By Jack Stubbs
The property management sector has been evolving over the last few years as the implementation of technology continues to impact the industry.
blueGround, a platform founded in Athens, Greece, in 2013, is a hospitality-tech company that is looking to transform the mid- to long-term housing experience on a global scale for landlords and property management companies.
We recently spoke with blueGround CEO Alexandros Chatzieleftheriou about the platform and the services it provides its clients with, longer-term trends shaping the property management industry and how technology continues to shape the demands and preferences of clients.
What can you tell me about blueground (where and when the company was founded, current objectives of the company, etc.)? What has the company been up to lately?
blueground’s main objective is to lease carefully selected, high-quality properties, upgrade them into best-in-class rentals, and offer them to renters looking for a turnkey living solution. Today, we provide over 1,000 beautifully designed rentals with high-end furnishings for business professionals and individual renters looking for mid to long-term accommodations.
For the landlords and property management companies that we partner with, blueground is providing an easy and cost-effective solution for leasing unoccupied units. We lease multiple units before they hit the market, with an aim to continue leasing them for many years, ensuring landlords have 100-percent occupancy for the full duration of the rental agreement.
We’ve made it our mission to have a positive impact on people’s lives, and so blueground has grown aggressively across five markets, including New York City and San Francisco. To further accelerate the company’s growth, we’re now launching operations in numerous cities throughout the U.S. and aim to be present in more than 50 cities and 50,000 locations by 2023.
What can you tell me about the company’s recent launch in the U.S. in early June 2018? What are you most excited about and which markets are you set to target? What led you to begin the U.S. expansion in New York?
We announced blueground’s launch to the United States by leasing over 100 apartments in New York City, with plans to add another 600 units to the portfolio by the end of 2018. blueground is transforming the experience of big city living around the world, and New York City is primed for change. As a hub for international business and operations, New York hosts thousands of people in need of medium-term or long-term accommodations. The current stock of corporate housing in the city has left much to be desired, and we are filling a crucial gap by providing modern, tech-enabled residences.
We are continuing to expand across the country with operations set to launch in Chicago, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Boston and recently launched in San Francisco.
What are your hopes for how blueground’s presence in the U.S. market will build upon the company’s experience in Dubai, Istanbul and Athens?
We confirmed the significance and success of utilizing technology and the demand for booking mid to long-term housing in other cities like Dubai, Istanbul and Athens. The idea of a company like blueground that is offering high-quality furnished apartments ready for long-term business travelers to call home will be an asset to U.S. cities that are currently experiencing a demand in corporate housing.
What will be some of the challenges involved in navigating these different urban and cultural contexts as the company looks to expand?
The challenge when entering any new market is understanding not only the urban setup and design of the city, including what areas are most desired, popular and sought-after, but [also] identifying the major property management companies that could benefit from a partnership with blueground. In each market we enter, we curate a team of players that are most familiar with the city and are ready to create long-lasting and trusting relationships with local landlords.
How have you seen the demands of clients changing over the years in terms of what they expect from short- and long-term residences? What sorts of amenities are residents typically looking for?
Both short and long-term tenants want to feel at home when they arrive in a city—most people don’t want to live in a sterile hotel environment for months at a time. Raising the bar for what long-term travelers can expect from a residence, all of blueground’s fully furnished apartments are curated by a team of professional designers to make them feel like home.
Each features modern and practical amenities and custom-made settings, including designer sofa sets, dining tables and chairs, five-star-quality hotel mattresses, linens, and towels; as well as high-end gadgets like smart TVs and coffee makers. No matter the duration of stay, blueground tenants save the cost and trouble of buying furniture while living in a decorated apartment that on average is larger than the typical hotel room.
How does the experience blueground provides differ from that of a traditional hotel room experience? Do you think the hospitality/AirBnB industry is in a period of transition, and how has this transition been taking shape over the last few years?
Aside from the fact that blueground apartments are located in the most sought-after locations and buildings in each city, blueground also differs from a traditional hotel room in size, comfort and accessibility. Most importantly, blueground accommodations are 30 to 50 percent cheaper than hotels of similar standards.
Technology has a played a pivotal role in transforming the hospitality industry within the last few years. More companies are emerging and utilizing technology to move forward the traditional aspects of the industry like booking, requesting cleaning or other services and payment.
In the current era of CRE tech, there are many platforms that seek to provide similar services to blueground (streamlining the apartment experience, providing tech-focused amenities and furnishings, etc.). What makes blueground differ from other platforms, and how will the company ensure that it stays ahead of the curve in the long-term?
While other companies specialize in medium to long-term accommodations for the corporate housing market, blueground is the only company that leases carefully selected units from landlords before they hit the market, outfits them with beautiful furniture, and offers them to renters looking for a turnkey living solution. We provide benefits for both tenants and landlords who use blueground. For landlords, blueground provides an easy and cost-effective solution for leasing unoccupied units that’s not offered elsewhere.
Can you elaborate on the role of technology in the services that blueground hopes to provide? More broadly, is there anything in particular that concerns you about the rapid rate at which technology is changing the industry?
Utilizing technology, blueground automates all aspects of the experience. Once the online reservation is made, tenants have access to dedicated support through the blueground guest app. Value-added services are available including maintenance, cleaning, bill payment and an easy relocation function that allows guests to experience new apartments in neighborhoods across the city. If anything, I think that technology is going to continue to improve those aspects of the industry that make travel and stay for business travelers such a challenge.
Looking ahead, what do you predict for the hospitality industry? Where do you think it is headed?
Technology will continue to be the leading force in the future of the hospitality industry. Success in the hospitality industry has always depended on delivering great customer experience, and nowadays technology is highly changing the way we interact with our guests. From researching properties to booking and requesting services, customers are growing increasingly accustomed to digital channels and are now expecting 24/7, real-time response.
Today, blueground customers are able to view available properties online or visit them on their own using technology. Tomorrow, we will be able to provide even more services to our guests through multiple digital platforms. For example, the Internet-of-Things, in the form of virtual assistants, is rapidly moving into the hospitality industry, automating procedures to a great extent, increasing the information available to every guest and introducing a new level of comfort. In other words, the traditional process of accommodation continues to be disrupted and as a tech-hospitality company, we are keeping up and are constantly elevating our services.