Hostel.ng wants to connect Nigerian students to quality and affordable hostels

In 2016, when Davidson Okafor was admitted to Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, South East Nigeria, he learned that hostels on the university campus could not accommodate all admitted students. the rooms were already overcrowded and the overall living conditions in and around them were poor – dirty rooms, broken windows and filthy bathrooms. Like many students, he decides to find accommodation off campus, a search that will prove difficult. To begin with, he had to commute between his home in Lagos and Awka, an unfamiliar environment, in his search for a hostel room. Once, when he found a hotel room he wanted and was about to pay the rent, he discovered that the agent he was in contact with was an impostor. Another time, after reaching an agreement with the hostel manager on payment and returning to Lagos to collect his belongings, the hostel manager gave the room to another tenant who had earlier than Okafor couldn’t.

Although, as a first-year student, Okafor had a month before classes started, the month-long search for accommodation caused him to miss important orientation sessions for new students.

When Okafor realized that his unpleasant experience was shared by many other students, he started thinking about creating a solution that would make it easier for students to find off-campus accommodation.

During a nationwide strike by university professors in 2016, he enrolled in a computer training institute to improve his coding skills, and it was there that he met Folaranmi Olujobi, who was the main tutor of the institute, and who would join him later, as Chief Technology Officer. Officer (CTO), to co-found Hostel.ng, an off-campus accommodation solution for students.

Okafor started building Hostel.ng in 2019, with the help of its co-founders, Olujobi and Tobi Otomewo, a frontend developer. The Hostel.ng website allows students to explore available hostels in their area of ​​choice and inspect them while the Hostel.ng team confirms room availability and schedules an appointment with an agent on behalf of the student.

From the campus of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, where the startup has its sole operations, Hostel.ng currently has 150 hostels housing around 2,000 rooms on its platform and has connected around 500 students to their dream hostels.

Accommodating income

In search of revenue, Hostel.ng has done several iterations over the years. In 2019, after creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), Okafor discovered that while many students came to their website to view their listings, they were not paying for the hostels listed through Hostel.ng’s payment portal, even though there was was a button for them to do so. Instead, once these students find the hostel of their choice on the website, they proceed to payment directly to the hostel manager, as they did not feel comfortable paying on a website. Random web they had found on the internet.

Hostel.ng’s pursuit of a revenue model was successful in 2021 after earning money by earning a 20% service fee during the beta testing phase of its short-term rental feature. The short-term rental feature allows students to rent out their hostels to other short-term visiting students. This will put money in the pockets of students, especially in light of the ongoing university strike, which began on February 14, 2022 and has left empty hostels already paid for in its wake.

Later this year, Okafor said, Hostel.ng will launch a rent finance feature that would allow students to pay for hostel accommodation in installments, spread over 6 months. By partnering with Kwaba, a rental finance startup, to provide lender verification, as well as credit disbursement and collection, Hostel.ng will make this technology available to hostel managers across the country who want to allow their tenants to pay in instalments. Okafor remembers that when he was still at university, it was not an easy task for his parents, each start of the school year, to pay his rent and that of his 2 brothers, in one go. He said it would have been more convenient if they had to pay this bill in installments.

In 2020, Hostel.ng joined the Lagos Innovate Idea Hub program, a 20-week incubator for early-stage tech companies hosted by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), which gave them much-needed exposure to the ecosystem. technological. Hostel.ng also went through the TVC Labs accelerator in 2021 and, after a successful exit, landed longtime startup investor Tomi Davies on its advisory board. Davies mentors the team and helps refine their ideas.

Last year, Hostel.ng introduced its short-term lease on WhatsApp by manually matching students who wanted to rent their hostels with those who needed accommodation. He was able to facilitate some bookings and get around 30 students who were willing to sublet their rooms for up to ₦3,000 per day. During a concert that was held at Nnamdi Azikwe University, students from different other universities came to visit, which led to an increase in short term rental inquiries from Hostel.ng. The founders couldn’t answer more than 40 requests received, so they created a feature that would automate the process.

Okafor attributed the website’s growth to organic bookings from its SEO-friendly name because they don’t have a marketing budget. He believes that the launch of short-term rental and rent financing features will make Hostel.ng profitable. He also intends to close a round of pre-seed funding for Hostel.ng before the successful launch of these features. For now, Hostel.ng is building a waiting list for its sublet and rent finance features.

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Linda G. Ibarra