KICKBOX Success Story: Wohntraum – A Place to call your own
Germany’s home ownership rate is among the lowest across the EU. Unlike in other countries, here, taking out a mortgage remains a rather complicated process. As a result, particularly young families, and couples, have few options but to become perpetual renters – not because they prefer this, but because being able to afford their own home is most often beyond their financial means.
This same challenge led Baloise employees Helge Baur and Carsten Kobbe-Dunker, to introduce Wohntraum – a service that aims to disrupt the traditional home ownership model in Germany by enabling more families across the country to purchase their own homes.
Together with this brilliant duo, we sat down to discuss how their business model came about, their vision for the future, and how the KICKBOX program has accompanied them right from the start…
A Lack of Equity to Finance a Home
As a young parent and sole earner, Helge Baur, Strategy and Sustainability manager in the Transformation Department at Baloise, faced a challenge which he soon realized was common amongst many of his peers. “My idea mirrored our personal situation at the time. Specifically: with high property prices, a high monthly income and therefore high liquidity but having had extremely little time so far to save up equity, few options are left to buy your own home in Germany.”
Whilst traditionally, many people approach their family and relatives for help or rely on other forms of financing to acquire a home, this is not possible for everyone. “That’s how the idea came about. The aim of which is to offer more families the opportunity of owning their own home, by bridging the gap between rentals and home ownership by ways of a sustainable, co-ownership model.”, Helge continues.
Bridging the Gap through Co-ownership
The concept is simple: Wohntraum connects families and couples who want to purchase their own home, to trustworthy, external investors who make a gradual purchase of the property possible. The young families pay a usage fee of the portion of the property that they do not yet own and subsequently they begin to acquire ownership of their home over time, independently of their access to equity.
As part of Baloise’s in-house KICKBOX campaign where employees were encouraged to submit their innovative ideas relating to the topic of “Home”, Helge submitted his initial concept. Early along the way, Carsten Kobbe-Dunker, IT Project-Manager at Baloise, who himself has prior experience in the real estate sector and was intrigued by the business model, joined the team. With an age-gap of 25 years, the two of them complement each other well. “Just as most of life, it’s about communicating, addressing, thematising and always being aware of one’s different motivators. What drives me, what is important to me and what do I bring to the table?”, Carsten says. “From there on out, it’s about finding a balance in incorporating these differences into our startup journey, through a mutual give and take”.
Only ten months down the line, the team then pitched their business concept to the jury at Baloise, and Wohntraum emerged as an official GoldBox Project and overall winner of the in-house innovation campaign. Along with start-up capital, the team is now able to focus fully on their project and orchestrate their spin-out this summer.
The KICKBOX program has played a significant role in the entire process. “The program provided a very helpful framework. Especially for people who are not very familiar with the general start-up mindset, such as the extremely customer-centric approach, it is very valuable and fitting.”, says Helge. “The help which Baloise offered us through this program, to proceed in a particular way – by concretising and executing the idea step-by-step – has really been very beneficial.”, Carsten adds.
The Vision of ending Social Inequality in Home Ownership
With an exciting journey ahead, both founders hope that Wohntraum will bring about a sustainable, long-term change in society. “The vision [for Wohntraum] is that it will provide an alternative to bank financing and that people no longer only think one-dimensionally about their funding options such as their house bank or property funding solutions via the internet; but instead have alternatives available.”, says Carsten. “To see many people - when they think of housing - also think of Wohntraum; is a vision that personally drives me.”
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