The UK now has another player in the vacation rentals market, and it's called Kippsy. At the moment, the focus is on vacation rentals exclusively in the London area.
Co-founder Phil Cooper is proud of the company's UK roots, and sees the incoming competition from Silicon Valley titans Airbnb as a perfect opportunity to "disrupt the disrupters."
The website functions as a prototypical booking site, encouraging property owners to list their properties and delivering a quick search for travelers seeking accommodations.
Here's how a video about how Kippsy works, followed by the Tnooz Q&A with Cooper.
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
This is my third Digital Business, although I launched Havas’s European DSP and also BrightRoll into Europe.
In fact, I have worked for myself since 1997 and have only been recruited by companies after selling my last business to Fox/Newscorp in 2008, and being asked to stay on and manage the acquired business.
I guess since then I was always looking for my next business opportunity. I spent a lot of time in 2008 reviewing Silicon Valley Start- Up Forums. I was drawn in particular to the rise of collaborative consumption.
That interest surpassed any other business sector, and I was naturally drawn to the property side of collaborative consumption having spent the decade working in property before I discovered the Internet.
In addition to satisfying my own criteria and choosing a business that would best make use of my core skill set and business experience, I started Kippsy because;
What is the size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
- The sector would attract funding at all stages
- The sector offers high double digit annual growth
- I could innovate but not have the labour of creating the marketplace
- In time, there will be plenty of acquisition interest in a successful company in the sector
We have launched with an efficient team of 6, and I co-founded the business with Debra Davies who fills in my gaps of experience around customer service and hospitality.
We have set up an experienced board in areas of Digital Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Property and Digital Law.
What are your funding arrangements?
Founders bootstrapped to an Angel Round in June 2013, and we're currently in the middle of an interim round and a Series “A” VC round planned for September.
What is your estimation of market size?
MIT Sloan Experts that the ‘collaborative consumption’ sector had the potential to become a €81.5 billion market globally.
What is your current competition?
Please describe your revenue model and strategy for profitability.
Kippsy makes 12-15% on a booking. We are on track to be profitable by Jan/March 2015. That may alter post a VC round in Sept 14 and expansion to Big 5 European Countries.
What problem(s) does the business solve?
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
- Budget alternative to hotels
- Large family or groups uneconomical for hotels
- Those seeking privacy not granted in a hotel
- Business travellers in groups seeking more economic or sociable alternative to hotel
- Those preferring self-catering accommodation
- Those seeking room shares for budget advantages
- Those seeking self-contained apartment accommodation not prevalent on room-leaning competitors
- Those seeking to live like a local
We decided after launch to also include rooms in shared properties option like our competitors, albeit at a lesser volume.
Why should people or companies use the business?
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
- Innovative loyalty scheme – First comprehensive in sector
- E-concierge service with executive key handover service
- Free WiFi
- Superior service – Our size allows a more personable service
- We care
We are leaning into business travellers and independent travellers who have found our personable service and give back to the customer attitude to be attractive.
We are marketing across business publications to get this message our, in addition to Google CPC, Bing CPC, Mobile Rich Media, Trade Doubler CPL, London Classified Press and Social Media as well as native content and a blogger outreach programme.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
A Global Reach, Established Brand, and Strong Technology. Our biggest challenge at this stage is funding, later it will be recruiting and retaining good staff who can share the founders vision and passion.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
The UK, our launch country, is not represented by a UK company that understands the marketplace and has full access to the essential digital networks. Kippsy therefore fills this demand making use of its available networks to launch an alternative short let accommodation platform to the global leading US and German offerings.
It is difficult to judge us on our intention to scale using "glokalisation" principles where our market place must add value and resemble the demands of each country and not spoon feed one size fits all everywhere we expand. But we see this as a key differentiator as we expand.
What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
Morganshotelgroup.com: Not because we claim to be as stylish, we aspire! And because they manage to "glokalise" their offering to the city and country.
Localized versions of property rental websites have a solid history, especially if they can leverage their local domain knowledge into a more convincing value proposition.
However, the road is long and the grade steep. Going up against more established players with already-loyal customers and brand recognition means that the company will have to work diligently to get top-of-mind with London-bound travelers. It's not easy to break into that virtuous cycle, especially in a business that hinges on trustworthiness of hosts and accuracy of property listings.
The company will do well if it's able to provide that clear differentiator, including excellent local customer service that excels at every situation. At the very least, with solid, steady execution, the company is in a strong position to be acquired and rolled into a larger, more global offering.