ADVENTURES WITH AIRBNB
Airbnb, Inc. is a company based in San Francisco that operates an online marketplace and hospitality service for people to lease or rent short-term lodging from holiday cottages to hostel beds. Airbnb is a home rental platform with a simple premise–connect homeowners to customers looking for short term rentals. Airbnb does not own any real estate or conduct tours; it is a broker that receives percentage service fees in conjunction with every booking. The company has over 5 million lodging listings in 81,000 cities and 191 countries and has facilitated over 300 million check-ins.
The company idea came from founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia in 2007 after the two were looking to rent space in their San Francisco apartment to help them afford the cost of rent. In 2009, they brought on Nathan Blecharczyk as chief technology officer, and Air Bed and Breakfast was born. In 2009 the company re-branded and changed it’s name to Airbnb. becoming a permanent service in the “sharing economy”.
Success for Airbnb didn’t come easy. The company almost folded. One afternoon, the team was pouring over their search results for New York City listings with Paul Graham, trying to figure out what wasn’t working, why they weren’t growing. After spending time on the site using their own product, Gebbia had a realization that a pattern was taking place with similarity between 40 listings in the area. The similarity is the photos sucked. People were using their camera phones or using their images from classified sites to post photos of rentals. People weren’t booking rooms because you couldn’t see what it is that you were paying for. Graham tossed out a completely nontechnical solution to the problem–travel to New York, rent a camera, spend some time with customers listing properties, and replace the amateur photography with beautiful high-resolution pictures. Without having actual data to prove the photo theory, the three-man team grabbed the next flight to New York and upgraded all the amateur photos to beautiful images. A week later, the results were in and by improving the pictures, revenues doubled $400 per week. This was the first financial improvement that the company had seen in over eight months. They knew they were onto something.
VACATION RENTAL BY OWNER
VRBO is short for Vacation Rental By Owner, and as the name implies, it specializes in vacation rentals of all types: houses, apartments, condos, and villas. The site was founded in 1995 and allows homeowners to advertise property listings to renters. In 2006, VRBO was acquired by HomeAway, and joined the HomeAway network which includes other sites like VacationRentals.com. Rather than listing smaller spaces like single rooms, VRBO only lists larger spaces. These include whole houses, condos, or apartments that customers will have to themselves, rather than sharing with the homeowner or other guests and this is a fantastic read for your knowledge. In fact, “don’t share” became a marketing point in a 2016 ad about Airbnb vs. HomeAway (VRBO’s parent company). So while VRBO offers fewer rentals, users can rest assured that the space they find will be completely theirs. However, unlike Airbnb, you can only rent entire homes on VRBO, which means it has fewer rentals than Airbnb. VRBO’s website it boasts that it has over 2 million rentals worldwide, compared to Airbnb’s 4 million.
You might be interested in this episode of ride sharing with Lyft & Uber:
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Episode 330 – August 13, 2018