As we all know, Airbnb has illustrated the enormous appetite that exists for the house/room-sharing concept in the travel industry.
But there are many consumers that have concerns about a model that, despite its proclaimed transparency, still throws strangers together.
The idea behind UK startup MyFriendsRoom is that travellers can secure accommodation of that type from people within their own network of friends or social media-based acquaintances.
Here is MyFriendsRoom's video introduction:
Q&A with CEO Clare Mellor:
What problem does your business solve?
Our research shows that no platform exists where you can rent travel accommodation from your friends' network.
The vacation rental market is worth $170 billion worldwide and we believe there is a gap in the market in the friends networking sector.
Names of founders, their management roles, and the number of full-time paid staff?
Clare Mellor is the founder, art director, designer and manager. Clare is a designer and entrepreneur and was fully immersed in business from an early age as an art director and designer for David Mellor Design her family business.
She has built businesses as a sole trader through Clare Mellor Design, Full Stop Design and Full Stop Entertainment.
We believe the design of the website is critical for a business – Clare’s skills in graphic design, art direction and management has enabled the creation of the MyFriendsRoom corporate identity, promotional video and website to a high quality on a small budget.
We currently employ staff in the UK and Europe on a contract basis in web development, sales and marketing.
From January 2017 we plan to employ full-time UK staff to develop the marketing, sales and PR expertise required to attract more members and listings.
We also plan to develop an app which we believe is the way forward in terms of technology and progression in the marketplace and will allow users to book travel accommodation from friends "on the go".
Our vision is for MyFriendsRoom to be an international business with offices across Europe.
We have a £22,000 Directors loan from the founder. We are currently on Crowdcube.com open to investment
We have two revenue streams: guest service fee 12%, host service fee 4%. Future revenue streams: photography service, online "flip book" property brochure design, property cleaning and check in and checkout service.
Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?
Renting from strangers can seem unsafe, impersonal and uncomfortable, especially with the recent backlash of growing mistrust in the vacation rental industry.
Staying with someone you know or who is recommended by someone you know means you can feel more relaxed, safer and you can also meet the real locals and be shown the best places.
How it works is very simple:
- Sign up and invite your friends to connect with you.
- View your friends on a world map and search for places to stay from friends and friends of friends.
- Search our recommended property listings in more than 8 European countries.
- Book a place to stay using our booking system.
- Share your travel photos, videos and blogs with your friends on our platform.
- Write a review of your host and their property after your stay.
Safety and quality very important to us and to this market, that’s why we have a review system for each member, this consists of both a character reviews and property reviews
External validation? (Examples: The incubators/accelerators you have been accepted to, the mentors who are advising you, the number of customers you’ve signed, the marketing partner deals you’ve made, the skills/connections of your founders, etc.)
We are approved and verified by Crowdcube and we are currently live on the platform. Less than 5% of companies who apply to be on Crowdcube make it to the live stage.
We were accepted as one of ten companies onto the Crowd10 crowdfunding training programme which is part of IdeaSquares and a partner of Crowdcube.
They choose ten companies from countless applications and mentor and train them for the Crowdcube application process. They are subsidised by Bath and Bristol local authorities in order to attract new business to the area.
Out of the companies ten selected onto the program, we were one of only three companies who made it onto the Crowdcube equity investment platform.
We have also been selected for interview stage on the Henley Angels (Reading University Alumni) funding programme.
There is no doubt at all that a market exists for new sharing/rental-type travel businesses.
And, to its credit, MyFriendsRoom has tapped into an angle that both consumers might appreciate and - for the time being - doesn't appear to be the differentiating position that others have taken.
Yet therein lies the potential problem - Airbnb could effectively switch-on such a feature in nanoseconds and, more importantly, back it up with its marketing muscle and help from friends in the media.
To counter that, MyFriendsRoom will need to get traction quickly, in order to raise its head above the noise that surrounds the sharing/rental marketplace.
How it will do so is difficult to determine given that advertising needs to be loud, consistent and on a par with competitors in the same space - a particular issue given that the spending giants of the online travel world are both turning their efforts at rentals.