Cohabs: A Different Co-living Experience
Have you heard about co-living? It’s a very popular term these days. A lot of people, especially youngsters, are utilizing this newfound way of habituating.
Students, working adults, adventurers, modern nomads… they all need a place to stay. Co-living is a good option for commuters because it’s more affordable than renting a whole apartment or a house.
If you’re in Brussels, finding a good place for co-living won’t be easy. Two Brussels-situated friends, Youri Dauber and Francois Samyn experienced the hardship of finding a good place for co-living and decided to make a change in the market of shared houses.
Youri and Francois went a step further and designed an app that would help the inhabitants with guidance and assistance while living there.
What started as an idea between two friends, Youri and Francois, ended in an interesting and creative startup, providing a unique living experience for people.
Learn more about whys and hows of how Cohabs came to be by reading the story behind it.
Youri Dauber, the co-founder, and CEO of Cohabs was born and raised in Belgium. As a child he was quite intelligent, achieving great academic success. But, despite being all-brains, he was also a very active kid. Having so many interests and different hobbies, he was never quite sure what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Being a stubborn child, Youri never felt comfortable following rules. Going after his ideas and passions was a part of his personality from a young age. He completed his education in Belgium but decided to try his luck in France where he landed an internship in the economic department of Atprice.
Francois Samyn, the other co-founder and current CFO of Cohabs, also a Belgian, was a thrill-seeking child whose interests revealed a possibly successful adulthood. Francois’s exceptional intelligence and thirst for academic success granted him an advantage over his peers.
After Francois finished high school, he went on to study civil engineering and specialized in aeronautics. Even though he attained a respectful degree, Francois continued to broaden his knowledge and continued his education. Young Francois acquired a master’s degree in management from the Solvay Brussels School while working at the same time.
BFF - Best Founders Forever
After spending three months as an intern in France, Youri came back to Brussels. He wanted to start his own business, feeling confident that he can use his knowledge and ideas to create something great.
Together with his brother Malik, they founded Soccha in 2012, an IT outsourcing company. Even though it was a successful project, they sold it after a year and a half and decided to start yet another company called Drawbotics. Drawbotics’ lifespan also lasted for about 18 months, before they sold it.
Restless and adventure-packed, Youri went on to work as a strategic consultant at Auxipress but he only stayed there for 10 months. He felt that being an entrepreneur was his true calling, so he quit his job and started to pursue other opportunities for starting a new business.
At this moment in time, Youri and Francois were actually friends but have never worked together.
After working and gaining experience as a project manager at D2S International, and as a strategy and operations consultant at Deloitte for 8 years combined, Francois decided that he wanted to try himself out as an entrepreneur. The idea of owning his own business was quite appealing to him, so he co-founded Macchiato Innovation, a company he stayed in for 2 years.
Now back to Youri. When he left his job at Auxipress, he and Francois decided to start something together. Investing in real estate in Brussel seemed like an exciting idea, so they were out and about looking for opportunities. After visiting a lot of real estates, Youri and Francois realized that in a lot of the housings they visited, young people were co-living and renting them as shared houses. Another thing that drew Youri and Francois’ attention was the numerous problems the tenants of shared houses were facing. The young entrepreneurs eagerly decided to make a change in the market, and in 2016, Cohab emerged!
Live, Laugh, Love
Youri and Francois wanted to make co-living completely different, creative, and more fun. When it comes to the houses they’ll be renting for co-living, they decided that leasing from owners and then renting them is not the best idea. Buying the houses and renovating them to make them look whatever they imagined they should look like, was what they decided to do.
Quality of life had to be improved in comparison to other co-living options. They wanted to put an emphasis on the community in their shared houses. The two co-founders believed that connecting their tenants will make their experience while living in their places better and more fun. What’s the point of life if you don’t have fun? So, they added the feature of different social events for their community.
By starting their company Cohabs, the young men wanted to contribute to establishing a stronger community within the homes, including additional services provided by monthly subscriptions, and making the homes more unique and unlike others, offering a nicer living experience.
Bt, that wasn’t the end of their ideas. Adding other extra services was another thing that differentiated Cohab from the competition. Besides organizing events (soccer games, yoga classes, poker games, dinners, etc), Cohabs provided subscriptions for services like cleaning once a week or delivering basic supplies. Cohabs also delivers breakfasts to their tenants once a month. Their houses are creatively designed, including gardens and gyms, to provide the inhabitants with a quality life.
Youri and Francois, knowing that their houses will be used mostly by young people, decided to include technology in their project, too. Besides equipping every house with Wi-fi and Netflix subscription, they created an app that can be download by the tenants. The app was designed to assist the inhabitants with everything concerning their life with Cohabs. Information about events in the community, checking their rate balance at any time, access to smart technology in the house, planning their moving in or out. With Cohabs, everything is at your palm’s reach!
Brick By Brick
Even though both founders had experiences with startups before, starting Cohabs was not an easy task, at all. Neither Youri nor Francois had much experience in the real estate business. It is a very financially demanding market. In the first months, Youri and Francois were going in meeting after meeting, introducing themselves to real estate owners, investors, and potential partners.
It was a tricky beginning, requiring a lot of elbow grease. Finding quality real estate in good locations that fit their plans was anything but easy. Renovating and creating real estate into the homes they envisioned was also a pretty tall order.
They started with 3 houses in Brussels, but soon enough, the company started growing and expanding the business. With smart marketing strategies and reeling-in investors, Youri and Francois were able to exponentially increase the number of people they can provide homes for.
Their first funding came two years after Cohabs has officially entered the business. In 2018, Alphastone decided to invest $1.7M in Cohabs. The next year, the co-founders got an additional $17M in funding, and finally, in 2021, the numbers skyrocketed when AG Real Estate saw something special in Cohabs and invested a whopping $58M.
Being bold, innovative, and fearless go-getters is what it took for Cohabs to swim to shore in a sea full of big fish like Isoniq, Veev, and Fiskarhedenvillan. Keeping its head above water wasn’t an easy task, but Cohabs managed to stay afloat.
Everything turned around great for the two young founders and their innovative projects. The company's growth enabled them to spread their business out of Belgium and accommodate more and more people in their creative and unique shared houses.
Home Sweet Home
Cohabs is a Brussels-based company that rents shared houses for co-living. The company’s CEO is Youri Dauber, the co-founder. The other co-founder is Francois Samyn, the current CFO of the company.
Today, Cohabs owns 32 houses in Brussels, which was their starting location back in 2016. Fairly quickly, Cohabs has spread in the United States and now owns 3 houses in New York. The next big city Cohabs has set his mind to is Paris, and that’s currently a work in progress.
Cohabs not only offers its tenants living at affordable prices, but it also provides its inhabitants with quality services and a well-rounded community of like-minded people. The company tries to decrease its carbon footprint to the minimum by using smart energy appliances and solar panels, as well as supporting projects that help the environment.
The story of Youri and Francois is a story of friendship, creativity, fun, and success. While both of them tried to find themselves by taking their separate paths to success, serendipity had them join forces for their most successful project. Moving around until they finally became roommates and found their home in Cohabs.