A chat with…Luca Bovone (Founder & CEO Habyt)

Endeavor talks with...
5 min readJul 28, 2023

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Welcome back to Endeavor talks about…! This month we had a chat with Luca Bovone, Founder & CEO of Habyt, the largest flexible housing company globally, offering private and shared apartments across 25+ cities worldwide.

In my opinion, an entrepreneur must embrace international ambition from the very beginning. This requires laying certain foundations within the business.

Tell us about yourself: where do you come from, what is your background?

After graduating, I began traveling and working abroad. I had the opportunity to complete internships and gain work experience in Asia, specifically in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Later, I relocated to Dublin to work at Dropbox, where I joined the European landing team.

And what led you towards entrepreneurship?

I come from a family background of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, but my true motivation for entrepreneurship was ignited during my time in Asia. While living in Shanghai, I personally experienced the challenges of finding suitable housing. It was incredibly difficult to find a room that met my needs and was shared with like-minded individuals. However, once I finally found a place, it became an incredible space where I formed lasting friendships. This experience inspired me to think, “If we could transform this into a concept and scale it up, it would be amazing.” So, I dedicated five years to developing and refining this idea, which eventually evolved into Habyt.

And after five years, when did you realize it was time to start?

In 2014, two co-living companies, Common and Quarters, were founded, which put considerable pressure on me. I thought to myself, “Hey, someone else is already doing it!”. Later, we acquired both companies. It was like completing a full circle, as they say, right?

Is there a particular approach that has enabled Habyt to become a major player on a global scale?

In my opinion, an entrepreneur must embrace international ambition from the very beginning. This requires laying certain foundations within the business, such as establishing a common language for communication within the company. Today, we have 400 employees representing over 50 nationalities. This has been the direction I envisioned from day one.

What does it mean to manage a global company operating on 3 continents?

Firstly, it means having very little sleep. By the time you wake up, Asia has already been working for six hours, and when you go to sleep, America still has six hours of work ahead. So, one way or another, you are always playing catch-up. It also means needing a high level of cultural flexibility in terms of work culture. For instance, in Asia, there are fewer opportunities for conflict compared to America, where conflict may arise more frequently. You have to learn to adapt, which is not as easy as it may sound. For example, if I were to speak to the CFO in Singapore the same way I speak to my German CFO, he would likely feel offended and think I was snapping at him!

One mistake I made was taking shortcuts for immediate benefits, such as bringing on investors who were not aligned with the business, which created more problems than benefits in the long run.

You launched your company in Berlin. Do you think it would have been any different if you had started it in Italy?

Initially, I had planned to establish the business in Milan. However, I encountered several challenges and a lack of support that Berlin didn’t have. In Berlin, we also had angel investors who were willing to provide the initial funding, whereas in Milan, there wasn’t as much enthusiasm. Around the same time, a company called Roomie was starting up in Italy, which we later acquired. This meant that it was possible to create such a company in Italy, since these guys did it, and did it well, but they created it with a more “local” approach: to have a solid and profitable company, without a global ambition. In short, the answer is: it would have been possible to create Habyt in Italy, but the result might have been different.

So, the most important characteristic of an entrepreneur is to be ambitious?

Indeed, it is the essential prerequisite. If you possess average intelligence, you can find a job with less responsibility that pays you enough, or even more than enough. However, if you choose to become an entrepreneur, it is because there is something within you that drives you to aspire for more. Another crucial factor, although it may sound cliché, is resilience. Throughout my six years with Habyt, I encountered numerous challenges and faced near-death experiences. In fact, it took me about four or five years to start earning what I used to make at Dropbox. The initial years were incredibly challenging.

Let’s talk about mistakes: which ones did you make and what did you learn?

One mistake I made was taking shortcuts for immediate benefits, such as bringing on investors who were not aligned with the business, which created more problems than benefits in the long run. From this experience, I learned the importance of carefully considering the alignment and long-term implications of any decisions. I now advise others to ask themselves whether a particular action is necessary for the survival of the company or if it can wait for a calmer time in the future. While ambition is important, it is crucial not to become a slave to it and make impulsive choices without considering the broader consequences.

During the Outlier Retreat in San Francisco, I witnessed the true value of the Endeavor process. The caliber of individuals present was extraordinary.

How do you think the co-living market will evolve?

From the perspective of clients, we are witnessing the professionalization of an existing market. Young students and workers have always rented rooms, and the focus now is on streamlining the process through new platforms. From the provider’s point of view, there will be increasing investments, attracting more real estate developers who will allocate a portion of their budgets to this market. Italy, in particular, has one of the lowest percentages of students living away from home in dedicated facilities. Therefore, there is still significant potential for growth, and I believe it will take at least another 10–15 years to reach the levels seen in the UK or the US.

How was your selection process at Endeavor?

I must confess that the selection process at Endeavor was quite stressful. It felt like being evaluated as if I were in school. However, I soon realized that the level of attention and scrutiny I received was actually a positive sign. It became evident during the Outlier Retreat in San Francisco, where I witnessed the true value of the process. The caliber of individuals present was extraordinary. Engaging with such a diverse group of professionals and facing various challenges in that environment was immensely rewarding. The experience alone made the selection process worthwhile!

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Endeavor talks with...

Endeavor Italy’s monthly column. We talk about the best Italian startups & scaleups, and amazing people.