TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based vacation rental search engine Rentmix.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Rentmix simplifies the task of finding the perfect vacation rental. The most important factor when selecting a vacation rental is location, location, location.
On other vacation rental sites, location is often the last thing to be found.
Search for Maui and I see a long location-less list of rentals. I'm given the option to narrow down between Kaanapali, Kahana, and Kapalua.
I don't know and I don't care. I want to find something close to the beach and away from busy roads.
On Rentmix, location is everything. Our full screen maps allow you to isolate your search and our arrow key shortcuts enable you to quickly scan through the results.
I am Mark Crady. I started a mobile mapping company in 2003 which I sold to Google in 2004.
At Google, I relaunched the app as Google Maps for Mobile and grew usage steadily from the tens of thousands at launch into the tens of millions. While at Google, I discovered the many advantages of vacation rentals but I grew frustrated by the chore of finding the right place.
A little more than a year ago, I decided to simplify the process and scratch my startup itch at the same time. Rentmix is the result.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
No outside financial support. Starting a website is amazingly inexpensive these days. The last time around, I had to buy computers, pay for hosting, pay to license maps, and so on.
Today, with Google App Engine and the Google Maps API, we've paid next to nothing.
The largest cost by far in developing a site is labor but if you can do the heavy lifting on your own, costs are minimal.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Our goal is to get you to the perfect vacation rental in the least amount of time. Our fast, powerful, simple search engine allows you to search through hundreds of thousands of listings in a fraction of a second.
And once your listings are returned, our keyboard arrow shortcuts allow you to quickly scan through the results. Anecdotal data shows that we can shorten the typical vacation rental transaction by more than 50%.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Rentmix has syndication agreements with both AirBnB and Homeaway. We crawl their listings, index the information, and present the information on our site.
When users identify listings of interest, they click through to our partners to complete the transactions. We get a small payment for every completed transaction.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
More and more families are discovering the cost advantages of renting a two or three bedroom house or condo vs paying for two or three hotel rooms.
Factor in the cost savings and simplicity from having your own kitchen and it's an even better deal.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
We've been running iterations by friends and family throughout the development process.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Given how low the operating costs are, making money is low on the list of to-dos.
Our main goal at this point is to increase traffic and continue to improve the experience.
In the short term, we hope that the commissions we receive from our syndication agreements with AirBnB and Homeaway are enough to buy some pizza.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
As an optimist, I'll start with the opportunity. It's huge. Homeaway has raised close to $500 million and is headed for a multibillion dollar IPO. AirBnB's growth is stunning. The vacation rental business is booming and we hope to play a part.
As to strengths, I'd say a singular focus on the user experience. We are 100% focused on the product. No advertising, no investors, no meetings, no overhead. Just make a good product.
The largest weakness is timing. It feels as if we're a little late to the game but Google was late to the search engine game and it worked out alright for them.
As to the biggest threat, I guess it would be staying in the favor of our syndication providers; Homeaway is clearly the gorilla while AirBnB is the energetic chimp. At this point, we're a pygmy marmoset.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
Some say it's too late. Some say it's too small a business. But no one has said that we're not addressing a real problem.
We listened to the skeptics but then we went back to solving the problems.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
Usage. I don't know how much to expect but I want to see people finding the service useful and telling their friends to use it.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.