The ability to conceptualize ideas into reality makes a leader distinct among others. It is the ability to ideate which helps them establish their forte as a unique brand in the market. When Lauren Dannay (COO and Co-Founder of Whoomies) sensed a lack in the market along with her best friend Alex, she conceptualized an idea to bridge the gap using technology. She formulated the idea of ‘Whoomies’ to streamline the housing searching experience by making it more intuitive, fun, and -most importantly- human-centered. Since the company’s establishment, Lauren has been steering it towards growth by gaining national as well as international attention.
Addressing Discrepancy with Conceptualization
Lauren is a graduate of Paris Dauphine University with a Master’s degree in Finance & Wealth Management. She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from Paris Assas University. Before launching Whoomies, she worked as a private banker for 3 years at Natixis Wealth Management where she co-managed a portfolio of private investments.
In 2017, Lauren ideated Whoomies with her best friend Alexandre Assal (CEO and Co-Founder). The inability of finding a home on flatshare searching platforms prompted Lauren and Alex to launch a company for abridging the huge discrepancy existing between the needs of the market and existing solutions.
Lauren and Alex figured that building a tech-enabled platform would help them create a flawless and secured user experience for renters and landlords while revolutionizing the renting process—from the search to the final booking. Thus, in 2017, Whoomies was established.
Streamlining Housing Search
The first version of the Whoomies app was launched in early 2018. The company started by being mobile-only, focused on the flatsharing market, and launched its web platform in 2020, extending its offer to new real-estate verticals like coliving spaces and student accommodations. Currently, Whoomies is the first booking platform dedicated to students and young actives’ housing. It is also live in France and London.
Whoomies enables renters to book their next place to live online—whether in a flatshare, co-living space, or student accommodation. They can also meet with prospective roommates according to their lifestyle and interests using the matching interface available on the mobile app. Whoomies Pro is a dashboard solution for landlords and operators, allowing them to list their places, manage renters’ applications and online bookings.
A Stimulating Leader
Lauren spearheads the team of Whoomies along with Alex. Being at the helm, Lauren handles the operations, finance, and public communication of Whoomies. She accredits the company’s collective work as its achievements. She remarks, “The first (and hardest) steps couldn’t have been overtaken without my co-founder Alex, and now Whoomies’ expansion relies on way more people than the two of us.”
The team of Whoomies has expanded in less than a year. Lauren states that it involves several changes in the organization and is very challenging for everybody. The company had to set new rules and processes, a new tool to improve communication and manage the information and draft its KPIs and objectives. The three core values of Whoomies are collective improvement, trust, and heart. Lauren remarks, “We have built a strong company culture and a passionate team from the very beginning.” The company has also designated flexible work hours at the office with after-work moments to ensure strong motivation for everyone.
Within less than a year, Whoomies’ user base has multiplied by 5 times. It has launched new features for automating the renting process with the help of Whoomies’ tech team. Moreover, it has also raised 2M€ in Seed round.
Strategizing Upcoming Trends
Covid-19 has made the vital role of housing more explicit than ever.The pandemic has served to reinforce the importance of adequate and affordable homes, as well as making it even clearer that the persisting problems around the cost and quality of housing are simply not sustainable. The demand for shared-housing has therefore increased by 20% YoY on average in big cities such Paris.
Lauren marks that the global pandemic has exacerbated two important things in the market
- How one connects with people,
- How one copes with private vs collective spaces at home.
As the pandemic has changed the world with its prolonged effects, several trends will shape the future. Lauren believes that businesses with social elements such as restaurants or leisure travels will experience a bounce-back while the crisis sparks a wave of innovation around them to accelerate their digitalization.
Lauren asserts that remote living and social distancing redefined relationships with home. Whoomies witnessed an increase in the demand for shared housing after the first lockdown in France.
Lauren’s Candid Views on Women Leadership
Do you think the industry’s perspective towards gender disparity changed with time? What are your roles in ensuring gender advocacy in the business sector?
Various companies have made significant progress towards gender equality over the past decades. Closing the gender gap in the business sector, especially entrepreneurship, should start from the beginning—education. Social norms have evolved towards more fairness and equity. I feel that our generations are definitely more cautious about it.
However, women remain substantially under-represented as founders, especially in the tech field. Women founders are also less likely than men to raise money to finance their businesses. Being concerned and aware of the psychological barrier women can have regarding business or money, I try to participate in schools’ roundtables, conferences, and workshops along with other founders to share our story and foster self-confidence.
Being a woman business leader, do you emphasize surpassing changes? How do you maintain work-life equilibrium?
Sometimes I don’t. We have to stop thinking that leaders are superheroes. I am doing my best to improve my day-to-day organization while keeping my work-life balance. I often fail to manage everything in the given time and with that being said, the secret to making the most of your work is to enjoy what you do and be surrounded by good people to support you during hard times.
Is the business sector welcoming for women? According to you, what are the necessary skills for women to thrive as business leaders?
Yes, the business sector is welcoming for women. I believe that irrespective of the industry or business, crucial skills for being a good professional are the same for both women and men. Trustworthiness, strategic vision, effective communication, and emotional intelligence could be some of them.
Read full Magazine: The 10 Influential Women Leaders of 2023