TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based Dwellable, a new platform for listing and showcasing vacation rental properties on the web and iPad.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
One of our founders, Adam Doppelt, had booked a trip to Hawaii for his family. They painstakingly searched for and selected their vacation rental, only to arrive and find it to be a complete wreck—rotting, rodent-infested, with rocks instead of the "sandy beach2 they’d been promised.
At Dwellable, this has come to be known as the “vacation from hell”.
Adam figured there had to be a better way; that better way became Dwellable.
Dwellable is an independent vacation rental search site. We feature big, beautiful photos for visual search on both the website and our recently launched iPad app.
The Dwellable iPad app takes full advantage of new iPad’s high resolution display and is the only five-star vacation rental app available for 60 million iPad users.
All three Dwellable founders are seasoned entrepreneurs:
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
- Adam helped found Urbanspoon, which was sold to IAC a few years ago
- Nathan Kriege was a founder at Snapvine, which was sold to White Pages
- Brenda Spoonemore is the former SVP of Interactive for the NBA and founder/chairman of the board at social gaming startup Fantasy Moguls.
Dwellable is a bootstrapped startup.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Dwellable addresses two problems in the existing vacation rental market:
Describe the business, core products and services?
- The need for an independent, objective, nationwide listing of all vacation rentals available, similar to Kayak, Stubhub or eBay. A level playing field for buyers and sellers benefits travellers as well as property owners and managers.
- It’s absurd that travellers looking to invest thousands of dollars in their vacations continue to be saddled tiny postage-stamp sized photos, crappy maps and other outdated web features when searching for vacation rentals. Dwellable is driving a radically consumer-centric re-think of the discovery, search and browse experience for vacationers.
Dwellable reinvents the vacation rental search experience on the web and the iPad.
We work directly with forward-thinking property owners and managers to include beautiful high resolution photos, so their listings are iPad-ready.
The app itself is designed to feature those fantastic photos, plus offers instant browsing and filtering and the ability to save favorites and share listings with friends.
Dwellable does not require property owners to pay for listings, and we don’t allow them to improve the listing’s placement by charging additional fees.
There’s no gaming the system.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Travelers, property owners and property managers.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
The vacation rental market is well established and growing, especially online, so that piece is pretty obvious.
The question then becomes whether consumers want a better way to search for rentals on the device of their choice and whether property managers and owners are interested in alternatives to sites with high listing fees.
The answers to those two questions are kind of a no-brainer.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Once traffic hits critical mass, multiple revenue models come into play. Those include a mix of advertising, packaging, deals, lead generation/booking fees. As a bootstrapped startup, our costs are relatively low.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Massive technology advantage, especially with new platforms. Timing.
- Dependent on external sources for key data, including availability. Double down on that with HomeAway controlling many of those data sources since they have bought up many of the formerly independent companies in the rental management piece of the business.
- Widespread traveler, property owner/manager dissatisfaction with the current players in the marketplace—both the product quality and the listing models. The segment itself continues to grow with more inventory being put into play and steadily increasing consumer awareness of vacation rentals.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- Lots of competition in the marketplace by established players who own or influence significant pieces of the vacation rental business and have an incentive to stifle innovation.
We have yet to hear someone tell us that our business isn’t going to be successful. We’ve had plenty of folks tell us it’s a crowded marketplace that is ripe for change—it’s all about execution.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
The obvious: Traffic, listings, leads, bookings. Less obvious: Trust in Dwellable as an honest broker providing a level playing field for buyers and sellers.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.