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Chainels News

‘’No such thing as overnight success’’ – Chainels’ growth story

Explore the decade-long success story of Chainels, a Rotterdam-based real estate tech scaleup, with insights on sustainable growth.

Over the past decade, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, economic storms, mergers and acquisitions in the tech industry, few startups have maintained an unwavering presence. 2024 marks the 10-year anniversary of Chainels, and it’s been a journey of resilience.

Chainels started out as a graduation project at Delft University of Technology. Now we’re a major player in the PropTech world, with over forty team members including an in-house development team. Our co-founders Erwin Buckers and Sander Verseput led the company from its humble beginnings to securing a Series-A investment from Aconterra and Capricorn Partners in January 2023.

‘’Steady growth is a challenge for all companies. We owe our legacy in the PropTech & UrbanTech landscape to believing in the huge potential of tech adoption in real estate, no matter how slow it may come. As they say in Rotterdam, ‘Niet lullen, maar poetsen’ (don't talk, just do it)... that is the only way tech adoption will stick around and show impact,’’ says our CEO, Erwin. 

From a Business Networking Platform to a Comprehensive Tenant Experience Solution 

In January 2014, we opened our doors at the incubator YES!Delft, initially with a product intended as a generic business networking platform. ‘’Over the years, we worked on narrowing our focus. We witnessed the need for making communications easier in multi-tenant buildings and inner city management. Choosing built environments as our main market made the most sense,’’ says Erwin. 

‘’We’ve been a direct witness to the shift in the market from traditional placemaking to very tech-savvy, sustainable and tenant-centric property operations. Our product reflects this transition as well, as Chainels is now an end-to-end platform where you can manage a wide range of property operations, not only communications,’’ adds Sander. 

The real estate industry is changing for the better, agree both Erwin and Sander. Landlords care about the social value and convenience that their buildings offer to people living and working in them. At the same time, gaining the trust of big whales in the built world takes time. That is why Erwin and Sander laser-focused first on building trust in the Dutch retail real estate and inner city management verticals, and opened up to international markets and other asset types later. 

‘’If the first tenant experience platform was launched twenty years ago, it would not be a success. Ten years ago, it was a nice-to-have. Today, it is a must-have. In terms of market maturity, PropTech is only now catching up with FinTech. Compared to five or six years ago, many platforms these days are customisable and easy-to-integrate. This has accelerated tech adoption in real estate, and helped landlords own their tech,’’ says Erwin. 


Sander Verseput and Erwin Buckers, from the first days of Chainels to today

Maintaining Long-Lasting Market Presence 

If there is one thing that we care most about, it is building something that will stand the test of time. For nine years, Chainels maintained healthy growth without needing to raise capital. The Series-A investment in 2023 came as an accelerator to expand brand visibility in the European market, employ top-level talent, and improve product quality. 

‘’We critically evaluate how we can spend our resources to make the most impact. We don’t enter a market where we don’t see proven potential in tech adoption. We grow with a ‘land-and-expand’ strategy – start a pilot project with a new client, creating a good customer experience, and rolling out the software to their portfolio. We take it day by day, stay patient, make sure that our product responds to landlords and tenant needs, and that it improves every day,’’ says Sander. 

‘’As Chainels started as a graduation project and developed at an incubator, we could focus on building a high-quality product, rather than hitting financial milestones – which is the pressure that many startups in our field experience. Looking back at those days now, I’m glad that we did not join the hype of raising capital fast, or we weren’t greedy towards international expansion,’’ adds Erwin.

Speaking People’s Language

Both Erwin and Sander agree that product-buyer alignment between real estate and PropTech still needs further development. They underline the fact that most PropTech products are too complex, and the market is full of products without a real use case. This issue is compounded by the fact that real estate is still learning how to use smart building technologies.

‘’Tech is for ease and convenience. Products in PropTech should help property staff do their jobs easier. They should help landlords hit real estate KPIs and automate the most important tasks they would otherwise have to do manually. That is key to sustained relationships with clients, because your product will keep on selling itself,’’ remarks Sander. 

‘’Or from the tenants' perspective, whatever tech tool they use must provide the level of convenience that Uber, Spotify, Netflix or Airbnb provides. When tenants want to talk to property staff, report a problem, give feedback, book some shared spaces, or you name it – it has to happen on one platform that is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and made for people. In diverse markets like Europe, tech products need to support multiple languages too. That is why our platform already speaks ten languages and we will be adding seven more in 2024,’’ adds Erwin. 

Looking Ahead 

Re-architecting renting around tenants, – that is our mission statement at Chainels, and that is what we continue to motivate in the market. ‘’Tenants build strong relationships with their neighbours and landlords thanks to Chainels. Offering tenants the best living and working experience – that’s what we care about the most,’’ says Sander. 

Erwin and Sander foresee that the second decade of the company will be about positioning Chainels as the central platform where ERP systems, mobile access keys, parcel lockers, energy consumption tracking tools and other property tech solutions can be integrated. ‘’Our focus this year will be on integration partnerships,’’ comments Erwin on that regard. 

As a plus, we plan to enlarge the use of the platform to new real estate asset types and full neighbourhoods, as well as aligning the product offering to ESG benchmarks.

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