Today we are happy to share our interview of Sami Hamed, Vice President of Product Experience at homefully, a german based coliving operator with locations in Germany and Switzerland. Why Coliving? Do you colive yourself?
When I received the offer to become homefully’s first Head of Product, I was very curious about the challenge of creating digital solutions for truly physical experiences.
In 2015 I wrote my thesis on the “shared economy” and how some german startups transformed traditional social flows (e.g. local market places) with digital solutions. Coliving has the potential to be the next big thing in social and cultural digitization and I am still eager to actively contribute to the innovation that the coliving sector can bring to proptech and the real estate sector. Since my first day at homefully, I have also been an active resident in the homefully Community. So far, I have lived in two of homefully’s shared coliving spaces and made some great connections along the way.
How did you start working for homefully?
I have a background in software development and had been working in the field for a few years. Before joining homefully, I lived in Hamburg where I had been working in frontend development and user experience design for a german fintech startup for a short while. Ultimately, I couldn’t identify with the product and wasn’t sufficiently challenged by the role.
A previous colleague and good friend of mine, Leon Strauss, was in talks with homefully to join the team as the new CTO. He immediately called me up to see if I was willing to join his team in Frankfurt to improve the digital user experience at homefully. In early 2020, I did and quickly reshaped product development in general, ultimately becoming homefully’s head of product or even later; its VP of Experience.
Have you seen any changes in the industry since you started working in coliving?
Obviously, COVID-19 had a huge impact on the demand side in coliving. To some coliving operators, it became devastating as I saw other companies struggling to keep up and fill their coliving spaces. During the first lockdown, Germany and Switzerland — the two countries we operate in — closed their borders and from one day to the next, we couldn’t recruit expatriates for the homefully Community anymore. Non-Germans made up around 70% of homefully’s Community and we had to massively shift our targeting strategies. That percentage shifted slightly since then and now we see a trend towards more locals using our services.
Coliving networks like Coliving Hub did a great part in showing me the scale at which coliving is becoming more and more present around the world. It seems like shared living is slowly becoming a viable solution to the housing crisis in metropolitan areas globally. That was fascinating to see!
How was homefully born?
homefully was developed by two young men, Sebastian Würz & Bastian Schätzle, who had a dream of providing a solution to the housing crisis which large European cities suffer from. They found a way to transform existing architecture into shared coliving spaces and slowly built a team of experts to create one of Europe’s biggest coliving operators with more than 250 shared coliving spaces in currently 8 European cities.
Those who eat together stay together…
How big is the team today?
We currently keep around 35 people busy. That includes community managers, software developers, in-house repair technicians for the coliving spaces, accountants to keep the numbers straight, real estate experts to keep our portfolio growing, and many more very talented young people.
How many locations and residents do you have?
The homefully Community currently houses a bit more than 900 Community Members in about 250 shared flats in 8 cities around Germany and Switzerland.
Who is your main target group?
We target so-called ‘young professionals’. Our target group contains all those people who are starting life in a new city, driven by career or personal development. Our goal is to provide them with everything they need to get life in their new desired city started. At the moment we proudly foster communities of 900 people from more than 60 nationalities. Only about 40% of our Community consists of locals and we’re happy to see such cultural and professional diversity in our Community.
What has been the biggest challenge since you started working there?
At first, I had difficulties getting started in product development with my ‘data-first approach’. Decisions in my immediate environment were often made by ‘gut-feeling’ and projects were hardly evaluated based on statistical significance. By now, homefully has made a 180° turn and I am happy to have conquered this challenge of transforming homefully’s innovative department into a data-driven one that constantly improves the user experience from a macro to a micro level.
What has been/is the most rewarding?
Space for everyone…
What do you think is key for a community of people living together to thrive?
It’s definitely communication-skill. I also lived in two homefully living spaces and have learned that communication between flatmates is essential. ‘Bringing like-minded people together’ begins at connecting people who speak the same language(s). In addition, transparency into all processes and trust in the coliving operators as a landlord are key to creating good relationships between residents and operators.
What are you working on at the moment?
My team and I are currently doing internal research to find out what makes the happiest homefully communities so happy. We want to learn how they create their own communities so that we can share their success formula in other coliving spaces.
Thanks for reading.
Read more about homefully here.
Get in touch with Sami Hamed on Linkedin.