January 11, 2023: Taking off in a down market
Plus: luxury home ownership for less, a preview of events, and more jobs for you
What is WeCasa?
WeCasa is a real estate tech company that helps people own luxury second homes for a fraction of the price and without the traditional hassles of ownership. We do this through a tech-enabled co-ownership model that's designed specifically for Canadians.
What was the insight/inspiration that led you to launch it?
Very few people have the financial resources to own an entire second home that they only use part of the time. For those who can afford it, the hassles of ownership still make it a daunting proposition.
Systemic shifts in the past few years like flexible work and baby boomers retiring at unprecedented rates have resulted in the growing demand for second home ownership. We believe the conventions for how Canadians work, rest, and play are forever changing, and we think there needs to be a more accessible and convenient form of second home ownership to support this new reality.
*Co-Founder Alex Conconi
How has it been received by the market? Why do you think it has been so well received?
We just listed our first properties available for co-ownership in Whistler and the Okanagan in BC. We plan to launch in Ontario in Q1 2023.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive and we have a large waitlist. I think it's simply because the value proposition to buyers is clear - you can own your dream second home for 1/8 of the cost without any of the traditional hassles of ownership. Aspiring and existing second homeowners have experienced the pain points of not having the funds or time to make vacation home ownership a reality. People seem to immediately identify with the problem.
How did you know you were ready to found a company?
My co-founder Alex Conconi and I aren't first-time founders, but WeCasa was a special case because we're building the solution we wanted for ourselves. Our enthusiasm for solving this problem intersecting with the market timing is what made us ready to start this company.
How did you meet your founders/know they were the right people to start a company with?
My co-founder and I were introduced through a mutual friend who knew we were both excited and knowledgeable about the potential of tech-enabled co-ownership. Alex had started multiple companies in the Canadian Proptech space and had the ability to navigate the legal and financial complexity of creating a proprietary co-ownership model for Canada. I had the operating experience to put everything together and had studied co-ownership in the past. It took a unique combination of people beyond the 2 of us to put this together and I'm eternally grateful to the team that helped us get this off the ground.
What has been the hardest thing on your journey so far?
Creating a novel model for second home co-ownership in the Canadian regulatory environment has presented some big challenges and we've prioritized building a top-notch legal team to navigate this. We knew having a repeatable and scalable legal model that would work across Canada was foundational and we knew getting this wrong would have big consequences. We've invested over a year in getting this right and we've had to break down many walls and turn over every rock in the process.
*Co-Founder Mark Proudfoot
What has been the most pleasant surprise?
We've been able to attract incredible talent at a time when it has been difficult for many of our peers. I think there are 2 big factors:
(1) Our mission is to get people excited
(2) I've found it easier to attract talent with an experienced founding team. We've been able to tap our networks and convince some of our favorite people to come work with us.
What is your super strength?
Operational excellence. It's our ability to make all the pieces (legal, tech, financing operations, acquisitions) fit together to provide a full-service co-ownership solution. We talk about the "Swiss Train Conductor" mentality in the team. It isn't about being good at one thing. It's about being good at making it all fit together and executing in a very disciplined way.
Who is the unsung hero on the team? Why?
It's hard to pick one but related to the point above, I'm going to say our VP of Operations, Eli Berenbeim. He's the integrator who makes sure everything is moving in unison and is one of the best problem solvers/solution finders I've ever met.
What are you trying to achieve over the next 12 months?
In Q1 we're focused on listing and selling our first WeCasa properties in BC and Ontario. In the next 12 months, we want to be operating across Canada with a large number of WeCasa properties operating in BC, Ontario, and Alberta.
Our vision is to be the #1 choice for Canadians buying second homes (both in Canada and elsewhere) and in 12 months, we want to be in a position where we feel like we're on track to achieving that.
What advice do you wish you had been given prior to launching?
Organize your life to enable full immersion and a singular focus. That's what it takes most of the time and it's important to have a personal routine and a support system that enables that. The first year of starting a business is full-on and it takes a tremendous amount of commitment and resilience. Having the time and disciplined routine to fully immerse is important if you want to give it your best.
What is your proudest accomplishment outside of your startup?
A few years ago, my wife and I made a commitment to re-engineer our lifestyle. We left Vancouver and moved to a smaller town in a leisure destination and also committed to spending part of each year in another location to ensure we have the variety and inspiration that brings us the most satisfaction. Re-thinking how we work, live, and play is WeCasa's ethos but it's also how I'm trying to live. I think many knowledge workers are still operating like they need to be in urban environments to achieve constant career growth and community. That's no longer true or right for everyone, and I think that makes the future of how we design our lifestyles very interesting.
How will raising interest rates impact your space?
Rising rates are having a huge impact on many Canadian Proptech businesses. We're in an interesting position where a cooling market has had some favorable implications for our business. There isn't a lot of liquidity at the high end of the market right now and it has created an opportunity for us to secure better inventory, and in turn, off better value to our end buyers. We can acquire properties with more favorable terms right now, which translates into less financial risk for us, and exciting properties for our buyers. We're waiting to see what impact interest rates have on the demand side (our WeCasa co-owners). So far, our early adopters have been higher net-worth folks. Many of them are buying in cash and are not particularly concerned with the current rate environment. We think we're in a relatively favorable position.
What is different between you and Pacaso?
We are providing a full-service co-ownership offering that's similar to Pacaso's on the surface. The difference between us is the buyers and markets we serve and what needs to be "under the hood" to enable that.
Pacaso services US buyers and we service Canadians. They use Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) to own their properties and we've developed a bespoke legal model for Canadians that work in each Province's unique regulatory environment - using Canadian Limited Partnerships. We will also be working with Canadian financial partners to offer financing options on co-ownership interests that work for Canadians. An outsized percentage of the vacation homes in the US are purchased by Canadians as well. We think we will be able to provide the best solution to these groups in the future with Canadian LP-owned vacation properties.
What jobs are you looking to fill now?
We're hiring a Controller (or Director of Finance), Creative Manager, and Marketing Manager. We're also interested in talking to licensed realtors who have experience working in the Canadian Proptech space.
*Check out the postings here.
One of the things we're most proud of at WeCasa is the team we've built to date. We're excited to grow it.
Who are the 5 Canadian startups you like in your market?
We subscribe to the idea that the next wave of Proptech will see a lot more innovation when it comes to how property is owned. We are excited about some of the other Canadian companies that are innovating in co-ownership.
Who are the two Canadian companies you admire outside your market?
Despite recent challenges, I've been a long-time investor and admirer of Thinkific. I'm bullish on the tech that enables entrepreneurs and creators to pursue self-employment in the new paradigm we're in. I think this company has a bright future in spite of the market headwinds and growing pains it has been facing.
I also love Course Studio. I admire this company because of the quality of the leadership team and their relentless commitment to being the best and working with leading creators across a range of industries. When a business fills an unaddressed gap in a market with major long-term tailwinds, things get really exciting. I think Course Studio is doing this.
*Learn more about WeCasa here
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Headlines and Content
Engineering Lead - Product, Course Studio (Vancouver, BC)
Why is this cool? Course Studio is helping to create the next generation of creators by allowing them to expand their audience and help better monetize their experience. Join them as an Engineering Lead to focus on their flagship product, Wobo. Wobo is a digital workbook product that provides an interactive, engaging learning experience for students. APPLY HERE
Controller, WeCasa (Remote)
Why is this cool? WeCasa’s mission is to make luxury second home ownership affordable and effortless. Using technology and an innovative co-ownership model, we’re enabling Canadians to own unique fully managed vacation homes in a way that wasn’t previously possible. you will oversee the accounting team and the company’s financial operations - managing all financial and accounting processes for wecasa and its portfolio of luxury vacation homes. APPLY HERE
Customer Success Manager, Top Hat (Toronto, Remote)
Why is this cool? Help to enable educators to better teach the minds of tomorrow. As part of the CS team at Top Hat, you will serve customers and continue to reach new customers, and maintain relationships with current enterprise-scale customers. APPLY HERE
Events and Links
Check out the interesting content, events, and happenings for the community here:
- TechTO Together | Toronto: January 16, 2023 - Kick-off 2023 with us! - REGISTER HERE
- TechTO Together | Montreal: January 31, 2023 - Join us LIVE from Montreal and kick off the year with the Montreal tech ecosystem - REGISTER HERE
- TechTO Together | Toronto: February 6, 2023 - Announcements coming soon! - REGISTER HERE
- TechTO Talent | Virtual | February 22, 2023 - Meet and mingle with top tech talent and employers hiring now! REGISTER FOR FREE
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