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Pioneering Circular Economy Solutions: The Story of Cohabit and Its Mission for Sustainable Living

A conversation with Max Pangerl, Co-founder of Cohabit in Sweden.

Moving into unfurnished flats and accommodations is a real issue for many students around the world. In Sweden, a team of change makers have decided to take matters into their own hands by establishing Cohabit, a circular furniture rental business which offers second-hand furniture in Malmo and Lund. 

Max Pangerl, one of the co-founders of the project that was awarded the Nyförgetagercentrum's 2023 Sustainability Award, explains his own journey and the creation of Cohabit

Max pursued a Bachelor’s in Management of Renewable Energies, during that time, he did an internship in Indonesia in a low-tech material management company where he dealt with waste management. This opened his eyes to the issues of overproduction and waste landfills.  “I figured that waste management, and a circular economy are important drivers if we want to create a sustainable future.” 

Photo by Malin Palm

The genesis of Cohabit

Upon finishing his degree, he worked in the field of agriculture with a farming scaleup company and then switched to pursue a master’s in Leadership for Sustainability in Sweden. His final thesis focused on the circular economy, and during the last course of the semester he had to come up with a social innovation and entrepreneurship idea. He formed a project group with Vaishnavi Srinivasan and Jed Manguera, who later became his co-founders. 

All three founders studied together and worked on the Cohabit project during university. Max explains that it was Vaishnavi who “was the one with the first sheet of paper for the ideation of Cohabit, as she furnished 99% of her apartment with second-hand items when she arrived in Sweden”. They developed a business model canvas, after the master’s it took them three months to develop the idea and offer their first product in 2022. In May 2023, they became finalists in Venture Cup, Sweden’s largest start-up competition. 

It’s mission and values

The main vision and premise of Cohabit is that an item might have lost value for one person, but there is still value for another person. They want to be a matchmaker. 

“Cohabit is a circular furniture rental service focusing on students, for now, but this is only where we started because we were international students ourselves. It started partly out of our own necessity, because if you move to Sweden, you will find yourself in an unfurnished apartment most of the time.” Yet, there are a wide number of second-hand stores which provide used furniture. Therefore, they decided to build a system where they connect the supply of secondary items from an online marketplace, second-hand stores, and connect them to the demand, which is students coming in. 

Their main audiences at the moment are students, Cohabit is looking to extend their reach to other audiences who rent furniture for up to 2 to 3 years, or want to own them afterwards. In 2023, they expanded into Lund, and this year, they are looking at Helsingborg. He adds that on “the B2B side, we are looking to partner with housing companies to directly furnish apartments, so students, and short-term stayers, do not go through the hassle of moving into unfurnished apartments.”

How does Cohabit work?


Max explains that they have established a partnership with 3 of the biggest housing companies in the south of Sweden. This facilitates the process for students looking for furniture as they would receive an email or an info letter about Cohabit. Another way to find out about Cohabit would be to search “short-term furniture rental in Sweden” online. 

On their website, customers would fill up a form about furniture requirements, this is followed up with a call. All of the items are quality-checked and cleaned. Then, the Cohabit team takes care of the logistics to deliver the furniture into the apartment. 

Most often the rentals last however long the customer needs the furniture, yet, they have experienced a growth of rentals lasting around 1 year and longer.

Sourcing furniture 

“In the first year, our sourcing mainly consisted of connecting with Facebook MarketPlace, private individuals and connecting items there, and going to second-hand stores. Now, we are taking a more professional sourcing approach, where we get items from manufacturers who have an overshoot in their inventory, and they cannot sell their items. We also have a partnership with one of the biggest recycling companies in Sweden.” Once these items are sourced, if they need renovating Cohabit paired up with carpenters to redo the surface when needed. 

The life cycles of the furniture Cohabit provides vary, some have had three life cycles, and others that have gone up to 5 so far, with a high potential for more cycles.

Growing trend

In the Nordics, there is a higher interest of people wanting to turn to second-hand furniture use rather than buying new items from major stores. A study showed that in 2023, over half of Swedish shoppers bought pre-loved items from online marketplaces. 

“The challenge is to make it as convenient as going to a big mainstream furniture store. We work a lot on how we can make it simple and convenient for the customer, so that the more environmentally conscious decision is the most logical one.”

They ensure that their customers have the most enjoyable experience with their services, so they can resort to second-hand furniture in the long term. Max adds, “In general, the awareness of sustainable ways of consumption is rising, and our customers say that it makes sense to them to use second-hand furniture.”

Future goals

At the moment, Max and his team are currently building their infrastructure capacities on the digital side to be able to onboard other stakeholders. As a player in the circular economy, Max explains that “you need a lot of partnerships”. 

“We are building our capacities and infrastructures to have more partnerships with both manufacturers and housing companies.”

Vision of the future

“Climate change has always been there, but it is being strongly accelerated by us right now”, Max explains. Yet, he remains “optimistic when I see all my fellow changemakers in the climate space, pushing forwards for more sustainable solutions and behaviors. This is what is needed to keep the spirit up.”

For young individuals wanting to enter the climate space and have a positive impact on society, Max advises to join a company within the climate space to develop new skills. Another advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, is to develop a solution to a concrete problem and test the market and connect with your potential customers. “This will help you to assess if your solution is really needed. Validate fast, build on feedback and reiterate this process over time to remain in sync with customer needs.”

Additional note: Max adds that “For people in the Nordics who will read, we are always open and looking for partnerships, when it comes to supply of furniture, and with housing companies or pre-furnishing apartments with required service. We are always happy to connect, learn, and build together.” 


Max Pangerl interviewed by Natalia Vasnier for The Conference Corner; feature cover image provided by Max Pangerl.

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