Homewards: Benjamin Milsom
Combining the two big trends of the millennial age, finteh and proptech, Homewards is bringing it home for first-time buyers in housing market. Using everyday spending to create everyday savings, Homewards helps its users step-up onto the property ladder, and here's how…
Tell us what your business does:
Homewards lets aspiring first-time buyers boost their deposit, effortlessly – with cashback on their spending from over 4,000 (online and offline) retailers. Cashback rewards are then automatically paid into a Lifetime ISA (LISA) on the buyer’s behalf by Homewards.
What’s more, the whole family (e.g. parents/grandparents) are also encouraged to join Homewards and pool cashback together to multiply the effect for the first-time buyer.
Unlike other FinTech products struggling to help people save towards a home deposit – whether actively or passively – Homewards can make saving almost unconscious by tapping into the potential of members’ spending. By doing so, we make the “Bank of Mum and Dad” available to everyone.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We had spent several months learning from aspiring first-time buyers, and found that people just really struggled to even starting the saving process. Saving often came at the cost of their present lifestyle, with little hope they'd even achieve their goals anyway.
Then, as we were whiteboarding some ideas, Freddie (CEO) opened up a letter from his Grandma with a £15 Tesco voucher. This is what got us thinking about how could we get parents and grandparents to help their relatives save for a first home, without having to contribute just cash.
How did you know there was a market for it?
As soon as we launched friends and old colleagues began to personally reach out to us and ask “when will this be ready, I love it.” This was soon followed by interest from nationwide media and the offer of several partnership opportunities.
What were you doing before starting up?
I was UK MD of Canadian SaaS startup, Echosec, focusing on the European expansion of our social media analytics platform. Freddie was a Fintech UX designer at Deloitte Digital where he worked on a project for several months researching the first-time buyer journey from saving to purchasing. We subsequently both left our jobs to tackle this problem, the demise of home ownership amongst a generation.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I had always wanted to start my own company, so as soon as I left university I joined a tech accelerator in Wales, the Alacrity Foundation, where I started my first company and since then I’ve just had the bug.
How did you raise the money?
We received our initial pre-seed funding through company builder Entrepreneur First, and are now in the process of raising our next round.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Our business model involves helping aspiring first-time buyers harness latent financial value that benefit them when saving for a home deposit. Therefore, our initial focus is to refer first-time buyers and their family to brands that'll pay for their custom with cashback. For each successful purchase, retailers will then pay us a small commission.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
We had previously spent a long time working on a very different idea, with the same mission of helping aspiring first-time buyers onto the housing ladder. We eventually had to pull the plug on the idea when we weren’t getting further traction. However, recognising how much we had learnt and our ability to navigate through complex industries, we rapidly developed a new idea to create what Homewards is today. We then tested it on friends, family, and other aspiring first-time buyers with a hugely positive response, giving us enough confidence that this was the idea to pursue.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Just a few weeks after pre-launching we were contacted by a Times journalist who liked the idea so much that she wanted to write about Homewards and include us both online and in print.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Focus on becoming more resilient and adaptable to changing situations within the business. You may have the best plan in the world, but this can change in a moment, and you've got to deal with your assumptions being wrong and quickly figure out a new way to progress.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
I'd like Homewards to become THE go-to app for all first-time buyers.