Have you ever wondered how much exactly does the lightbulb on floor two cost and is it really necessary to change it every two weeks? Why there is no money in the property`s safe when the elevator needs fixing? Or why you can track the new phone case you bought last weekend, that is coming from the other side of the world but can’t track the money you pay for the maintenance of the building you live in?
“On friends gathering, everybody was sharing the same pain about the moment the property manager is calling to collect the monthly fee. And that it is hard to see the actual results from the work done. So, we started brainstorming and eventually building а concept for a digital solution that could change this,” tells us Kristian Georgiev, founder of a venture called Vhoda mi, that aims to improve this process through simple digital solutions.
Indeed, the facility management of residential buildings is a grey area, where different stakeholders – the residents themselves, specialized companies, the municipality, and the state, have their roles and confusions. The legal framework that needs to regulate who is responsible for what exactly is currently under construction. The proposed changes might affect the sector into a few directions – for instance, registering buildings as legal entities would bring transparency regarding management operators’ specific responsibilities and how finances are managed. There is also a proposal that could make external building management services mandatory which will open up the market towards new players.
The new players
In the middle of this, there are also new digital players looking for their market niche. To bring transparency and easier access to information related to regular payments and distribution report, the Bulgarian company Vhoda mi (roughly translated as My Section – ed. notes) has developed a user-friendly online platform. Trough personalized accounts, users can pay monthly fees, keep track of what they are spent on and look through invoices. This way the young company is implementing a much-needed online tool to the business of management and maintenance of buildings.
“It took us a year to collect feedback from people about the problems that they face with their current management and maintenance provider. It turned out that no one actually knows what the money was spent on, which is unacceptable for the digital world that we live in,” shares Georgiev. So, they developed a platform that combines transparent management of costs, spending, and invoices, and a built-in messenger for the residents, where they can communicate important topics.
At least 600K households to be served
It might not sound like the next unicorn concept, but Vhoda mi is a solution that at least 600K households (that’s the number of registered households in Sofia only – ed.note) could benefit from. One-third of those households are being served by external service companies, not necessarily digital though. Among the online platforms that assist the same process on the local market are founded in 2014 Vhod Manager, which is now the biggest company in the sector, and My Domoupravitel, founded in 2017. But it seems that there is still enough space within the market, the performance of Vhoda mi shows. Founded in April 2018, Vhoda mi has already attracted 30 condominium properties, both residential and offices, and reached monthly revenue of around €4K, calculations show.
One of the tricks of the company to grow is the cashback motivation they are using to stimulate new customers. Whoever recommends the service, receives a reward. The same applies to investors or construction companies who want to dedicate the maintenance of the building to an external company.
Next step is mobile
To stay relevant and bite off a larger share of the market, Vhoda mi continues to develop solutions. And logically, the next step is in direction mobility. Georgiev and his team, who have invested around 100K own cash into the project so far, are currently developing a mobile app, aiming to become the first company with Android and iOS solution in the local market.
The company has set a goal to have 50 properties under management by the end of 2019 and has the vision to double that in 2020. To do that the company is currently looking for an external investment of €100K that would help them grow in the next two years. In the future, Vhoda mi is aiming to expand to foreign markets, but for now, Georgiev is keeping his focus on Sofia.
Which of the current players, or probably new ones will be fast enough to catch the wave of the new legal frameworks and get the major share of the market, remains to be seen. One thing is certain though: with around 30% of the buildings in Sofia are using building management and maintenance as a service, there is definitely enough space for growth.