By 2025, "Airbnb will try to buy us. And I'll say 'no, - we'll buy you" says EasyRent co-founder Toby Thomas-Smith, whom - it barely needs to be said - is not short on the confidence of youth.
His short-term subletting startup closed a $230,000 seed round just before Christmas, with a $3 million raise next on the agenda.
It's small potatoes, but the seed round drew some big names from big-name backers in the tech and venture capital communities - on both sides of the Tasman.
They include NZVC, early Atlassian employee turned startup advisor and investor Matt Ryall; Vaughan Fergusson, who founded Travel Bug and sold it to Trade Me before starting Vend, the retail software firm sold last year for $455m to Canada's Lightspeed Systems; Jonathan Lui, co-founder of ASX-listed Airtasker (market cap: A$316m); Mahesh Muralidhar, the early Canva and Airtasker executive across the ditch who in September cofounded a new NZ venture capital firm, PhaseOne; Syft CEO and ex-Vend chief executive and current Syft boss Alex Fala and Vignesh Kumar, who held senior roles with Apple in the US before returning to NZ to join VC firm GD1.
As mentors go, it's not a bad crew.
EasyRent began with a faceplant.
It was 2018, and Thomas-Smith was at living in an Auckland University hall of residence as he studied toward his BCom, watching friends waste $3000 for an empty flat over summer as they headed home.
Why not start a service that let students rent accommodation for just nine months of the year?, he thought. He launched EasyRent and soon discovered the answer, as just three properties listed: landlords prefer having 12 months' rent in the bag to nine.
He went back to the drawing board and last year EasyRent was relaunched as a service to streamline the subletting process by matching listers with people looking to rent for one to six months - especially Gen Zers.
This time it gained some traction.
Between September and December 2021, EasyRent filled 65 rooms across seven cities in New Zealand amid the Delta lockdowns.
"The process is fully digital, from virtual FaceTime viewings, to e-sign sublet agreements, automated rent payments through our open banking integration, Thomas-Smith says.
It's free for "lookers", while EasyRent takes a 10 per cent clip of the ticket on rent for the "listers". '
The startup now has 250 listings, and partnerships with ASB, PwC, Foodstuffs and others to house their summer interns.
And recently, Thomas-Smtih was joined by Jack Montgomerie - formerly a commercial lead for Zuru, managing strategy across backend production through to sales teams across a $200m portfolio, and before that business development manager for the Mowbray's multi-billion dollar enterprise - and software engineer Alexander Nicholson
First, we'll take Sydney ...
The seed money just raised will be used for a push Australia, which has just kicked off.
"Our target market is young Kiwis moving to Sydney who need somewhere to live for a of couple months while they get to know the city," Thomas-Smith says.
And on the flipside, he sees listers as being "Young people in Sydney with rooms available for 1-6 months when they go away for a few months."
Thomas-Smith's near-term goal is 10,000 customers.
He reels off the names of cities with appealing demographics as he outlines his plan for EasyRent to enter the US market by 2023 and Europe by 2024 - with a $50m raise along the way.
"Our goal is to become the world's biggest mid-term rental platform by 2025 and have filled more than 10 million rooms," the young founder says.
Is he worried that Airbnb (market cap: $US100b) will eat his lunch.
Nope. He sees the US giant as a lumbering corporate. "We're nimble," he says.
The young entrepreneur is just about blind optimism, however.
"We looked for investors with experience scaling internationally," Thomas-Smith says.
And that part of his ambitious plan certainly came together. Vend had more than 25,000 retailers around the globe using its cloud-based system by the time it sold to Lightspeed last year. Sift and Lui have similar stories.
They know what a blueprint for international success looks like, and they reckon Thomas-Smith's got one.