Meet The Disruptors: Nicolas Chammas Of Sentral On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Focus on your strengths. I think that advice is really valuable because we often focus on our weaknesses, which is really important. But we tend to be so focused on improving our weaknesses that we don’t double down on our strengths. Finding your superpower and doubling down on that can pay major dividends.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicolas Chammas, CFO at Sentral.

An investor turned operator, Mr. Chammas joined the company as Sentral’s first Chief Financial Officer. In his role, Nick oversees Sentral’s finance and accounting functions and is responsible for managing the annual budget and the capital planning process, financial reporting, forecasting, and fundraising and ensures Sentral remains appropriately capitalized for growth. Prior to joining Sentral, Nick served as Vice President of Strategic Finance and Investment Analysis at Sonder, where he led $900 million in fundraising and Sonder’s eventual 2022 IPO. Before merging his passions for real estate, hospitality, and finance, Nick worked for more than 15 years in growth equity investing and investment banking. Nick has led investments in growth-stage technology and technology-enabled businesses, and has advised public and private companies on M&A, capital raising, and IPO transactions, representing nearly $15 billion.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory? What led you to this particular career path?

I grew up in Silicon Valley and started my career as an investment banker focused on disruptive tech and tech-enabled services companies. I really loved the deal business but I wanted to be closer to actually building companies so I transitioned to private equity where I was focused on investing rather than just advising growth companies. As an investor, I had an incredible amount of respect for entrepreneurs and start-ups that were transforming legacy industries and I began looking for opportunities to take on operational roles in growth companies. I also had the perspective that if you are going to be successful building a company, you need to be super passionate about the sector you are in and the problem you are solving. I’ve traveled all my life and have always been fascinated by real estate, and so the intersection of real estate and hospitality drew me in and led me to Sonder. After nearly three years there leading strategic finance at Sonder and taking the company public, I was introduced to Sentral’s CEO, Jon Slavet, and the Sentral team and was instantly drawn to Sentral’s vision of redefining home and building the world’s largest and most connected flexible living community.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The multifamily industry has relied on the same revenue model for decades: fixed 12 month leases of unfurnished units without the flexibility for residents and guests to reside or stay for shorter periods of time. However, due to radical shifts in technology, the work-from-home movement brought on by the pandemic and the desires of modern renters and travelers to become unburdened from a single long-term location, this model no longer works for a large segment of today’s consumers. In addition, short term rental (STR) operators, who have risen in prominence over the last five years, have developed a model where they can profit from running short term rentals in traditional multifamily buildings. This model provides owners with a fixed income stream, but all the upside goes to the STR operator. Sentral has taken a different approach — partnering with owners to share in the upside. Our unique approach to managing an asset is based on our ability to manage any length of stay — whether that’s a night, a month, or a year. We partner with owners to furnish a portion of their apartment units or the entire building based on the owner’s preferences — and we will manage any length of stay — from the traditional monthly leases to overnight stays. Through our ability to efficiently manage any length of stay, we are able to drive a 5 to 10 percent increase in owner NOI which we believe owners can’t get with any other partners.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early on in my investment banking career, I had the good fortune of working with the amazing team at Google on their IPO. After I left investment banking, I remember my mother asking me if she should invest in Google stock. Having been through countless hours of training about insider trading, I was so paranoid about investing in Google that I told her not to invest, even after my insider knowledge had expired. I also held off on buying GOOG stock until several years later and by then the price had increased to 4x the IPO price. I’ve kicked myself ever since — timing is everything!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’ve been fortunate to have some really great mentors in my career, but a lot of the values I have today were formed early on in life by spending time with my grandfather who was a successful entrepreneur in his home country of Lebanon. He was respectful of others’ opinions and would listen before he spoke, taking time to understand all perspectives before weighing in with his thoughts. I think we are often so quick to speak in groups or in meetings because we want to get our point across that we fail to listen to the other thoughts around the table. So in life and in my career, I try to listen before I speak, and use the perspectives of others to help shape my views. I think this is something great leaders do well — they surround themselves with other great leaders, listen to their ideas, and make decisions after reviewing multiple points of view.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time?’ Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is not so positive? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

As an investor earlier in my career, I tend to think about disruption with the framework of “better, faster, or cheaper.” A successful disruptor typically does one of these really really well. I’m old enough to remember when there were more than a handful of Internet search engines like AskJeeves, Altavista and others. Then Google came out with a wildly simple but much better search algorithm and quickly took market share from the other search engines, many of whom were eventually acquired or shut down. There are also examples of wannabe disruptors who failed in dramatic fashion. One recent example that comes to mind is Theranos. They attempted to disrupt the healthcare industry by using technology to deliver better and faster test results from small samples of blood, yet after burning through nearly a billion dollars of investors’ money, it was discovered that the technology simply didn’t work and the science was much more complex than the founders of Theranos had realized. At the end of the day, your product or service actually has to work — it can’t simply be faster or cheaper.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Focus on your strengths. I think that advice is really valuable because we often focus on our weaknesses, which is really important. But we tend to be so focused on improving our weaknesses that we don’t double down on our strengths. Finding your superpower and doubling down on that can pay major dividends.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

At Sentral, we are just getting started. Our mission is to redefine home and build the world’s largest and most connected flexible living community. We manage about 3,500 apartments across the U.S. today and are rapidly expanding as property owners are desperate for ways to increase the value of their assets. The beauty of our model is that it truly is a win-win — our residents and guests have more flexibility, with the ability to stay a night, a month or a year in our properties, and our owner partners can get higher revenues and increase the NOI of their assets by partnering with Sentral. We think it is just a matter of time before the rest of the industry catches on and we are already in dialogue with many of the top institutional property owners to help transform their assets.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I’m a big fan of Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s podcast Invest Like the Best. I love his approach of bringing together successful investors and visionary entrepreneurs to tell their stories. My biggest learning from his various podcasts is that there are many paths to success, but one common thread among successful leaders is passion and relentless curiosity. Even the most successful leaders don’t claim to have figured it all out. Fortune 500 CEOs have mentors, leadership coaches, and learn from their teams along the way. As leaders we need to constantly evolve with the times and learn from those around us.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are a lot of great life lesson quotes out there. One of my favorites is “Do easy things for a hard life, and do hard things for an easy life.” The takeaway is that if you end up always choosing the easy path, you will suffer later on. When we challenge ourselves and go outside of our comfort zones, that is where we grow and evolve and in the end leads to more fulfillment and happiness in our lives.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I think humility is one of the most important character traits a leader can possess, and I wouldn’t consider myself as having great influence, except perhaps with my kids. My wife and I have tried hard to raise our kids to be good people, who are respectful and kind, to other people and to animals as well. I think we could all make the world a better place through small changes in behavior like prioritizing kindness and respecting each other’s differences.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m not super active on social media, but you can find me on LinkedIn at or on Twitter @nchammas.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: Nicolas Chammas Of Sentral On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Recommended Posts