Dash Living’s CEO Aaron Lee Wants to Solve Renting for You in Asia
October 16, 2023
The rise of metropolitan hubs in Asia has undeniably offered an array of opportunities for young professionals. However, this boon has in turn caused skyrocketing living costs in these urban paradises. Amidst the jungle of concrete and humidity, one entrepreneur, Aaron Lee, founder of Dash Living, stands out for his innovative solution to the issue.
Founding Dash Living in 2014, Aaron wants to champion “hassle-free living” with his company, a leading serviced living provider based in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Australia. Flipping the switch of the stronghold that the traditional rental market has on how and where young people can live and work, Aaron believes Dash Living is the future.
Offering a range of accommodation options, from homes and land serviced apartments to hotel rooms, Dash Living promises not just a place to stay, but a community to belong to.
Speaking with The Beat Asia via Teams, Aaron shares his vision for delivering an alternative to traditional renting in four markets afflicted by tricky landlords, lengthy lease terms, and rising living costs.
What does being a serial entrepreneur mean to you, Aaron, and the birth of Dash Living?
A social problem young people face is renting and affordable housing. We know the problems of expensive housing, facilities of apartments lacking quality, and properties getting more expensive and further away [from work and the city].
The rental industry has been around for hundreds of years. What tools do I have today to solve it? That's what a serial entrepreneur does. You use the modern-day tools, take what's available in the market, and apply trends to solve a big problem. In the context of Dash Living, we use technology and the sharing economy to connect assets to people who want more affordable housing and community.
Since you founded Dash Living nine years ago, what primary gap in the market have you been able to fill?
The answer to why Hong Kong rent is so expensive is the underutilisation of facilities in a building and inefficiency, leading to high operating costs, because most buildings in the city are not sharing facilities and operations.
In our network of 25 assets in Hong Kong, and other cities, we can share the resources across buildings and enable renters to share facilities [and] centralize the operations with our mobile app across the world. As a user, you can get more space, a better experience, and importantly a better price in a Dash Living property.
Was it a no-brainer to create this business in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is one of the most expensive places in the world to live. Similarly, it is one of the most competitive places for expats to find housing. Our sister markets in Singapore, Japan, and Australia also experience this issue.
If you can’t solve the problem of a lack of affordable housing, you won’t attract new people to come [to Hong Kong]. It's the first problem that everyone coming into Hong Kong is solving. That is the natural reason why we founded in Hong Kong first to solve this issue.
Why would you recommend a young person in Hong Kong rent through Dash Living, rather than other traditional rental platforms?
Compared with the traditional rental market, we provide flexibility for durations and contracts with rental leases, and access to our varied facilities across local and regional markets.
Our standard of co-living means that if you wanted to host this interview and your office was unavailable, we could have met in our co-living area in our Tsim Sha Tsui property. I will be in Singapore next week, and I can meet colleagues at our office there.
In our network, you can live and work in 25 of our properties around APAC.
How have you recovered the sanity lost and business hits from the previous three years?
I grew up as a minority in the U.S., with an underdog and fighter spirit. I had to know how to get myself out of a corner when someone punches you in. I have always had that nature and mentality of being to go up.
When COVID came, I was mentally prepared to pivot and get ourselves out of the corner. We focused on the fundamentals, to be nimble and resilient, to survive. We lowered our rental prices and extended leases to provide security to our renters to weather the storm.
During COVID, we set up our signature central Philippines support team to help control our costs and of course our marketplace business. [Our] investors questioned [both decisions] and thought we were crazy in the early months!
We worked with hotels and service apartment providers to drive long-stay renting options, selling rooms for our competitors, but in turn generating rental income and referral fees for us.
Thankfully, we are out of the woods now. Singapore became the first country in our portfolio to exit the pandemic in early 2022, which allowed us to recoup costs. We recently celebrated our [first] anniversary in Tokyo, selling three of our assets with opportunistic returns for our investors. Hong Kong has allowed us to return to normal pricing after the border opened in January 2023.
What types of people and demographics are you intent on attracting for long and short stays at your properties?
We target every corner of the world; we are one big community. Young people who are affluent, active, and tech savvy are drawn to both long and short stay options, whether they are coming to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, or Australia for internships, school, permanent relocations, or new jobs.
How are you looking to expand Dash Living in existing and new markets in the fourth quarter of 2023 and next year?
We are always open to opportunities, but we are still recovering from the pandemic. Our focus is on our fundamentals and increasing penetration in our properties across APAC through asset management with renowned managers like PGIM and Hines, both we’ve started working with during the pandemic to fuel our expansion.
We have new projects coming in Tokyo, and we are set to officially open Dash Living on Hollywood in Oct. 2023, our seventh property in Hong Kong!
Head to Dash Living’s website to see how you can join the flexible living wave in Asia!
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