CasaHopÂ is a home exchange platform which aims to put like-minded people in touch with each other via their social graph.
The site launched in May and has a team of 16 people across nine countries led by founder and chief executive Paul Berry, co-founder and president Florent Peyre and chief technology officer Kriti Godey.
The startup has already gained $1.2m in funding from an illustrious group including hotelier Andre Balazs, MTV founder and chief executive of Clear Channel Bob Pittman, Lerer Ventures, First Round Capital and Betaworks.
Casahop believes it willÂ ’radically’ change the way people travel, despite stiff competition from the likes of Airbnb, OneFineStay and CouchSurfing, and therefore sees the whole travel vertical as its market rather than just the home exchange sector.
The startup’s key differentiator is that its offering free accommodation via the exchange mechanism but the company is exploring a number revenue models from the freemium model with add-on services such as concierge and insurance and affiliate revenues to management fees for a community product it plans to launch.
Q&A with Florent Peyre, co-founder and president.
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
Other home exchange sites have done a great job with the entire exchange process, but there are a couple of ways that weâ€™ve improved it. First, CasaHop has been built social from the ground up. Unlike other exchange sites, weâ€™ve had the goal of being incredibly social from the start, so itâ€™s been woven into everything weâ€™ve done and plan on doing as we grow so that we can build inherent trust between our members.
And weâ€™re free! All the other sites are currently on a paid model. We donâ€™t charge you to register, to list your home, to browse, or even at the point of exchange.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
Collaborative consumption is huge right now, especially with a renewed focus on the environment and the flailing economy across the U.S. and abroad. CasaHop alleviates both of these issues by letting your home work for you. With CasaHop, you get to live like a local wherever you go â€“ and you get to do it for free.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
Thereâ€™s a few different avenues weâ€™re making great progress: first, by releasing a community product that can be used by existing communities, weâ€™re spreading the word on CasaHop to existing audiences. Second, weâ€™ve identified a selected list of strategic partners with whom we started working on co-branded sites to power home exchange inside of their environment.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
Itâ€™s a little early for us since we raised money just a couple of months ago but weâ€™ll keep you posted on this one
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
Lack of focus and too much distraction is a big one. Itâ€™s not life threatening in a large company which has deep resources but it is lethal for an early stage startup.
Another good one is hiring B and C players and expecting them to over deliver. Itâ€™s tough but the rule should be hire fast and fire even faster if the match is not here â€“ here again, you donâ€™t have the luxury of years of fundingâ€¦
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
The current model â€“ paying for hotels and rentals â€“ has two clear faults:
- It caters to those who are well off with more disposable income
- Travellers often miss out on the real local experience by staying in impersonal and touristy lodgings.
CasaHop addresses both issues. It allows people to have rich travel experiences without spending money on accommodation, and offers them full immersion in the local culture. With home exchange, users can travel around the world, but never feel like theyâ€™re too far from the comforts of home. We believe these factors are key to having the best possible travel experiences, and weâ€™re thrilled that CasaHop makes this possible for people around the world.
This is a really nice concept – swapping your home with people you know or kind of know through your social networks.
It alleviates many of the issues some of the existing players have around local taxes and legislation because the exchange is free but it will be interesting to watch how the various revenue models evolve.
The affiliate side of things could work well and the company says it’s also looking at the potential for its platform to power home-swap on other sites.
The idea of trust within your social group is good but sort of depends on how wide the circle of Â people you follow, like, recommend is etc and how well you really know them. If you have hundreds you probably won’t know them that well and might not be likely to swap your home. And, if you have fewer, you might know them really well and be just as likely to pick up the phone or send them an email.
The ambition of radically changing how people travel by helping travellers experience something more local and genuine is also praiseworthy.
Watch out for some of the big accommodation rental players who could swallow CasaHop whole, creating a quick exit from the startup and an additional service for themselves.
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