The neo-trustee Bellman in dire straits

The great adventure of the Bellman company and its great ambitions have just deteriorated. The start-up that likes to describe itself as a “neo-trustee” promised to dust off a profession that still generates a lot of discontent and criticism in apartment buildings. Au gré de trois levées de fonds lui ayant permis de collecter 17 millions d’euros, la société fondée par Arturo Pinto s’était donné pour objectif de marier le meilleur du digital avec la gestion de copropriété classique assurée par des gestionnaires de l’ salariés company.

In full swing on winning new customers, the company hadn’t hesitated to make enemies among its fellow trustees with an ad campaign in which co-owners resort to a traditional trustee in sado-masochistic latex outfits, history to emphasize that you should keep hurting yourself, so as not to change providers. A campaign that led to Bellman being sued by the Association of Condominium Managers (ANGC).

Dismissal of managers

We have to believe that the mission Bellman gave himself turned out to be more difficult than expected because the company just launched a job protection plan. The current situation with the rapid rise in interest rates and thus the cost of money is hardly favorable for fundraising. And companies that don’t cover their costs and have too little cash run into problems. In particular, Bellman plans to separate from some of its accountants as well as all of its co-owner managers, with the latter now being entrusted to outside service providers.

The company has been very present in the media in recent months and has been more discreet in expressing its difficulties. Despite several reminders, the manager preferred to remain silent and his press service contented himself with an email of several paragraphs in which he emphasized in particular that: “The particularly difficult economic situation, linked to the international context that is causing tensions on commodities, rising inflation and thus a contraction of our main markets, has a strong impact on the company’s activities and in particular on its financing capabilities” and confirming the implementation of a runway protection plan.

An image from Bellman’s ad campaign that had outraged “traditional” administrators. Photo credit: Bellman

For the competition there is certainly no way to rejoice over these disappointments, but those who have been mocked by the start-up take the opportunity to underline the fragility of its model and propose that the managers of co-ownership to welcome those who would have lost their jobs. “It is a job that requires a lot of human resources, digital is not enough, points out Gilles Frémont, president of the National Association of Condominium Managers. These difficulties remind us that a company must be profitable and cannot rely on fundraising. It must collect mandates, contracts and buildings to manage. For his part, Benjamin Darmouni, Vice President of Unis Grand Paris, recalls in a LinkedIn post: “This profession is built on trust, and brutal disruption, only through shameful denigration, does not favor it.”

More disappointments?

Some of these professionals have no hesitation in pointing out another of their pet peeves, the start-up Matera, as a future candidate for serious trouble. If the latter has also built up (major) fundraising (35 million last year and 10 million in 2020), it does not present itself as a trustee, unlike Bellman, but as a platform to help cooperative trustees, i.e. a tool and a service for union councils .

“What is indisputable is that the market is currently very bad for fundraising, similar to what it was before the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2000, confesses Raphaël Di Meglio, CEO of Matera. On the other hand, we cannot put start-ups with very different approaches on the same level. I’ve been saying for five years that the traditional 50-building single manager model doesn’t work and isn’t cost-effective. The syndic of tomorrow will cooperate or not be.” When he admits that his business won’t be profitable until 2025, he confirms that his cash flow is in good health and that he can sustain it without worry until then.

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