penetration.

Jiji also faces competitors in Africa’s growing online classifieds space.

Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia, which listed in April in an NYSE IPO, operates its Jumia Deals digtial marketplace site in multiple African countries.

Swiss owned Ringier Africa has classified services and business content sites in eight French and English speaking countries. On car sales, Nigerian startup Cars45 has created an online marketplace for pricing, rating, and selling used-autos. 

Adding to the trend of foreign backed ventures entering Africa’s internet business space, Chinese owned Opera launched an online buy/sell site, OList, last month connected its African payment app, OPay.

eBay operates a partnership with MallforAfrica for limited goods sales from Africa to the U.S., but hasn’t gone live yet on the continent.

On outpacing rival in its markets, Jiji’s co-founder Vladimir Mnogoletniy touts the company’s total focus on the classifieds business, market experience, and capital as advantages.

“We’ve spent five years and raised $50 million to build Jiji to where it is today. It would take $50 to $100 million for these others to have a chance at building a similar business,” he said.

Finally, an official Craigslist app

Fancy websites and services come and go, but Craigslist endures. And now one of its main shortcomings is fixed: there’s an official app. Currently available for iOS and in beta for Android, the app provides a true-to-form Craigslist experience: useful, unfussy, and anonymous.

There isn’t much to say about the app beyond that it faithfully replicates the website, down to the color scheme. All categories of posts are available to browse or search; you can favorite things, save searches, and change the way results look. Different categories have their pertinent settings, so when you look for a car you’ll get odometer, model year and so on the way you do on the site.

No account is required at all to browse listings or contact sellers, and conveniently all their contact info pops up easily, letting you email, text, or call as desired.

Obviously the web app is still perfectly serviceable, and some may even prefer it. But it’s nice to have a native app, if only to deter the imitation Craigslist apps that piggyback on the popularity of the original no-frills listings.

The app was released yesterday and is already climbing the charts. Grab it today and start looking for free furniture!