Investing in Bellman

Posted: 24 Jun 2020

My partners and I have committed to building transparency around how we pick investments, and in general around how we think about things. We believe this practice will be useful to founders looking at Connect as the lead for their seed round. With this intent, I recently published Investing in Oyster. Founders and fellow VCs told me they liked this behind-the-scenes perspective and encouraged me to do this more often.

So my next story is our investment in Bellman, a French startup looking to transform residential property management using software.

The occasion is the recent announcement of new funding led by Lakestar.

Bellman, Product Needed :)

Sourcing. All it starts in February 2019 with an intro to Antonio Pinto (co-founder/CEO of Bellman) from TheFamily. Oussama Ammar is the master of matchmaking as he played the card of our affinity and passion for Product.

Fun fact. What Oussama had forgotten was that he had already introduced us in person. Back in 2016, I was invited to spend two days in the South of France on a camping weekend with The Family, along with nearly 80 entrepreneurs; one of them was Antonio. At the time, he was still running TV Time, a mobile app that helps you track your favorite TV shows — used by 1 million fans every day (Antonio a few months later sold the company to Whip Media Group). I enjoyed that first encounter and I well recall Antonio’s laser focus on Product. 10 seconds into our first meeting, he pulled out his phone and proudly demo’d his creation, the TV Time app. Few words, impeccable UX. All on the sand, under the sun, in our swimsuits. It was certainly memorable.

Deck screening

Back to Bellman, there wasn’t much besides a deck with a few compelling slides. In fact, nothing was built yet. This is pre-seed, at its finest: pre-product, pre-team, pre-revenue. That said, Antonio and John had built a strong fundraising deck.

Super SaaS

For many VCs, Bellman was PropTech. To me, it was Super SaaS.

Over the years I developed a thesis for a hybrid model of b2b SaaS. A horizontal software layer (ie. the tool that automates the business workflow) super-powered by a vertical layer: a financial product, a transactional product, a productized professional service.

Bellman is a great example of Super SaaS. In fact some jobs require a human touch. For Bellman, it is the super partes role of the property manager. The combo is …super: a full-stack property management firm that merges software and professional service automation to create a step-function improvement in the customer experience.

Building conviction

This is a summary of my and my partners’ Sitar Teli and Rory Stirling collective theses, extracted from the internal investment committee write-ups.


  • Software eats the service economy. Or, in other jargon, the rise of productized services with recurring fees.
  • Service quality. The thesis is that the Syndic model is not broken; it is perceived as broken because of the poor and outdated quality of the service currently provided. If you fix the service you fix the model. And you restore trust. By building tools that empower the property manager to do a much better job (in a much more efficient way), the quality of the service improves dramatically.
  • Product founder. Antonio is an exceptional product founder with an innate knack for looking at inefficiencies and coming up with innovative solutions with a first principle mindset. He’s driven by the vision to turn a horrible experience into one that people love, end-to-end. This will create a strong UX-led brand that will pull the market adoption.
  • Different, not better. Revolutionary not evolutionary. Bellman transforms the property management industry from offline and paper-based to software-powered. From inefficient and frustrating to convenient and transparent.
  • New category. Bellman creates a new category of software-enabled Property Management. Once the market discovers a different way is possible and realizes it doesn’t have to suck, it will naturally switch. This will in turn define the new normal.
  • Platform: Bellman will connect all the stakeholders in a trusted platform where information and communication are made easy and accessible. At scale, Bellman aggregates a network (of property managers, landlords, and contractors) and a dataset that will be immensely valuable and unique to the property industry. And this edge compounds over time.

The round

We led a 2.2m€ pre-seed round in Bellman, with the participation of The Family and of many high profile angels, including Nicolas Brusson (founder of Blablacar), Michael Benabou (founder of Ventes-privées) and Jean-David Blanc (founder of Allociné & Molotov).


We closed and toasted in Paris


We onboarded Antonio and John into our Founders Network by giving them our token Connect caricatures [yes, we do this for every founder]

Fast Forward

You can picture the following 12 months. Antonio and John killed it. They hired the initial team, built a v.01 of Bellman, and won 100 properties with more than 2000 landlords who love the idea and execution. Then, Lakestar joined in.