Searching for properties has always been a huge problem in Nigeria. Noticing this loophole or you may want to call it vacuum, Muster.ng co-founded by Ibraheem Babalola. Babalola whose Co-founders Ugochukwu Okoro and Akinola Adeola played a key role in the process of establishing the start-up, in this exclusive interview reveals what is unique about Muster.ng and much more. Enjoy!
1. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF?
My name is Ibraheem Babalola. I am a Co-Founder of Muster.ng. I am lucky to be on the Muster.ng journey with two really smart people (Ugochukwu Okoro and Akinola Adeola) as Co-Founders. Muster.ng went live in June 2017, about 3 weeks ago.
2. TELL US ABOUT MUSTER.NG?
Muster.ng is Nigeria’s first rent-share platform. Muster.ng connects people looking for other people to rent properties with, people that already have properties and want to sublet part of it, agents with properties that can be shared by two or more people, and co-working locations. With Muster.ng, we are hoping to create an ecosystem where sharing is enabled and encouraged by disrupting the traditional property lettings space.
3. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO ESTABLISH MUSTER.NG?
Renting or buying a property in urban or developed areas can be a real pain. The rates are most times too expensive or just above affordable. For these reasons, sharing becomes a viable solution. It is “commonsensical”, economical and the most viable solution for individuals and organisations looking to move into new properties. We saw a void in the service offerings of the real estate classified ads platforms that were available pre-muster.ng as none of them provided the sharing option. We studied the market and found that people did not mind sharing as long as they found a compatible sharer, regardless of whether the rent tenure is shortlet or long term. Then we created Muster.ng so people so people and companies can find the perfect sharers and be able to afford to rent properties in their desired locations by sharing the rent.
4. HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO SECURE FUNDS TO SET UP THE BUSINESS ROLLING?
We have been bootstrapping but are currently in talks with a number of investors who believe in the potentials of Muster.ng and are willing to partner with us as we provide Nigerians with a new way to rent.
5. HOW DO YOU MAKE MONEY?
Our fundamental focus at Muster.ng is to create value and cater to the need of people looking to rent properties in an affordable way. Muster.ng does not charge users to create accounts, have a sharer’s contact card or list properties. However, in a bid to maintain the integrity and security of users on the platform, users can only communicate through the messaging feature on Muster.ng. We overwhelmingly advise users to keep the conversations on the platform and not share phone numbers or email address till they are “Mustered”. Muster.ng charges for initiating new conversations. Sharers and Agents get charged One (1) message unit whenever they initiate a “New” conversation. One message unit is equivalent to N50. Users are however not charged for repeat conversations or for replying to messages on the platform. So you can chat with the same sharer for however long you want and all you get charged is the N50 at the initiation of the messaging.
6. HOW IS MUSTER.NG DIFFERENT FROM TOLET.NG AND OTHER ONLINE HOUSE HUNTING PLATFORMS?
Muster.ng is tailored to a niche market. The reason why the properties on those other platforms rarely get rented is that majority of them are unaffordable. Muster.ng helps agents give property seekers the flexibility to split rent, thereby making the property more affordable and closing the listing faster than on any of the other traditional property lettings platforms.
7. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF YOUR BUSINESS?
Asides from the general problems that startups in these parts face, I’d say the unique challenge for Muster.ng is the trust deficit in the Nation. The most frequently asked question that our 24 hours customer support team gets is “I want to share but how secured will I be in the property with someone I meet on Muster.ng”. So whilst people are open to sharing, they want to be assured that they will have a good living experience. To address this, we get KYC documents from every sharer that creates an account on muster.ng and use that for background checks. We will also keep in contact with sharers to find out how they are getting on. In the unlikely event that a sharer wants to move out, all the person needs to do is put the property back up on muster.ng. Nonetheless, we also have tips on Muster.ng for what to look out for in choosing the perfect sharer.
We hope that with the success of Muster.ng, we will be able to ease some of the trust deficit. It is going to be a culture shift and one that we are happy to steer.
8. YOU ARE VERY YOUNG. HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THE FEAR OF STARTING UP SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF?
What drove my co-founders and I was the need to create a solution to a problem. Our overwhelming believe that we will cause a positive disruption with Muster.ng is what drives us. It is easier to run a startup when you have really intelligent and motivated people with you. We are able to leverage on each others’strengths and support each other.
9. ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE CONSIDERING GOING INTO ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
Do your research, study and understand the market. Create a solution for an identified problem. My co-founder Akinola always says “Because you think something is a good idea doesn’t mean the market wants it” and that is very true. Let the need to create value drive you and not money. Finally, be very passionate, hardworking and never lose focus. It will probably be tough at the start but it will pay off in the end.
10. ANY OTHER INFORMATION?
Young people can always reach out to the Muster.ng team for mentoring and internships. We are happy to be part of their developments.