Lodgify debuts with an SaaS marketing tool for vacation rental ownersNewsBy Sean O'Neil | August 29, 2013Share This article was originally published on Launching today, Lodgify is a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application to help vacation rental owners manage their business.The vacation rental market is the fastest growing sector of online travel, and portals like Airbnb and HomeAway have brought new owners and renters into the market.Lodgify capitalizes on the trend by offering a professional software solution for vacation rental operators, enabling them to meet the growing customer base and shifting expectations with a more professional and easy-to-use setup.Created by a Barcelona startup of the same name, Lodgify says its scalable solution can... ...let owners build a website with a “book now” function, choose from a wide variety of mobile-friendly templates (using the latest responsive design technology so travelers can book on any device), synchronize with various vacation rental portals, and manage it all from one Web-based dashboard.Share this quote Lodgify says it has integrated itself with short-term rental platforms 9flats and Roomorama via APIs.That means its users can automatically synchronize the information that they manage on their own website (bookings, availability, reviews, etc.) with external listings that they may have on these portals. They can also create listings on these portals directly from their browser-based Lodgify dashboard.Emerging verticalLodgify's debut is significant in that it could signal a trend toward vacation owners relying on third-party cloud-based services as an alternative to packaged marketing software or platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway.Lodgify is following a course charted last fall by MyVR (see the Tnooz profile of MyVR, here).Lodgify runs on a subscription model, with a fixed recurring monthly fee (starting at $9 per month) based on the selected features and number of listed properties. There are no booking commissions or set-up fees.The company has spent the summer beta-testing its product with 200 users, who have been able to test its software without paying.Its team is international. It has twin CEOs in its co-founders: Marco De Gregorio, who is also CTO (in Barcelona) and Dennis Klett, who is also CFO (in Switzerland). It also has two full-time developers in Barcelona and a couple of other full-time managers: Gabriele De Gregorio, head of sales and customer support (in Barcelona) and Naveen Sharma, head of marketing and business development (in Munich).The 11-month-old startup is 100% bootstrapped, but its founders say they will look for funding.Q&A with Naveen Sharma, head of marketing and business development:Describe what your startup does, what problem it solves and for whom? Vacation rental operators often find it difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to set up and maintain a professional website. Generic website builders (e.g. wix) are not optimized for vacation rentals, and tailor-made website development is expensive and not affordable for smaller vacation rental operators.The lack of a “Book now” function also forces clients to manually chase payments via bank transfers and e-mail communications.Additionally, in order to generate bookings, VR operators advertise their properties on numerous VR portals (e.g. 9flats, Homeaway, Airbnb). It is, however, very time-consuming to manage all listings.Lodgify solves all these issues.Lodgify’s Property CMS and Reservation System allow VR operators to quickly manage availability data, rates, reservations and reviews, no matter if they own one or 500 properties.Finally, all information is automatically synced through Lodgify’s Channel Manager, which is integrated with the leading VR portals.Estimation of market size?According to Radius Global Market Research, there are 6.1 million vacation rentals in the US and European Union. In the U.S., 43% of properties are marketed professionally by a property manager. Yet all of the properties face the same challenges when growing their accommodation business and marketing their properties online.Competition?We have limited direct and indirect competitors, and are the only ones to have a focus on UK and Europe.We also offer key product features that our direct competitors are missing, e.g. a “book now” function (via Stripe and Paypal), numerous mobile-friendly website templates, a custom page builder, multiple languages function, responsive website templates, and an advanced channel manager.Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.We, the four management team members of Lodgify, met during our final year at university in London. We were flat mates and all shared the desire to start a business of our own some day. The idea for Lodgify was born when two of us were tasked with helping out our parents rent out their vacation properties.We couldn’t find an easy-to-use solution i.e. provider that covered our needs of quickly creating a website to showcase the properties and manage the reservation calendars across different booking channels, so we decided to build the software ourselves.We figured that our parents weren’t the only ones facing these challenges, realized this software of ours would help others as well and founded Lodgify.What is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?We are engaging in some powerful partnerships with leading vacation rental partners that will help us extend our reach.Integration with HomeAway and its network of sites (VRBO, etc.) is due to be completed a month from now.Agreements are pending with Tripadvisor and Wimdu and 20 additional channels by year's end, says the company.We will also be continually strengthening our relations to vacation rental associations and organizations.How did your initial idea evolve? Is there a Plan B?Lodgify started with a focus on the creation of simple vacation rental websites.But we wanted it to be more than just a website template and so it evolved into an ultimate all-in-one marketing solution that addresses all the important needs of vacation rental owners.As customer requirements evolve, our product is evolving with them, ensuring that we always offer a solution that satisfies the current needs.Regarding disaster recovery: We have a redundant backup policy in place and can always recover your data. We try to guarantee that the site of a vacation rental owner has 99% uptime.Regarding data portability: We don't have that function yet. However I do not believe this would be necessary. We have a easy-to-use Property CMS in the backend, so I guess if a customer decides to leave, he will simply "copy and paste" text, images and certain data to his new system.Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time?We expect the vacation rental industry to continue the pace of its growth over the next years. Therefore, we will constantly be developing Lodgify to meet the needs of future owners and travelers by regularly adding and updating our features and functions.Our focus on mobile devices and analytics will steadily increase to match demand, and we will make changes based on the booking habits of renters.In a couple of years, we see ourselves as the first-choice online solution for vacation rentals owners, and want them to equate Lodgify to simplicity, design and innovation.Tnooz view: Lodgify appears to have validated that there is a problem facing a particular set of people and, even better, many of these prospects may be willing to pay for a solution. We'll have to see how it handles its first customers before we can tell if it ticks the boxes on key factors for success in the SaaS model. Some experimentation on pricing for the SaaS model may be needed. One prediction: It will be extremely hard for Lodgify to successfully make the dual CEO thing work. Almost no startup has been able to keep that structure for long. Overall, Lodgify looks off to a solid start. Tnooz is eager to see what it accomplishes.Share this quoteUPDATE FEBRUARY 2012: Lodgify has been accepted to Seedcamp 2014 and will be doing a three-month stint at Google's London campus.NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.