International student housing portal Student.com has secured a $60 million investment in what was described as a combined Series B & C funding round, led by VY Capital with participation from Li Ka Shing-founded Horizons Ventures, Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra, and Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.
The student accommodation portal maintains offices in London, Shanghai, New York and Hong Kong and was co-founded in 2011 by CEO Luke Nolan and Shakil Khan, who met during a study abroad programme in 2001.
Responding to the need for housing abroad by international students from mainland China, Nolan launched Student.com.
According to its website, it serves students in over 20 languages across web, mobile and social platforms, with a corporate culture that sees 75 per cent of their staff speak at least two languages or more and internationally diverse, with over 25 nationalities.
Khan said: “The student housing market is arguably one of the single biggest industries not yet digitised. With Student.com, we’re not only enabling international students the world over to quickly and easily find housing abroad; we’re also giving landlords a digital and global infrastructure to reach millions of students.”
Like most online marketplaces, Student.com creates a multi-sided marketplace that links landlords and accommodation providers with international students seeking safe, long-term accommodation.
Landlords using its platform pay a commission on the total rental period; typically an academic year, the duration of rentals can range from shorter timeframes such as three months to as long as three years.
In an interaction with Forbes, Nolan observed: “Students are traveling more, and whether it’s for study abroad or for their masters degrees, they are more mobile than ever. Their parents want them to travel and gain international experience.”
Student.com sources most of its students from China, Hong Kong and India, with their most rapidly growing markets being Sri Lanka, Nigeria and India. The platform claims that it took a total of $110 million in booking from students originating from over 100 different countries. According to Student.com, this academic season will see it maintain a global listing of 750,000 beds available across 426 cities and near 1,000 universities.
The company plans to use the investment to further its global expansion plans, with plans to bolster its presence in the US, Latin America and the Middle East, a well as engage in talent acquisition and further expand its staff count from the current 200.
According to an ICEF report, it is estimated that as of 2014, 5 million students studied outside of their home countries, representing a trebling of global international student enrolment since 1990.
The ICEF observes that China, India, and South Korea are the world’s leading sources of international students, with China accounting for one of every six internationally mobile students. Together, the three countries account for more than 25 per cent of all students studying outside their home countries, with 53 per cent of all students studying abroad originating from Asia.