Meet Maria-Sophie Greiner
Founder of WeFindFlats and our June 2020 Pre-Accelerator attendee.
So what? Maria’s one of the very early stage founders whose pitch made a huge impression during our first Pre-Accelerator Startup Showcase. The question after was “what now?”
In this interview, you’ll see a “how can our community help?” component. Check out her story, and do reach out if you know of someone who might be keen to connect.
“During my Master’s Degree, I came to London for what was supposed to be a ‘short’ summer internship –– but five years later, I’m still here!
I fell in love with the city and also with the job. One month into the internship, I was offered a permanent role that allowed me to progress quickly, get involved in many projects, become a leader, and build a fantastic team. Through that position, we helped more than 5,000 professionals to relocate around the globe, including employees from Bloomberg, Google, General Electric. I’m definitely proud of that!
A personal achievement was my bicycle ride in 2019 with a group called ‘techbikers’. We cycled 320 km from Paris to London in 3 days, to raise funds for children’s literacy. Without any experience in long-distance cycling whatsoever, I started off optimistic (maybe a bit naive) but soon realised that this was not only physically demanding but mentally.
Exceeding my supposed limits and mastering this challenge unlocked some sort of superpower that even now still keeps me going (and paddling).”
Q1: Could you introduce WEFINDFLATS to us, and why you started it?
Maria: WeFindFlats helps professionals and students who want to relocate for their careers abroad by reducing their time spent researching an unfamiliar housing market and connecting them with affordable and trusted housing providers.
Everyone who has ever relocated in their life knows how hard it is to navigate an unknown housing market –– you have to figure out where to live, what to pay, and what platforms to use during the search. I felt it most from my own horrible relocation experiences that caused the delay of my internship; I also didn’t want to tell my employer about it for fear of looking like I ‘needed help’ even before starting my role.
Having worked at the accommodation marketplace company [where I had interned], which also helped to relocate thousands of students and professionals, I was fully aware of the difficulties, risks and needs of accommodation seekers. This company sadly stopped providing the service soon after I had left –– but that didn’t mean that everyone’s relocation problems had disappeared too.
I’m absolutely passionate about this issue and consider myself an entrepreneur through and through, so I continued on that path. My mission is to build a large scale product that can reduce search times and the stresses involved in relocating professionals, so that they can pursue their dream careers abroad with the right temporary housing.
Q2: Could you share your personal or professional journey in building this startup?
Maria: It’s been a wild ride.
We kicked off the journey quite quickly by launching an MVP immediately without spending any time on market research and other business elements. However, it paid off! Just by dropping the message in one network we’ve received a wave of sign-ups. I cried tears of joy and at the same time felt on fire! We quickly signed deals with accommodation providers, set-up processes, workflows, content, policies, communication channels etc.
Our customers were extremely happy and engaged, and so were we. This was in February, when the pandemic soon unfolded into the substantial global emergency that we know today. Internships, studies and other work programs got cancelled or postponed. Relocations dropped to zero overnight. This was also the time when I parted with my co-founder. The rollercoaster definitely reached a new low at that time.
However, this has been a massive learning curve –– from starting to talk to my customers, learning what they liked and disliked, explaining the product, building new alliances and also joining the SeedReady program that gave me even further stability and areas where I could develop.
Q3: We’re excited that you’ve been super engaged in both our classes and community. Has our Pre-Accelerator supported you in building your startup? Please do share how.
Maria: I’ve hit plenty of milestones; from defining my value proposition better with user profiles, to learning about different product strategies and tools that’d help me get ahead with the next version of WeFindFlats. I learnt some big lessons like approaching sales as a founder, OKRs and understanding business legals. The team and the founder friends have been truly amazing providing easily digestible but also interactive content around those points.
One of the major milestones was the showcase event at the end of the program. It was my first experience articulating my mission and business in front of a larger audience. At the beginning, I was nervous as I didn’t feel quite ready but then I simply acknowledged the fact that you will never feel 100% ready and not going for it at all means you fail in the first place.
MOVING FORWARD: What are your plans and how can our community help?
Maria: My ask to the Startup Showcase audience, that still stands today, is an introduction to anyone who takes care of students or professionals that are required to relocate for their career.
Whilst I’m currently in the process of establishing relationships with business schools and their career centres in Germany, I’m also looking for additional partnerships with employers, universities or any other institutions that would love to get a helping hand with housing arrangements and are keen to provide the best possible experience to their talents.