MyTwinPlace is a new travel startup that flips the shared accommodation business model on its head by offering a 1-for-1 exchange for hosting guests.
It's quite simple: users sign up for an account and importth any existing home profiles on sites like Airbnb and HomeAway, and then can offer to host other MyTwinPlace members during their next travels.
Instead of payment, the MyTwinPlace hosts earn one night of accommodation per night hosted. There's no cash involved; rather it's the home exchange model repurposed within the night based sharing economy framework. Here's how it works.
The startup charges a $11 "success fee" for those nights that are indeed booked, so there is a payment involved as far as the company's business model.
After watching the implosion of Couchsurfing as that free website attempted to monetize its service, there's clearly an opportunity for another startup to come in with the free ethos.
Consumers will generally accept a company's efforts to make money as long as the business model is fair, easy to understand and transparent.
The MyTwinPlace team consists of 10 people from five countries, and has been funded through angel investors. Read on for the Vine and question-and-answer with the team.
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
MyTwinPlace was born thanks to a love story. In 2011, Xavier Laballos was looking to stay one week in New York for his wife's surprise birthday. After looking at several accommodation options - hotels, Vacation Rental sites, etc - he finally decided to swap his home and stay for not one week but an entire month. He enjoyed the experience but found the process really, really painful. So Xavier Laballos and Jean Saunier decided to launch MyTwinPlace to make booking free accommodation to the level of Airbnb.
What are your funding arrangements?
We joined Wayra (Telefonicas accelerator) and we have angel investments from recognized business angels and public funds.
Please share your estimation of market size.
In the coming years, the industry will reach 1.3B travelers and we're confident that a portion of these travellers will shift to the Night Exchange model. We believe this puts our market at several billion dollars.
What is your competition?
We are really different from the typical home exchange websites. We see MyTwinPlace as a natural extension of sites like Airbnb, Wimdu, homeaway..... Lets say that we offer the benefit of Couchsurfing with the level of Airbnb in terms of platform.
Revenue model and strategy for profitability?
MyTwinPlace is based on a ‘free’ to list model. Our revenue stream comes from a success fee of 9.99€ ($11) per night for the traveler that includes a worldwide swapper insurance.
What problem does the business solve?
We have created MyTwinPlace to solve two problems. Travelers are looking for savings because travel accommodation still accounts for 50% of their travel budget. And, millions of primary residences sit empty at varying points throughout the year when their owners go on holidays, or, in the case of vacation homes they are underutilized across much of the year.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
We needed some time to implement and test our business model, and the building and implementation of our unique point system have been a major innovation.
And to grow faster we developed the "1 click system", that enables millions of users to register with only one action, importing all their data from Airbnb, Wimdu, 9flats, Homeaway, Rentalia, Abritel etc
Why should people or companies use the business?
Saving thousands of dollars per year while being part of a wonderful community seems like a very good reason to us ;)
What's the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
Our members’ stories and their high satisfaction are our best arguments.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
Today we are really close to our members and being able to keep this close communication while scaling the community will be a nice challenge that we are ready to face.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
Despite intentions, nobody has substantially reduced the travel accommodation budget for travelers.
What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
One of our references is BlaBlaCar!
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup, and why?
Any company that is looking for a fast growing P2P worldwide community that generates revenue!
Describe your startup in three words?
Airbnb for free accommodation.
As one of the OG Couchsurfers, I was personally saddened to see how the shift of the platform from non-profit to for-profit affected the community. Many CS hosts evenrtually ported over to Airbnb, changing what was once a community-for-community's-sake into a commercial enterprise. And while Airbnb's power to create thousands of micro-entrepreneurs is significant, sometimes it's not all about the cold, hard cash. Being able to host travelers, and then receive a credit back for that service, is a touch more noble and creates an exchange-driven economy that thrives on a balanced give and take.
The model is also far less risky, as regulators would have a very hard time preventing residents from swapping nights with travelers from elsewhere. By eliminating the host payouts, the startup has created a new currency among hosts that might actually convince many hosts to switch over the platform to reduce liability and in order to stop breaking local laws.
The relative ease of importing listings from other shared accommodation sites is also genius, as it greatly reduces the barriers to entry for creating a profile. Rather than having new hosts feel that dreaded "not another profile" emotion, the startup has made this an incremental channel for those hosts. Hosts can easily test out the platform, and perhaps fill nights that were otherwise unfilled in their short term rentals.
It also makes sense, as hosts are generally far more likely to be hosted while traveling given their relative comfort with the shared accommodation lifestyle. MyTwinPlace understands that dynamic and should find an easy in with that crowd.
Alternative business models to Airbnb are also beginning to proliferate: Tnooz covered the pivot of Oh Hey World into Horizon, an app that connects travelers for overnight stays with like-minded locals. While this mobile-first service focsues exclusively on connecting people within specific affinity groups, there's clearly a feeling by more than a few entrepreneurs that the mainstreaming of Airbnb could spin-off into new startups focusing on serving the newly defined needs of sharing economy travelers.