Flow Might Fill a Niche, But Touting it as a Housing Crisis Solution Doesn’t Sit Well

It would be more reassuring to see ventures like Flow being backed by people who wouldn’t mind seeing them succeed in their own backyards.

One of the themes both Andreessen and rental-focused startups talk about a lot is the growing number of people who are renting because they are priced out of local homeownership. They offer differing takes on how to address the issue.

Two of the more heavily funded startups, Divvy and Up&Up, focus on renters on the road to homeownership. Divvy, which has raised $370 million to date, offers a platform for rent-to-own home purchases. Up&Up, a startup that enables renters to see financial gains from their rental homes, closed on $275 million in a November round.

Several are focused less on enabling renters on the path to homeownership and more on improving the rental experience. For instance, Alfred, which offers an app-based personal assistant service for renters, raised $125 million in a March late-stage funding round. Others are blurring the lines between hotel and rental, including Blueground and Landing, which offer furnished units with flexible leases.

Flow seems to be working along these lines too. Andreessen’s post talks about renting an apartment as a “soulless experience” for many, and posits that Neumann’s new venture could provide a better experience.

For now, it’s not clear exactly how Flow will do this. Gleaning bits from tech media and Twitter, the model looks a bit like a rental housing version of the hotel chain approach, adding branding, consistency and standards to the process of finding accommodations. The startup is also focused on adding social components aimed at making a rental more than just a place to crash, store groceries and stare at a screen.

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