Proptech startup Alquilando moves into Colombia with BBVA

A proof-of-concept project enables the 2018 Open Talent national award winner to test the first market outside of its native Argentina

Technology has reshaped countless markets, with finance chief among them, but the property space has also recognised how transformative digital can be to make way for proptech. Alquilando is a leading startup in this field in Latin America, simplifying the property rental process by providing rental deposit insurance, payment installments support, rent advances and more through a process that’s fully digital up to the final contract signing (and it is working on that, too). For landlords it means less red tape to secure income and for tenants it means faster access to a new home.

Founded in 2015 by Mauro Ayala, it was launched in response to his own frustrating experience of trying to secure rented office space for a previous entrepreneurial venture, during which “different stages of the process took so long to complete that in the end we missed out on the property,” he recalls. Alquilando, which has raised $15,500 in seed funding, has been steadily gaining traction in its native Argentina.

The process of working with BBVA has been very positive

In 2018, the startup’s efforts to shake up the property market were recognised by BBVA as it won the country award for Argentina at Open Talent, the world’s biggest fintech competition. However, it was an earlier encounter with the bank, when Freddy Ayarragaray, BBVA Solutions Development – Insurance, saw Ayala pitching at an innovation event in Buenos Aires in 2017. That moment sowed the seeds for a collaboration with potential for BBVA to innovate its insurance offerings and Alquilando to enter new markets across the LATAM region.

Ayala knows that these issues affecting the rental market are not unique to Argentina. In January 2019, Alquilando and BBVA initiated a proof-of-concept project in Colombia. With 4.9 million households – almost half of Colombia’s urban population – living in rented properties, the country provides a fertile testbed. Together, Alquilando and BBVA ran a pilot to gauge appetite in the market for a digital tool of this kind. Between January and May 2019, 16 policies for customers were issued in Argentina at an average valuation of $160.

Katherine Michaels, Solutions Development lead at BBVA believes that Alquilando’s solution presents a unique opportunity to manage an unresolved problem in Colombia. “With a growing property market and complex processes not adapted to the needs of landlords and tenants, the expectation of growth and penetration in the rental insurance market is high,” she explains.

A handful of tenants have been selected to trial the project in conjunction with a real estate owner, starting in the Colombian capital Bogota before extending into other major cities across the country. “After having won BBVA Open Talent in Argentina, we had the opportunity to speak with representatives of BBVA from different countries and decided to validate our model in different cities of LATAM through a proof-of-concept,” says Ayala.

In the long term, we visualise it as a solution, not only for BBVA customers, but also for open market: for online property marketplaces, in real estate and the public web pages of BBVA

“The process of working with BBVA has been very positive,” Ayala continues. He explained there’s a great willingness for collaboration at the bank and working with BBVA has been ideal for facilitating operations across different markets. He pointed to the Open Innovation team in particular, for their ability to work so well with a startup despite its corporate stature.

Victoria Simon, co-founder and CMO at Alquilando, says that the PoC with BBVA builds on the startup’s earlier success in Open Talent in Argentina. It is a long-term relationship that may help it secure further validation in the eyes of investors and clients. “For us that would be a dream come true,” she says.

Michaels believes the potential to scale the service is wide. “In the long term, we visualise it as a solution, not only for BBVA customers, but also for open market: for online property marketplaces, in real estate and the public web pages of BBVA,” she offers. Michaels adds that it’s not just a matter of implementing a new product but that a new business model could possibly be developed in the process to merge numerous BBVA products including landlord insurance, home insurance, savings accounts for landlords and tenants.

Looking to the future, Ayala concludes by reflecting on the great expectations he has for the business to develop. “With the validation provided by the proof-of-concept, we will be in a position to drive the business forward by scaling operations and positioning ourselves in a new market,” he says. “We hope to extend our partnership with BBVA at a regional level during the coming years.”

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