Local Bigwig enters rental market with monthly twistNewsBy Dennis Schaal | September 14, 2011Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based Local Bigwig, a platform to search and book monthly furnished vacation rental properties.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?Sami Begg and I, Ray Madronio, are two alumni from Columbia Business School who have banded together to work on this project.Sami has a solid technical background where he has built several apps from the ground up. His work experiences come from Oracle and Compuware and he's always looking to leverage the best technology to build the best consumer-facing website possible.I started my career as a programmer as well. However, I have always been involved in the buying and renting of real estate properties.Before helping start Local Bigwig, I got involved with another temporary accommodations company for a couple years in NYC. That's where I learned about the opportunities in this space.Local Bigwig provides an easy, free, and secure way to search and book vetted furnished monthly home rentals.We list only furnished, unshared apartments/homes. Home rental providers pay our fees so we don't charge anything to guests.We have aggregated corporate housing and extended-stay providers on one platform, so you can compare all of the options on one website and book it online.We were tired of hearing horror stories about friends being scammed when finding an extended-stay furnished apartment in New York City. We wanted to do something about it, and we strongly feel that our team has what it takes to make this process as easy, transparent and fair as possible.Local Bigwig Inc is headquartered in Soho, Manhattan. We are proud to be part of the NYU-Poly Business Development Program which is jointly supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's NYC Economic Development Corporation, the Real Estate Division of Trinity Church, and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.What financial support did you have to launch the business?Our company has largely been bootstrapped but an angel has recently come onboard to help us.What problem are you trying to solve?Real estate has been very phone and paper-intensive business. Established real estate brokers charge unreasonably high fees, and it’s time-consuming and stressful process for guests to find a temporary home.We are building one website that aggregates all of the corporate housing and extended-stay options in any given city. We want to give users the platform to easily search, compare and book their furnished home rental.Describe the business, core products and services?We are building the SABRE for corporate housing. Our site is pay-for-performance, so it is financially risk free for corporate housing providers to advertise their home listings on our platform.Via an interface like hotels.com, users will be able to see all of their options in any given neighborhood by doing a search on our website. Also, there is a secure and advanced payment system – security deposit, scheduled payments, etc. – to pay for the home rental.Who are your key customers and users at launch?Our supply is provided by professional extended-stay and corporate housing providers.Our target demand is from corporate travelers and relocators.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?Yes. We continue to communicate with close corporate housing partners in NYC, San Francisco and San Diego to validate our website's capabilities to address this segment of the rental market.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?We charge a fee to corporate housing providers only after we are able to deliver a booking that they accept. For guests, it’s free to search and book home rentals.We continue to grow our list of corporate housing partners whose inventory we sell on our website which scales our profitability.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: Our biggest strength is that we have the right mix of tech and real estate experience to execute this project. The corporate housing space is complex with established professionals. We are showing them a more efficient way of conducting their business. Weaknesses: Current team's size, but we are looking to build our team aggressively. Opportunities: What we're doing as this business is already happening offline. We are just bringing it online in a more streamlined platform. Threats: De-aggregation, which has happened/starting to happen in other industries.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?I am a member of several "Serviced Apartments" and "Corporate Housing Association" groups on LinkedIn and I have read from several real estate brokers that websites like ours will never succeed.They claim that there still has to be a critical human interaction component that we cannot provide. We respectfully disagree and feel that, these days, people are ready to book their extended-stay rentals as easily and quickly as they do for flights, rental cars, and hotel rooms.What is your success metric 12 months from now?One of our most important metric will always be our # of bookings per month.As we continue to grow our supply of corporate housing on our platform and couple it with an increasing number of clicks to our site, we should be on our way to improving our numbers. NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.