Sequoia-backed Singaporean co-living startup Hmlet launches in Japan

Japan will be the company’s largest market in the region despite co-living being a relatively new concept in the country.

Image from PR (Mutant Comms) Hmlet Shibuya.

Singapore-headquartered co-living startup Hmlet has launched in Japan through a joint venture with one of its investors, Mitsubishi Estate Co (MEC), the company said in an official statement.

Hmlet will be investing USD 25 million to fund this expansion over the next three years. It will first establish itself in Tokyo before expanding to Osaka and Nagoya. The first property, Hmlet Shibuya Shoto will launch in Shibuya, Tokyo in October. The Singaporean startup is already expecting to sign more than 1,000 rooms over the next six months.

Founded in Singapore in 2016, the co-living operator has more than 75 locations across Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia. Hmlet currently manages 1,500 beds and aims to increase that to 2,400 by the end of 2019.

Japan, Hmlet’s fourth country, is expected to be the company’s largest market in the Asia Pacific region–Hmlet plans to grow the number of rooms it manages in Japan alone to 10,000 in the coming years.

This expansion follows a funding spree that started in 2018. Hmlet first raised a USD 6.5 million Series A round in November 2018 then another USD 40 million in a Series B round this July led by Burda Principal Investments.

As part of the JV, Hmlet will gain access to MEC’s pipeline of existing and in-development phase premium residential buildings. MEC is one of the largest real estate developers in Japan. While MEC will manage the sourcing of properties, Hmlet will oversee all aspects of design and community management, allowing the startup to remain closely aligned to its tenet of using space to foster community spirit. The spaces in Japan will incorporate Japanese aesthetics.

The idea of living with strangers in a same space is relatively new in Japan. Despite this, Kyota Kobayashi, general manager of the business creation department of MEC believes it is the right time to bring Hmlet in due to the changing needs of young Japanese professionals. There is now an increasingly mobile workforce and professionals that travel domestically for work, said Kenichi Sasaki, CEO of Hmlet Japan.

In Singapore where the startup was founded, Hmlet is considered a pioneer. The local co-living landscape is heating up with the recent launch of two new operators, Lyf and COVE. Lyf is developed by CapitaLand’s lodging business unit, The Ascott. CapitaLand is one of Asia’s largest diversified real estate groups. It claims to be South-east Asia’s largest co-living property. COVE on the other hand was founded by  Sophie Jokelson, Luca Bregoli and former vice president of Marketing at Lazada, Guillaume Castagne through the startup program Antler.