Building the fifth wall with WE Wumbo

Mar 02, 2023
Dirk Steller

Michael Lee stands out as a dedicated and optimistic entrepreneur. Having worked for the best part of his life in property management, he is passionate about his craft and determined to do things differently, not just better as he looks to shake up the property industry and offer the communities that live and work in highrise buildings a more productive, personalised and efficient way to manage their spaces.
WE Wumbo connects building management, its residents and building community; service providers and the surrounding area, making everyday life more convenient, efficient and enjoyable. 
“ I understand property and developments intimately, it was natural to have that light bulb moment and realise it needed a technology like any other legacy business. 

"WE Wumbo is about the sense of belonging and self-actualisation. It’s about community engagement and a more effective communication channel between the residents, building managers and all the members within that ecosystem,” Michael says. 

The Inspiration Behind Digitising Property Management

From the very beginning, humans have needed a roof over their heads. From that most basic foundation, we have built an almost infinite variety of spaces to work, live and play. What do all these spaces have in common? The potential to enhance our communities and deliver a new level of service.

Michael saw this potential, and that’s how WE Wumbo was born in 2017. The App is a resident-first, fully integrated building management platform that redefines the way people interact with the buildings they live and work in. WE Wumbo shifts the focus from assets to people, making lifestyle building management the new benchmark for vertical living environments.

“People ask us if our tech platform is a luxury product. And the truth is that we started there to unlock the complexities and build credibility. But the reality is that the luxury WE Wumbo proposes is not about what assets you have or how much your apartment is worth,” he says. “The real luxury is the lifestyle conveniences of doing everything on your own phone, book a facility, parcel collection, smart lock, home automatons, book cleaners, socialise with neighbours…, whatever it is. We create ease and the luxury of experiences.”

The Evolution of Digitisation in Property Management

WE Wumbo has timed its entry to perfection. Providing this type of complex service would have been nearly impossible even ten years ago. Now, thanks to open-source technology, WE Wumbo is able to tap into other tech partners to leverage their expertise and combine it into a user-friendly, high-quality service.

“For WE Wumbo we stick to our tech core platform and identify credible partners with established software and hardware products and we just plug them in to create an immersive ecosystem.” In effect, we take over the whole building technology fabric, we become the Fifth Wall for the whole building management, its operations, and also the apartments as well. 

And as any other app, user-testing and iteration is crucial to reach maturity.

“At the very beginning, when we launched WE Wumbo, we had nearly 600 apartments under management. Users started telling us what they needed, what was right, what was wrong. So, we just continued to make changes and evolve. Now, we're at this inflection point where people are coming to us, and channel partners see us as a critical growth path for their own businesses. So, we're in a very, very good place.”

The challenges of being a sole startup founder 

Being a sole founder is definitely not an easy endeavour and Michael has had to wear many hats to build the success he’s having now.

“In a traditional tech company, you have a founder and you have a tech partner. I didn’t do it that way. I approached this as a legacy kind of business. In terms of tech, I built my own team. I went out and resourced, and did a lot of learning from the actual staff themselves.”

In the midst of trying to solidify his tech team, COVID-19 hit, and Michael had to regroup again.

“Prior to COVID I was living in Vietnam, and I had around 25 people in the team. When COVID hit, I was in Australia. So, I scaled back to three people in Vietnam, and we partnered with Block8 to scale up our tech development.”

When it comes to emerging startups, most of them struggle with the same thing: finding investors and receiving funding. As a sole founder, this was Michael’s hardest challenge.

“As a legacy investor I didn't have previous knowledge of the startup world in terms of capital raising. We set our valuation very low because we wanted the upside for the investors coming into the seed round. But the challenge really was learning how to fund raise and pitching to investors.”

In 2022 Seed Space invested in WE Wumbo, and is now is helping them find more potential investors.