Tech City: Shared living app lands $1.2m investment
PUBLISHED: 09:13 02 November 2015 | UPDATED: 11:34 03 November 2015
Tech City is the third largest technology hub in the world, and it's right on our doorstep. Each week, we bring you news from the thriving area around Old Street roundabout. This week, reporter Sophie Inge talks to Nick Katz, the co-founder of Splittable
From council tax to toilet paper, household expenses can be difficult to keep track of – especially when you’re living in a flatshare.
Few know this better than serial housemate and American communications graduate Nick Katz, who at 31, has shared nine properties in the past five years – “probably around 20 in my lifetime,” he says.
Three years ago, when Mr Katz was sharing a flat with a friend in Dalston, the pair thought they had found the solution to how to divide up the bills.
“My housemate was paying council tax and the rent because he was earning more money than me at the time, and I took on the electricity, water and broadband bills,” he said. “He tracked everything on a spreadsheet and we would settle up at the end of each month.”
But as time passed, some things somehow failed to make the list – and when the time came for Nick to move out, he had a nasty shock.
“My housemate had tallied up costs for beers and meals and stuff like that, which I hadn’t tracked,” he said. “For me, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and it ruined our friendship. Luckily, we’re talking again now.”
Soon afterwards, Mr Katz, who has a background in commercial real estate, met programmer
Vasanth Subramanian, 28, at the Open Data Institute in London.
“After some discussions, it just dawned on us that no one had built meaningful software for consumers to manage their homes better,” he said. “Most people build software for people in commercial real estate – with little focus on you and me and our homes.”
In April, the pair launched Splittable, an app that lets people keep track of everything that they and their housemates spend money on – from recurring utility bills to pizza, beer and a cleaner.
“It’s a ledger for the home,” explains Mr Katz. “It’s 100 per cent transparent who has paid for what, and registers if you’ve paid. Three pounds for toilet paper may seem like a pedantic cost; but for the people who are always buying toilet paper, frustration can build up over time.”
This month, the company closed a $1,200,000 investment round from venture capital groups Seedcamp, Playfair capital and the London Co-Investment Fund, which is backed by the Mayor of London.
Boris Johnson said he was “delighted” that the London Co Investment Fund was helping companies like Splittable “to make their ideas a reality and deliver jobs and growth for the capital”.
The team has also received investment from a syndicate of high profile investors – including Lord David Young and Ricky Knox.
“We’re thrilled to have the backing of these top investors to deliver on our vision and support more renters through their often frustrating house-sharing journey,” says Mr Katz.
But it wasn’t easy. Indeed, he says that he found European business people more conservative and risk-conscious than their counterparts from the US.
“People are very interested in innovation here, but the level of due diligence that goes on in this country is a lot deeper,” he says. “In the UK, risk is weighed disproportionately higher than reward; whereas in the US, reward is weighed disproportionately more.
“In the UK, people like to see early revenues so they feel more comfortable. Americans, however, may invest in 100 businesses at a time, knowing that only one of them is worth a billion, a few are worth hundreds of millions and the others will either break even or fail.”
Seven months on, Splittable is building up a steady stream of housemate users month on month, and is available on both iOS and android.
“If you’ve got five housemates, it’s pretty unlikely they’ll have the same type of phone,” Mr Katz points out.
Based in the heart of Tech City, the six-strong company already has plans to develop the app further.
“We want to move from helping housemates track their expenses to actually facilitating the payment of those things,” he said. “So, soon, people should be able to pay for things through Splittable.”