GETTING STARTED: The Host Co. Adds Hotel-Style Amenities to Rentals
The host company
Founded in September 2020, Host Co. allows hosts to set up an online store to sell anything on their property, from snacks to phone chargers to artwork.
Guests can make purchases before or during their stay. Some items are stored at the properties and others are delivered, with the Host Co. paying a commission on each sale.
What’s your 30-second pitch to investors?
We add the minibar, gift shop and concierge to your Airbnb. As a guest, you can now purchase anything from a rental, from snacks in the fridge to artwork on the walls – and even pre-order items before you arrive.
Describe both the business and technological aspects of your startup.
We help hosts set up custom stores to sell whatever is in their rental, as well as services like ‘pre-stock my pantry’ and hookups with local artisan products that are shipped home. Our B2B2C marketplace software is:
- Safe: cashless transactions, security features on both sides
- Secure: four layers of built-in theft protection
- Transparent: Guests can purchase an item in 30 seconds, with no download. Guests on board in two minutes.
My co-founder and I, who met as producers at HGTV, are both professional Airbnb hosts. So we first built this technology for ourselves. We understand both sides of the market – we know that customers really, really want to buy things from our rentals. And we know that as Hosts we would love to provide a value-added experience for guests and get the most out of every booking. And really, who doesn’t want pre-stocked Advil and Gatorade for sale the night after a big wedding?
The Host Co. is a community of 10,000 hosts across all of our channels. We’re fundamentally the Xerox of hosting, as one of the largest companies providing resource and technology advice to short-term rental hosts. Our services work for all short term rental platforms, from Airbnb to Vrbo and even different rental types like swimming pools and offices.
We have built both our business model and our technology around our users – the hosts! We know that web hosts won’t download anything, that they won’t run on a SaaS model because they are usually seasonal and want to control what they store and sell.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
- Strengths: Designed for a perfect fit to the product market. Tons of early buzz, a solid waitlist, and amazing metrics from early adopters. Over 40% of travelers buy an item when they stay in an Airbnb store with a Host Co. store. And over 90% of customers open the store.
- Weaknesses: We have so many amazing features to add, and as a growing business we are looking to reach them faster.
- Opportunities: globally
- Threats: You would think Airbnb would be our biggest threat here, but we know Airbnb is not currently focused on adding retail to rentals within the company. We know they are looking to outside companies to solve this problem. And, while there are other competitors in this space, their technology is quite different from the rest. Our biggest threat right now is time – because we know more businesses will enter this space.
What are the travel issues you are trying to alleviate from a customer and industry perspective?
Short-term rentals just don’t have the amenities that customers need and want. There is no mini-bar, gift shop or concierge. Guests will choose to stay in a hotel rather than a short-term rental for these reasons.
By adding businesses and services to rentals, everyone wins: guests, hosts, brands and delivery services.
So you have the product, now how are you going to get a lot of customers?
Our growing community of hosts are our evangelists! We also have an amazing marketing funnel for new hosts.
Tell us what process you went through to establish a real need for your business and the size of the addressable market.
We first built this for ourselves – we know the market and the needs. It’s very funny, every time we talk about the “problem”, everyone understands it, right away. I mean, who hasn’t been in a vacation rental and wanted to buy something? Or would you like them to have something you forgot, like toothpaste or a phone charger? Or just desperately wishing for room service or midweek cleaning?
How and when will you make money?
As a marketplace, we work on a commission model. Hosts keep 93% of sales.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
Prior to The Host Co. I, Annie Sloan was Creative Director at Facebook, and before that, Creative Director at Twitter. I have worked in the Bay Area tech space for many years and have helped create digital products for Google, Nike, Airbnb and more. My co-founder, Mikel, after working as a TV showrunner, went on to found Times Eight Real Estate and a large property management company Airbnb. We’re both Airbnb hosts, so coming together to create host-centric technology just felt intuitive.
How did you approach diversity and inclusion within your company?
We are a team founded by women and LGBTQ people engaged in a variety of hiring practices up to the executive level. We believe you can’t tackle diversity and inclusion once – it’s an ongoing commitment that needs to be built into the fabric of the business.
What has been the most difficult part of building the business so far?
Management of time. Wishing we could reproduce!
Typically, travel industry startups face a pretty tough time to make an impact – so why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?
We are the right technology at the right time. Airbnb just had its best quarter, and tens of thousands of new hosts log on every month. Our business and technology is built for Hosts, by Hosts, so we know the right way to serve our customers.
In a year, what state do you think your startup will be in?
Hyper-growth! We will always be in the fox hole of startup life, but with our eyes on global expansion. And we will have several other features implemented that will help connect customers to even more services. I can not wait !
What’s your endgame? (IPO, acquisition, growth and maintenance of the private sector, etc.)
This information is private at this time, but we have a number of options open which is fantastic!
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