Aaron Lee, a full-time serial entrepreneur and part-time boxer, had just returned to Hong Kong after completing his education in the US.
However, as an expat, he encountered challenges in finding affordable accommodation in HK, as there were limited options available. The ones that existed charged exorbitant rents and their leasing terms were not flexible. And it got lonely to stay without friends in a flat in HK.
This led Lee to set up Dash Living, a home-sharing platform, which has grown to cover over 1,200 units in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Besides solving accommodation problems for millennials like himself, Dash also solves one of the biggest challenges that young working professionals face: that is, finding affordable, all-inclusive premium living spaces.
One of the most important characteristics of co-living spaces is a community, and Dash has quickly managed to secure over 13,000 followers across its social media platforms.
“Building a community is certainly a crucial aspect for startups,” Lee said. “While we are more nimble, adaptable, and creative, we are also the underdogs with fewer resources than the big guys. Whether it is tenant communities, investor communities, brand partners, or collaborator communities, having like-minded people around not only amplifies but also helps shape and nurture a company’s message and culture, ultimately helping it grow.”
In this interview, he shares with e27 how the seven-year-old company managed to build one of the largest co-living communities.
Create a dedicated community team
One of the most common challenges facing startups over community hiring is finding the right professionals to do the job. And, beyond that, growing the community in the most organic way possible.
Dash has a dedicated team of community experts, with most of them having experience in the hospitality industry, which he believes makes them professionals at guest service and handling communication.
Dash’s community team engages with tenants almost every day with activities, events, and chit-chats to understand their needs better.
The startup follows a lean structure where the freshest of employees can work alongside the founder and senior leaders. Lee believes that structuring the team in a way where everyone is viewed as “equals” can contribute to both growth and encourage newer ideas.
In a world where people switch from one platform to another in a heartbear, Dash believes it is extremely important for businesses to understand the needs of their clients.
Therefore, an important aspect of the Dash community is developing a deep understanding of tenants’ backgrounds and interests. The company goes out of the way to carry out regular surveys to understand tenants’ needs before they check in to their rooms.
Through its in-built chat functionality, the Dash team can speak to the tenants not just about matters pertaining to the co-living space but also outside of their stay.
For example, the Dash team helps tenants with information about car parking spaces and restaurants with a particular cuisine. According to the team, this is some of the kind of instant help that it provides the tenants.
Creating a user-driven community
Once Dash engages with tenants through online and offline touchpoints, it focuses mostly on creating user-generated content, user-generated engagement, and events.
According to Lee, a true community is user-driven and not just merely platform-driven. One of the metrics to measure if a community is thriving is also to observe to what extent it is user-driven.
To encourage this, Dash provides its members with a platform where they can initiate and host events for the community, and as the host, it puts those memories and interesting stories on Dash’s blog (known as Dash Insider).
Responsive community team
Since most of the tenants in co-living spaces have similar difficulties and inquiries, handling queries is not very difficult, according to the founder, which is why being responsive is the most valuable thing.
The company has added features like “in-app messaging” to make the communication process more streamlined. Besides this, it also has a dedicated team to respond quickly to tenants staying in over 600 rooms in HK and 600 rooms in Singapore.
The community team at Dash also offers its tenants perks that it probably wouldn’t find anywhere else. For example, free gym services for both tenants and their parents and discounts with shopping brands.
Besides responding and hosting events for the community, the Dash team also manages and explores perks with different vendors, for example, dining, discounts, gym pass, and also free usage of co-working spaces.
Bringing different people together under one roof is an important aspect of community building. The company used to host events at least once a month before the onset of COVID-19. For example, having a bakery workshop for all its tenants.
But it does not just self host events but also helps its tenants organise events.
Lee recalls how a French tenant organised an event for his neighbours on the rooftop with the help of the Dash community team, who helped him plan the event and get RSVPs from interested individuals.
After the pandemic hit, Dash quickly pivoted from offline to online events which include Zoom sessions focused on health and fitness.
Image Credit: Dash Living
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