‘The busier you keep, the more efficient you become’
RSM alumnus Niels van Deuren (1988) is founder of the international operating company Housing Anywhere. He also tries to give something back to his alma mater, by giving lectures four times a year. 'I hope to inspire students to fulfill their dreams by starting their own companies.'
The year 2012 was quite busy for then-student Niels: he graduated his International Management Master at RSM cum laude, he was a member of Laurentius as well as board member at STAR, volunteered in neighbourhood Kralingen and he’d already founded his own company Housing Anywhere, which now employs more than 80 people and operates in 63 countries. 'The busier you keep, the more efficient you will learn to work.'
Why did you choose to go to Erasmus University Rotterdam in the first place?
'I was raised near Utrecht but international business administration wasn’t available in Utrecht, so I had to leave. Groningen was too far away, I didn’t want to go to Amsterdam, so there was only one choice left: Erasmus University Rotterdam. Telling it like this may sound a bit negative, but in the end I was very happy with my decision. Rotterdam has provided lots of fun and opportunities. I lived here for ten years, and I still work here because my company is Rotterdam based. The city is always developing and growing. I like the fact that at first sight it doesn’t look that nice, but once you get to know the streets and the beautiful places, it turns out to be a really nice city. Discovering Rotterdam is an adventure.'
And what did you learn at Erasmus University in particular?
'Well, I ended up managing my own international company, so I’m putting into practice what I learned during my studies. During my bachelor, I lived in Singapore for six months. I wanted to rent out my room for the duration, but I couldn’t find a platform on which to temporarily rent rooms or apartments. That was the beginning of Housing Anywhere, I started that platform myself. The company was born during my studies. Now we operate in 63 countries all over the world. Italy for example, and Spain, Venezuela, Ukraine. But our focus is on Western Europe.'
'I like to inspire students and help them start companies and fulfill their dreams.'
Niels van Deuren (1988), alumnus and founder of Housing Anywhere
Are you still in touch with Erasmus University Rotterdam?
'Yes, I’ll visit STAR-reunions once in a while. And I give guest lectures four times a year, for International Management Master students, as well as second-year Business Administration students, about my company, and how I ended up here. I like to inspire students and help them start companies and fulfill their dreams. I’m also a member of the EUR Connect network.'
Has Airbnb contacted you to take over Housing Anywhere?
'When I started the company, Airbnb was still unknown in Europe. But later on, Airbnb became increasingly popular and now the platforms are starting to look like one another. In a way, they’re helping us, by making people familiar with online renting and booking systems. But yes, I once did have a Skype meeting with Airbnb’s co-founder.'
What are the differences between Airbnb and Housing Anywhere?
'Airbnb focusis on tourism, while I focus on short-term rentals for students. Actually, renting rooms is as old as universities are. The new thing is we do not need "hospiteer-avonden" anymore, we can simply meet online and book online through our personal pages and pictures and reviews. We don’t have to apply in real life. It’s an easy way to rent your room or find roommates.'
What is your dream?
'It is in the name, housing anywhere. We would like to focus on other target groups than students. Anywhere in the world, not just Western Europe.'