It’s a truly bizarre era we live in. We are transported by companies that don’t own any cars, and housed on vacation by companies that don’t own any properties. Technology has disrupted decades-old sectors, and turned them on their heads.
Today, another disruptor is making a name for itself among the fray: Blueground, a corporate hospitality firm that, like Airbnb, owns no properties. Yet, it’s significantly different from the lodgings rental app that has transformed the hospitality sector. Blueground has its eyes on another segment of the market.
Hotels only get you so far
Blueground launched in Athens in 2013, co-founded by Alexandros Chatzieleftheriou, current CEO of the company. The idea was born out of his own experience as a business consultant struggling to stay at hotels for long periods of time.
“While a nice hotel for a few days is great, after some time you reach a point where you get tired of the sterile hotel ambiance and the related process,” he said.
This was a similar complaint that Airbnb capitalized on for their short-term lodgings service. Customers on a trip were missing that cozy, residential feeling you get from staying at home or at a friend. Hotels were too “sterile,” as Chatzieleftheriou put it.
Chatzieleftheriou is addressing a similar, yet different problem.
His service is focused on offering premium, medium to long-term rentals to businesspeople and expats looking for a premium stay that is still cheaper than staying at a hotel for extended periods of time. They rent properties at market value, then renovate and furnish them up to premium standards, then lease them to customers. According to Chatzieleftheriou, they offer 25-50% lower price “compared to hotels and other serviced apartments of comparable quality.”
It’s important to remember that like other disruptors such as Airbnb and Uber, Blueground is still a tech company at heart.
“Specifically, we have developed technology in-house which automates all aspects of our business, including online bookings, as guests can browse, book and pay for their properties online and 24/7 guest support through an app,” Chatzieleftheriou.
Blueground operates in several countries around the world, and first came to the Middle East in 2016. The company found their footing in Dubai, and it’s the only GCC country they currently operate in.
Investor faith strong
Blueground announced this week that it has completed a new funding of US$12 million (approximately AED 44 million) from a group of renowned global investors, including Dubai-based Jabbar Internet Group, VentureFriends, and Endeavor Catalyst. The latest investment marks the fourth and largest round of funding for Blueground, bringing the total investment from global investors in Blueground to nearly $20 million (approximately AED 73.5 million).
Blueground has an ambitious vision for growth, with the goal of becoming the largest tenant in Dubai in 2019, as well as expanding to more than 50 cities with 50,000 properties in its worldwide portfolio by 2023.
The MENA market is ripe for tech startup innovation
Blueground’s innovations are truly noteworthy, yet it wasn’t the first to bring such disruption to the MENA market.
Local entrepreneurs, such as Fetchr’s Idriss Al Rifai or Careem’s Magnus Olsson and Mudassir Sheikha, have sought out to influence and transform their respective sectors in significant ways.
Smaller startups, such as the winner of Tech Crunch’s Startup Battlefield competition, Lebanon’s Buildink, have the potential to make huge waves in the market. Buildink, for example, is the first cable robot cement 3D printing startup in the region of its kind. They are looking to transform the construction market in major ways, and the GCC has already taken note.
The MENA market is still a young and developing, which makes it ideal for fresh, disruptive startups to impact and influence. Whether foreign or local, these innovative companies will play a major role in reshaping both the market, and our daily lives.