Startup Pitch: Hostfully puts service in the pocket of private accommodation users

Hostfully is another of the brands to emerge in a bid to benefit from the widening ecosystem around private accommodation.

The service produces guides for a guest at a property, on behalf of the host.

Each is available for the guest on a mobile, desktop or in printed format and can be sent via the booking platform that was used to secure the stay (Airbnb, HomeAway, et al).

Content includes local recommendations, such as things to do in an area, tips for restaurants, as well as a “house manual” for the property and essentials for the time spent in the destination.

The company is based in San Francisco and founded by a group of Apple product execs.

Video:

Q&A with CEO Margot Schmorak:

What problem does your business solve?

Today’s vacation rental managers are forced to rely on the 3-ring binder to ensure their guests have a great experience. This leads to unhappy customers, bad reviews, and reduced occupancy and revenue.

Bookings platforms don’t solve this problem because most properties are listed across bookings platforms. Having the property guidebook in only one booking platform may not work for the other 80% of a vacation rental’s business.

We help vacation rentals create customized guidebooks that highlight the best features of every vacation rental property. Guidebooks contain important property information like the wifi code and check-in information, as well as authentic local recommendations.

Our product works beautifully on any mobile device, on web, and in print. It also works with any bookings platform.

Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff?

We are friends who have know each other for many years, and we come from Apple, NASA and venture-backed startups. We are also all vacation rental hosts who’ve experienced this pain point ourselves.

Our co-founders include:Margot Schmorak, CEO

  • Margot Schmorak, CEO
  • David Jacoby, President
  • Noah Neiman, Head of Product

We also have five awesome additional team members (Bob, Mark, Meli, Angela and Nicole).

Funding arrangements?

Hostfully is primarily bootstrapped. We have raised about $300K from friends and family.

Revenue model?

We are a SaaS company, charging a subscription to companies who want to use the robust business-grade version of our service. We also have a freemium product that is popular with vacation rental managers who have a small number of properties (including Airbnb hosts).

Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?

We’ve interviewed and surveyed over 50 vacation rental companies with more than 4,000 properties to understand their business needs.

What we learned is that many of these companies want to improve the diversity and quality of their offerings but lack the tools to do this at scale.

Instead, they’re filling in the gaps with staff, checklists, and email. Even the best companies agree that their homegrown solutions aren’t optimal.

At the same time, vacation rentals want ways to increase their amount of direct bookings.

They need to find new ways to increase referrals and repeat customers. We help them establish a closer relationship with the customer, which helps in the short term with better reviews and in the longer term for referral opportunities.

External validation?

We were in Cohort #8 of BlueStartups accelerator and Cohort #6 of Acceleprise, a SF-based SaaS accelerator program.

We are live in 80 countries and 3,300 properties, having grown via organic and referral traffic, and users have generated content on Hostfully more than 20,000 times since we launched six months ago.

Our team has extensive experience from venture-backed startups as well as Apple, NASA, and PwC, and we have a lot of fun working together.

We’ve attracted customers organically. We have the #1 publication on Medium.com for “Airbnb” and “vacation rentals” and #2 for “travel” (2nd to Lonely Planet). For the past few years, we’ve presented at Airbnb Open host conference.

Tnooz view:

There is much to be admired when looking at those trying to capture an element of this seemingly new world of private accommodation.

Hostfully, like its European counterpart GuestReady, has a decent enough period of time ahead to try and establish itself as a must-have for hosts.

Indeed, hosts SHOULD be thinking about how to service their guests in a way that is more valuable than simply meeting them at the door and handing over a key.

Getting some love from Airbnb so early into its the company’s history is a big plus point but it will be relying on a lot more than that if it can scale quickly enough to support international expansion.

Chicken and egg.

The challenge for Hostfully (and its competitors) is two-fold: ensuring its relevancy as others enter the market and what to do if Airbnb or HomeAway decides to simply build a similar product itself and distribution through its own network.

Partner, get acquired, or struggle – hopefully not the latter for Hostfully.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.

 

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