kodehyve and Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg Talking Entrepreneurship & Bees
The Luxembourger, Felix Hemmerling, and the French, Julien Casse, are the founders of kodehyve. Launched in May 2020, the young startup offers a collaborative tool aimed at property developers and real estate agents. The two associates intend to facilitate and streamline the work of players in this sector, both internally and externally, when working with customers, partners and suppliers.
You are still young and already a "serial entrepreneur" ... have you always defined yourself this way?
I was born in Luxembourg and hold a Bachelor of Commerce obtained from University College Dublin (UCD) in Dublin, Ireland, with a specialisation in digital innovation & ICT, finance and entrepreneurship. In 2017, while studying in Dublin, I spent a year in Singapore at Singapore Management University (SMU) as part of an exchange program, in international management and operational management.
A few months before I left for Singapore, I met an American student based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and only a few weeks after I arrived in Singapore, we founded Univize. The idea was to provide a platform which connects students with common areas of interest. Some were looking for a university and others had already started their university studies. When I arrived in Dublin, I had no contact with the other students and our tool satisfied a real need. Registration was free and within several months, a few hundred users from over 40 universities based in 23 countries had signed up.
Before launching Univize, I had also completed several internships in the asset management industry with companies in Dublin and Luxembourg. I was able to compare and chose entrepreneurship! At the end of 2018, due to lack of resources, we had to close Univize, but I really don't regret anything. There’s nothing more exhilarating than creating a business from scratch!
Did you consider starting a new company when the Univize adventure came to an end?
At the end of 2018, after deciding to suspend Univize’s activity, I got a job as digital product manager at Banque de Luxembourg.
At the beginning of 2019, I launched Luxembourg Open Air (LOA), a company in charge of organising an electronic music festival in Luxembourg. All other European countries had amazing festivals, while in Luxembourg the biggest festivals like Rock-A-Field and Food For Your Senses had ceased to exist. With a friend who is very passionate about electronic music, another friend who is the owner of several restaurants in Luxembourg-city, and one of his close collaborators, we organised our first electronic music festival, Place de l'Europe, on September 11, 2019.
We didn’t have any experience in this field but, on our own, we managed to carry out all the necessary steps in terms of security, logistics, authorisations, catering, search for sponsors, invitations to artists, etc. We were expecting 3,000 people and in the end the festival attracted 7,000 people. The festival was a nice mix of international and local artists' performances and we have contributed to breaking some of the stereotypes about Luxembourg by offering another image of the country. Today, I am still a partner and board member of LOA and I communicate on a regular basis with Sebastian Jacqué, the main organiser. I have experienced great satisfaction in working within a team where members complement their qualities and share the same motivation.
What prompted you to embark on an entrepreneurial journey in the real estate industry?
Two months before the festival, I left Banque de Luxembourg to join Finologee as a Fintech / Regtech product manager.
Through my various experiences in the fields of FinTech and RegTech, I told myself that the applications to solve the problems of this sector were applicable to the real estate sector. I identified links between the two areas, such as the various customer identification and onboarding procedures carried out by the KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti Money Laundering) features, document exchanges or even secure transactions. The idea gained ground, even more so as I faced all these steps myself due to acquiring an apartment.
I approached property developers and real estate agents who told me about the issues they were facing, particularly in terms of monitoring, communication and document management. Workflows are often inefficient and result in a significant and costly waste of time. From planning and development to marketing and real estate management, real estate professionals use a heterogeneous selection of tools that are not always suitable for their industry.
Within Finologee, I met Julien Casse who had worked as a developer with the founders of Digicash, before the company was sold. After working closely together for a while, we began to explore the weaknesses of many different sectors apart from the financial sector. Soon, we found that by combining his technical skills, my entrepreneurial and real estate experience, and our FinTech / RegTech paths, we could create a solution to rethink and digitise workflows in the real estate sector. This could be a huge help to property developers and real estate agents who still too often operate with traditional processes and practices. During our many discussions, I appreciated his business-oriented thinking beyond the simple development of a solution, which is rather rare among developers. In April 2020, we decided to create kodehyve and dedicate all of our time to it.
Where does the name "kodehyve" come from?
“Kode” refers to coding, but spelled with a “K” to differentiate us. "Hyve" is derived from beehive. They are highly motivated and intelligent insects. Bees work a lot and are also very organised. In the context of pollination, they have an essential function for the survival of humanity. The beehive is to bees, what the house is to humans. Since our activity is dedicated to the real estate sector, we have chosen the image representing a mix between a beehive, a bee and a house for our logo.
In what way is your solution innovative?
We have developed a collaborative platform hosted in the cloud offeriing real estate professionals optimised management of their construction, marketing and property management projects.
The application modules are powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), a division of the Amazon Group, specialising in cloud computing and on-demand Application Programming Interface (API) services for businesses and individuals.
Our tool primarily targets property developers and real estate agents, and aims to optimise their workflows, which are often poorly digitised.
The platform is compatible with all devices, making it easy to access. Our tool allows documents such as identification documents, plans for an apartment or contracts to be grouped and shared securely within a single, organised space. It also offers the possibility of accessing an online conversation, issuing invoices, electronic signatures, etc.
Today, real estate investors demand more transparency and a powerful user experience. The real estate professionals with whom we work recognise this and are striving to digitise their processes to better meet these new expectations. We are here to support them and accompany them along this process.
Do you have any competitors in Luxembourg and elsewhere in Europe and if so, how does kodehyve stand out?
There are products that target similar categories of customers, mainly in France, Germany and the United States. But their strategy is different from ours. They target a mass clientele using a logic that is of a generic nature, and not specific to real estate. We handle the flows that are specific to real estate and we adapt to each of our clients. A number of basic modules exist, but it is also possible to configure existing functionalities, or even develop new features. Customers are all different and do not have the same needs. We want to stay close to our customers and rely on the quality and flexibility of our services.
Have you received any help, advice or participated in competitions and support programs?
Univize was one of the first simplified limited liability companies (in French, “sociétés à responsabilité limitée simplifiée”) (S.à.r.l.-S or -à 1 euro), a form of commercial company created in 2017 to simplify business creation. We were well advised by the House of Entrepreneurship and we also found a lot of useful information on Guichet.lu.
Fit4Start aims to support startups in the ICT sectors in their early phase, and their help has been very useful to us. We benefited from the support of a lead coach, as well as other support coaches. At the start of 2018, we were shortlisted with nine other startups and obtained funding of 50,000 euros to further develop Univize. Our adventure ended a few months after this program and we refused another funding round of 100,000 euros, because we knew that we were going to cease the activity of the company.
Did you learn from this failure?
I wouldn't call it a failure, but rather a "license to bounce back".
This first experience allowed me to better define what I wanted to do in my life. You have to know when to stop. In this regard, I would like to quote Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, who said: Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn't mean stopping. Don't ever stop.
Has the health crisis impacted your business?
We created kodehyve in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. For us, the impact has been positive. Due to the crisis, property developers have realised the importance of digital transformation, even though the demand for housing is still very high and paper and traditional working methods are widely used and accepted in Luxembourg!
What are the next steps for kodehyve?
Today, the platform is in the marketing phase in Luxembourg and its region. In 2021, we plan to recruit team members specialising in software development, product management and customer relations.
We plan to deploy in cities with a dynamic real estate market such as Munich and Berlin in Germany or Zurich and Geneva in Switzerland. We favor healthy and prudent growth. We are fully dedicated to kodehyve and aware of our responsibility. We work with long-term vision by prioritising the satisfaction of our customers and the relationship of trust that binds us.
Do you have a message to communicate to all those who would like to launch their own business?
Too often, the path seems pre-defined in Luxembourg. I invite the young people of Luxembourg to leave the country to study or work abroad and open their minds. I also see a disparity between real skills and academic degrees. A lot of students, after finishing their Bachelor's degree, continue with the sacrosanct Master's degree! For many, the entrepreneurial path is not that obvious. It is possible to broaden your skill set by learning on your own. This form of learning is rich, because the intention to learn is very strong and can make a huge difference.
By largely replacing heterogeneous tools and inefficient workflows, kodehyve effectively is a collaboration tool (SaaS) allowing real estate professionals to more efficiently manage their construction and commercialisation projects as well as the property and client relationship management during a property’s lifetime.
Through the careful selection of powerful modules, such as document storage, document exchange flows, e-signatures, KYC and AML checks, task management, billing, live chat and many others, kodehyve enables real estate professionals to build their unique collaboration tool so as to maximise its value for their specific context and use cases.