[Interview] VENCO’s Reagan Mbitiru on how the proptech startup is helping manage African properties
The adoption of technology in the real estate management sector is still a very infant idea. There aren’t many solutions that make work easier for players in this sector, leaving a huge gap for innovators to leverage, especially in Africa.
VENCO, a Lagos-based startup with offices in Nairobi has built an all-around real estate management solution for reconciling payment, visitor access, issues management, utility vending, and other estate management processes to help building owners reduce the cost of running the facilities.
TechTrends Media sat down with Reagan Mbitiru, the Chief Technology Officer at VENCO for a conversation on the company, its product, and the future.
Kindly introduce yourself and your role at VENCO.
My name is Reagan Mbitiru and I am the Chief Technology Officer at VENCO.
When was VENCO founded? Where is it headquartered?
VENCO is a technology company that provides solutions to enhance living experiences in residential and commercial communities. The idea of VENCO started in 2018 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and was known then as Estate Manager, however as a proptech startup, VENCO was launched in 2022 by myself Reagan Mbitiru (CTO), Chude Osiegbu (CEO), Uzochukwu Alor (COO). We currently have our headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria, with secondary operations in Kenya.
Are you a tech startup with any VC funding/Backup?
Yes, We raised $670,000 in a pre-seed funding round led by Zrosk Investment Management with participation from other strategic investors including Voltron Capital, Decimal Point Ventures, Fast Forward Fund, Tayo Oviosu (CEO of Paga), Odun Eweniyi (COO of Piggyvest), Oo Nwoye, Design Chinniah, Dakar Network Angels and Viktoria Business Angel Network.
Why invest in the Kenyan real estate management sector at this point in time?
The Kenyan environment is gradually transcending to the phase of communal living; where people will rather live in clusters than live in isolation. There will always be a need for real estate/facility management when more than one person has the right to a communal amenity and as such, our investment in the Kenyan market right now is very strategic.
Having a presence in the Kenyan market now, when it is still a developing industry, means that we will develop alongside the industry and, over time, learn how Kenyans live and how to best meet their needs for communal living
There are several similar products by small enterprises and more grounded software sellers, what’s different with and about VENCO’s tool?
Our experience with the Nigerian Market in the Proptech space is one very important tool we intend to use to thrive in the Kenyan market. Adding this to our drive to make living experiences seamless for both Facility Managers and residents is another tool for this to succeed. Our platform also uses smart IoT devices that connect the app to smart monitoring tools in the community.
What kind of clientele/homeowners/estate is this product targeting?
Our all-in-one technology platform helps property owners, property managers, and residents to run their communities sustainably with minimal stress. Our solutions simplify everyday processes from managing collection, reconciling payment, visitor access, issues management, utilities vending, and other estate management processes associated with multi-unit property developments across Africa. Our services reduce the cost-of-service delivery and increase transparency, efficiency, and convenience for the end users.
Residents are now able to build an economic profile based on their financial transactions on the VENCO platform. They can now access a range of embedded financial services including insurance, credit facilitation for rent, service charges, household spending, and more.
Have you tested the product in the market so far? If so, how is the response?
Yes, we have tested the VENCO platform in the market. So far we have seen rapid adoption of our service offering. We have recorded over 200% growth over the last nine months and we are currently present in seven cities with over 13,000 property units across Nigeria and Kenya.
You have a product known as Smart meters. Tell us more about them. Are they physical devices?
The VENCO Smart meters are electricity meters that are beyond the regular meters in every way. The meters are physical hardware devices that are installed on the estate and with it comes the functionality that allows residents to monitor their consumption in real-time, from the VENCO Resident App as against the traditional meters where residents can only monitor their purchase. The meters are as well intelligent as they can automatically load tokens purchased from the VENCO platform on the respective meters. The remaining KWs on the meters can be viewed from the VENCO Resident App as well.
VENCO electricity meters also have the ability for dual tariff metering, whereby two tariffs can be set on the meter for Mains/Grid Power and Alternate power (Generator/Solar/Wind).
Tell us more about the security management product. How does that work?
The Security Management feature on the VENCO Platform is basically a feature used to authenticate or validate both residents on their residency status and guests who come into the estate on varying businesses.
The resident opens the VENCO Resident App and books his/her guest(s) and at the end of the process, the guest gets a notification message via text and any other messaging platform the resident chooses to share this visit code. On the day of the visit, the guest gets to the gate and presents this visit code to the security team at the gate. Then the security team validates the code from the VENCO Security App and grants the guest access and this prompts the resident who booked the visit saying that their guest is on the estate. When the guest is done with their visit, the guest gets to the gate and presents the same code that granted him/her access into the estate to the security team, who validates them again with an exit request sent to the resident to get confirmation that they permit the guest out of the estate. Once the resident grants this confirmation via the VENCO Resident App, the visit cycle becomes completed and the guest is granted exit access out of the estate.
What are your projections in terms of growth as the year rolls out?
We are currently operating in Nigeria and Kenya and are exploring opportunities to scale across the African continent. With more residents on the continent opting for communal living, we aim to expand into more communities and offer more benefits to our users through new product offerings and significant improvements to the experience across our platform. The ultimate goal is to be present in every household.
Any closing remarks?
The crux of our processes are to simplify the living experiences of residents and facilities managers alike, this inspires us to add new features from customer research that we believe would be beneficial to the community. We hope to have penetrated the African market by 80% in the coming year.
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