During the pandemic and the shift to remote work that accompanied it, many people took advantage of their newfound flexibility to try living in different places.
Initialized Capital, CEAS Investments, TI Platform, NFX, Opendoor’s Eric Wu, and Miras also participated in the financing, bringing the startup’s total raised to $ 125 million. The company declined to disclose its current valuation, but it was valued at $ 205 million at the time of its last increase in 2019.
Zeus Living began life redecorating the owners’ homes and renting the furnished properties primarily to relocated workers for stays of 30 days (or more) for a new type of corporate housing. Since then, it has broadened its focus and grown into a company that gives people, not just corporate employees, more options to move across the board with less commitment.
“From our inception, we have provided ‘home’ to people who traveled for work, but also to grandparents who spent more time with newborn grandchildren, people seeking health care and families renovating their homes,” said the director. executive and co-founder Kulveer Taggar. “In the last 18 months we have replaced corporate housing and are challenging the old rigid rental market by offering beautifully designed, furnished homes at fair prices and flexible terms in places where residents want to live.”
It’s a good comeback story, considering that at the start of the pandemic, Zeus Living made headlines for firing about 80 people, or about 30% of the company. And the demand is there.
As evidence of the pandemic and the resulting remote work shift, Zeus Living says it saw a “6-fold increase” in residents booking leases without a predetermined end date, for an average stay of 129 nights, during the last year.
Basically, Taggar believes that “there is a new American dream” that does not imply buying a house as a symbol that someone “is doing it.”
“What See now for this new generation, that goal or dream is not so much related to buying a house, ”he told TechCrunch. “They want to invest in experiences of possessions. They want to be more mobile. And they just want to do that without a lot of headaches and discomfort. “
In 2019, Zeus Living offered 2,400 homes on its site, partnering with homeowners to manage and rent their properties. Today, that has grown to nearly 5,000 households in 96 US cities like Austin, Miami, Portland, and Philadelphia. Occupancy is 87%, up from 82% in 2020, while “revpar” (the income you earn for owners whose properties you manage) is up 21% this year compared to last.
Over time, residents have spent more than 1.4 million nights with Zeus, and 811,562 of those were during the pandemic. The company is approaching $ 250 million in lifetime booking income.
Since those layoffs in March 2020, the company has been able to hire some of the people it was forced to fire. according to Taggar. But it is still operating somewhat lean, comparatively speaking, with 122 employees.
The company emphasizes that, unlike its investor Airbnb, it is not a marketplace and manages its homes, from curation to design, property management and service. However, Airbnb is a channel for Zeus.
With Zeus, Taggar said, users can browse the thousands of households it manages and choose the dates they want to stay there, be it five weeks or five months, all from their phone. Residents also don’t have to set up utilities or Wi-Fi. Zeus will take care of that too.
“You can be flexible and go just two weeks early,” he said. “And then you can trust that the experience will be a good one because Zeus has done the hard work of healing the house in the first place. We inspect it and know it’s safe, and then we’ll design it to be comfortable for you to live in. “
While Zeus was increasing revenue 3-4 times a year since it started in 2015, it temporarily accelerated when the pandemic began, according to Taggar.
“But we are getting back on that path,” he said. “We are making the rental experience very modern and turnkey. Even if the behind-the-scenes operations to make everything work are quite complicated.”
Going forward, the company plans to use its new capital to focus on growth and expansion.
“We have a limited supply in all of our markets, so we want to go and get more homes,” Taggar told TechCrunch. “We also want to continue to invest and improve the online experience for our owners and residents.”
In fact, he said, Zeus Living has had an unmet demand of $ 40 million over the past 12 months.
“We know where people want to live and how much they are willing to pay for flexible living,” he said.
Garry Tan, Founder and Managing Partner of Initialized Capital, is a regular investor in Zeus Living, having led its seed and Series A rounds and invested in its Series B and C funding.
In general, Tan believes that the world of property management is “stuck in the same place where taxi companies were before transportation services.”
Zeus Living, he believes, has created something that is a bit of a “set and forget” for homeowners. At the same time, it is helping to meet the need for people to see flexible life options in “the absolute best markets.”
“They were entering this new phase where people don’t have to be in a handful of cities, “he told TechCrunch. “You can be anywhere in the country. And this new idea from FlexLiving is that it makes that possibility more accessible to everyone. “
What makes Zeus even more special, in Tan’s opinion, is his ability to find properties in desirable areas of the city that are generally known only to people who live in a city, so that residents can “live like a local.” .
“It’s actually a lot more difficult to get those locations, so it’s also a lot more profitable, because it’s also where customers want to be,” Tan said.
Of course, Zeus Living isn’t the only player in the flexible rental space. The guild, an Austin, Texas-based startup that turns apartments into comfortable short-term accommodations for business travelers and others, last raised a $ 25 million Series B in January 2020. Last June, the hospitality startup Sonder raised $ 170 million to $ 1.3 although it is important to note that the company, which rents apartments with services similar to boutique hotels, is more of an Airbnb competitor.