SPCE's Omar Fahmi and Leon Ifayemi.
Billy Wood

This app is hoping to become the Airbnb for higher education accommodation

A pair of entrepreneurs in the capital are developing a new app which they hope will do for the student accommodation market what Airbnb did for short-term rentals.

Leon Ifayemi and Omar Fahmi are the brains behind London-based SPCE, an app which helps to put students seeking accommodation in touch with landlords and existing tenants without the need for estate agents.

Users are able to search and pay for accommodation through the app which supports university-specific filtering and searches for properties ranging from studios to eight-bed houses and privately catered university halls.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ifayemi, explained that the inspiration for the app came from his own experiences working for the university accommodation department in his second year of study.

He said: “After my first year at university, I moved out of student halls and into private student accommodation. To survive, I took a job with the university which involved me taking students to view properties near the campus.

“It quickly became apparent that all the students I met shared the same questions and problems when viewing properties.

“The idea for SPCE slowly took hold. The following year, I did more work with landlords and found that they too had very similar interests and hurdles to overcome.”

Targeted at both students who want to dodge often punitive agency fees and landlords who want to manage their own portfolios cost effectively, the SPCE app is also trying to raise standards by establishing an Airbnb-style ‘system of accountability’.

By allowing users to connect with existing tenants, users are able to receive recommendations and share their own experiences of the property which could, in theory, raise standards across the market.

According to the startup, over 800 students have already pre-registered their interest in the app while six partnerships have already been agreed with as-yet-unamed top 20 UK universities.

Leon, who joined forces with Omar Fahmi to design the app and bring it to market, believes this element of accountability will help to cut out the middle-men and, in turn, improve the relationship between student tenants and their landlord.

He said: “Both parties can communicate with each other via the app, therefore reducing friction points which are often the cause of conflict such as poor maintenance or late payments.”

When it launches in October the app will operate on a freemium model, giving users free access but taking a cut of any transaction on the platform between 3% and 6%.

Until then and ahead of its launch, SPCE is also putting the finishing touches to its £215k crowdfunding campaign which is due to launch this April on Seedrs.

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