Woh Hup unit launches VC fund, invests $2m in co-living start-up

Tech-powered, co-living startup Hmlet has received US$1.5 million (S$2 million) in seed funding from Singapore-based corporate venture capital fund, Aurum Investments.
Tech-powered, co-living startup Hmlet has received US$1.5 million (S$2 million) in seed funding from Singapore-based corporate venture capital fund, Aurum Investments.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/HMLET

A new venture capital fund here has made its first investment with a US$1.5 million (S$2 million) bet on a start-up that offers residential space for rent in apartments in the city centre.

Aurum Investments, a subsidiary of construction group Woh Hup Holdings, is focusing on start-ups which have real estate-centred business models that can be scaled up to expand across the region.

Its first candidate is Hmlet, a start-up formed last year that provides rooms and full apartments for rent in the heart of the city. Its focus is on business people and expats looking for affordable space and the opportunity to live a more integrated lifestyle.

Chief executive and co-founder Yoan Kamalski said yesterday: "Out of the firms that we were negotiating with, we felt that the Aurum team showed us how they would add the most value to our business, beyond the injection of capital - and we're already reaping the benefits."

Aurum has a target of investing in two to three property technology (prop tech) businesses a year in what is already a fast-expanding sector.

Consultancy JLL noted in a report that prop tech start-ups in the Asia-Pacific have surpassed their counterparts in Europe and the United States by raising around US$4.8 billion in funding since 2013.

This comprises over 60 per cent of global prop tech investment. The report also forecasted that prop tech funding in the region will grow to US$4.5 billion a year by 2020.

Ms Michelle Yong, the director of Aurum and also the co-founder of co-working space Collision8, said yesterday: "As property developers ourselves, we've observed the increasing need to integrate technology into day-to-day spaces to increase productivity and efficiency of brokerage and leasing transactions, to allow owners to focus on face-to-face interactions."

"We are also in talks with two other start-ups that relate to the project development vertical of prop tech. Our trusted network of communities - across co-working, residential developments, co-living, health and wellness - will play a large role in creating pathways for these start-ups to succeed as profitable and sustainable businesses."

Other benefits include being supported by Aurum's other businesses, such as membership and facilities at Collision8, which recently doubled its downtown space to accommodate its growing community.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2017, with the headline 'Woh Hup unit launches VC fund, invests $2m in co-living start-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe