Saturday, February 24, 2024

Ryan Stohl: From $35B M&A Deals to Solving the Student Housing Crisis with Lumi House

Ryan Stohl: From $35B M&A Deals to Solving the Student Housing Crisis with Lumi House
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When he started his investment banking career more than ten years ago, entrepreneur Ryan Stohl never imagined he would find himself taking on America’s student housing crisis. 

It is estimated that one in every five college students faces housing instability. Enrollment at top universities remains high, and the development of student-friendly housing is struggling to keep up. This student housing crisis, coupled with soaring housing costs and complex rental processes, means students across the country face an uncertain and arduous journey. 

But Stohl is working to address the escalating demand for accessible student living options. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Lumi House, an all-inclusive co-living technology solution for university students. The Miami-based entrepreneur built Lumi amid the COVID-19 pandemic before its official launch in 2022. 

As Stohl explains, the off-campus living experience has not changed in almost two decades: Hunting for an affordable apartment or house, finding trustworthy roommates, and navigating confusing rental agreements. “I figured there would be a better way, an easier journey to living on campus by now. And that isn’t the case—it’s the exact same journey,” he says.

The Journey From Campus to Company Co-Founder 

When it came to curating an elevated student living experience, Stohl drew inspiration from his own college experience 20 years before. He called the University of Texas home for four years as he worked towards a degree in government. After graduation, Stohl earned an MBA at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Stohl began his banking career in San Francisco, working for Stone & Youngberg, a boutique investment bank. After business school, Stohl began working in Deutsche Bank’s Energy Group in Houston, Texas. Eventually, Stohl moved to New York and helped Deutsche Bank’s Power & Utilities Group restart their renewable energy M&A practice. He went on to help Banco Santander, a global bank based out of Spain, launch its developer ecosystem. 

Stohl’s record boasted more than $35 billion in merger and acquisition deals and $15 billion in capital raised. But the Texas native was ready for a change of pace and new opportunities to innovate. Stohl leaped into fintech as the first product manager for MO Technologies, a Colombian fintech startup launching in Miami, Fla.

Stohl’s move to Miami was, as he describes it, ironically serendipitous. “I started seeing articles in my newsfeed about the student housing crisis,” he recalls. “There was a record increase in applications for in-person enrollment at the University of Miami and across the country. But at the same time, student housing construction had stopped during the pandemic.”

“It’s the perfect storm for a student housing crisis,” he says. And the investment banker turned entrepreneur saw an opportunity to help. 

Building a Better Student Housing Model

One year after moving to Miami, Stohl left his fintech role to launch Lumi. The current Lumi portfolio features 11 homes, like Brick House. An easy half-mile walk from the University of Miami campus, Brick House is a four-bedroom, single-family home turned all-inclusive, co-living experience with monthly rent starting at $1,975 per room. Like every other Lumi property, the home’s Instagram-inspired aesthetic caters to the Millennial and Gen-Z renters who will call its spaces home. 

Each Lumi house offers a co-living experience while providing privacy and personal space that is impossible to find in an on-campus dorm. A student’s monthly rent is all-inclusive and covers everything needed for ideal off-campus living. Each house on the platform comes fully furnished and includes twice-a-month cleaning, utilities, WiFi, and parking. Student renters also enjoy pantry necessities and favorite streaming services like Hulu as part of their monthly cost.

Lumi simplifies and streamlines the more frustrating parts of the rental process, allowing prospective tenants to start their housing search directly from its website. Users can view properties and schedule a tour all in one place. Then, Lumi assists with the rental application, credit check, and screening process.  

But the all-inclusive model appeals to more than just students. Lumi is also a cost-effective property management solution for single-family rental properties, offering full-stack technology solutions for property marketing, onboarding tenants, maintenance requests, rent collection, and other time-consuming duties that typically fall to the landlord. The brand also provides expert support in decorating, furnishing, and outfitting the home to reach Lumi’s target market of student renters.

“Lumi is there to solve two distinct problems: The student house crisis that is happening across the country and the resource demands that come with being an effective landlord,” Stohl explained. The platform aims to be a one-stop solution for both tenants and landlords. 

Breaking Away From the Status Quo of Off-Campus Living

Stohl does not shy away from being a first-time founder, sans the serial entrepreneur background. Instead, his nontraditional path to launching Lumi House offered the founder a fresh perspective in building a proptech—real estate technology—brand.

“There have been a lot of co-living companies that have come and gone over the last five years,” Stohl points out. “They all went this one direction. Basically, Lumi decided to do the opposite of what they were doing.”

Stohl focused on strategic relationships with real estate investors interested in maximizing income with Lumi’s student-focused model rather than the typical marginal returns from a single-family rental investment. The Lumi team also opted for grassroots, viral marketing efforts and a connection with the University of Miami to get Lumi’s properties in front of potential student renters. The early phases of Lumi required a type of determination and endurance that seemed innate to Stohl—skills developed over a decade of experience rather than taught in an afternoon corporate workshop.  

“The start-up space is the right fit for me,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to create something out of nothing while solving real problems.”  

And the company’s contrasting approach has already led to exciting success. According to Stohl, Lumi is set to launch in the Boston and Atlanta markets following its pre-seed investment round. Explore Lumi’s co-living platform and all-inclusive student housing options at lumi.house.

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