The student housing real estate market has seen its ebb and flow in the past four years. In 2017, the student housing market saw roughly $8 billion in investment. In the previous year, student housing transactions came close to $10 billion. Yet, with the dip in transaction volume, last year’s figure was triple the amount in 2014. With rising four-year degree-granting college enrollment, several student housing experts believe demand for student housing exceeds supply. While demand still exists, the student housing market is maturing. Undeterred by the peaking market, newly-formed co-living startupNota attempts to disrupt the student housing market.
According to the website, Nota is “a new co-living concept designed to enhance the student experience by offering private connected suites, optimizing common spaces, and enabling students to forge connections as part of a community.” Fabricio Matzinger, an entrepreneur with experience in real estate in Brazil and China, as well as, product management for a startup, founded Nota because he identified that there were “no co-living startups aimed at students.” Matzinger believes his startup can satisfy the pent-up demand for co-living student housing units.
Although his startup can be best described to others as another co-living company, Matzinger prefers that investors and renters identify Nota as “not a dorm, not a co-living.” Instead, he sees the company as an all-encompassing “student brand.” (On a side note, Nota is pronounced as “not a” rather than “nota.” By choosing a phrase that is intended to brand the company by what it is not, Matzinger hopes to convey the difference between his startup and other co-living companies.)
One way that Nota is treading its unique path in the student housing development industry is by incorporating “as much tech enablement as possible,” said Matzinger. This means thinking about technology thoughtfully in all their business functions, from the recruitment of student renters to the analysis of rental data.
Another way is to partner with other startups in adjacent industries that will enhance the co-living experience. Matzinger identifies three categories of startups: home furnishings, smart home technologies, and on-demand services. For home furnishings, Nota is exploring partnerships with the likes of mattress company Casper and furniture company Burrow. In the smart home technology aisle, Matzinger seeks to partner with a home security device company like Canary. Matzinger also identifies an on-demand home cleaning service provider Handy as one of its potential partners.
Nota units come with new furniture, bedding, and connected devices—curated to be “ready to move” units. The buildings’ amenity package includes a fully-stocked coffee room, a private garden with barbeque grills and bike racks, a library with tables and private cubicles, a game room, and a chef’s kitchen.
With all these unit features and building amenities to remake the student living experience, Nota will face competition from incumbent student housing players and established co-living housing developers. Matzinger explained that Nota can stand out for several reasons. Traditional student housing players typically develop large purpose-built student housing that can accommodate over 2,000 beds. Nota intends only to design buildings that can house a maximum of 100 beds to maximize social interactions between its tenants. The targeted renters are sophomores to seniors who find dorm life awkward and are ready to move off-campus.
When compared to WeLive, Nota is focusing only on students and not the larger millennial market. WeLive is also currently only operating in primary markets, whereas Nota is targeting secondary and tertiary markets. Today, Nota has identified three target markets. They are Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania; and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
To demonstrate demand, Nota circulated a waitlist and received “a surprising amount of signups,” mentioned Matzinger. As Matzinger fundraises, he is banking on these enthused prospective tenants to bring the company success. With its tech-driven sensibilities and focused student-themed approach, Nota is offering the marketplace a new type of co-living product.