TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based vacation rental distribution and property owner platform WebChalet.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
WebChalet’s platform lets you build and host a beautiful website for your vacation or rental property in minutes.
The concept originated when husband and wife Chad and Sarah Brubaker were trying to find an apartment in Buenos Aires and encountered local rental websites that were poorly designed.
Leveraging their business experience, they set out to create better, easier and more affordable vacation rental websites.
The core team is comprised of Chad Brubaker, Sarah Brubaker, Andrew Stanton and Erik Christiansen, along with a talented team of designers and developers.
The team has over a decade of experience in website hosting and has worked with leading brands to provide robust hosting and e-commerce solutions.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
- Chad is founder and CEO of Emochila, Inc, the premier hosting company for the accounting profession. Chad holds a BS in Business Administration and Computer Science from UC Berkeley, and is an MBA candidate at the Wharton School.
- Also a Cal grad, Sarah began her marketing and business development career at Time Inc. and then moved on to Delivery Agent Inc specializing in interactive marketing for entertainment clients like NBC Universal, Fox, and CBS.
- Andrew holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Hawaii. Andrew has been programming computer systems for over 20 years and is passionate about helping smaller companies grow through the use of IT and web technologies.
- Erik was formerly COO/CTO at SierraSnowboard.com where he grew the e-commerce site into a $24M business. Erik holds a BS in Environmental Design from University of California Davis.
WebChalet is 100% self funded and bootstrapped.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Rental owners and property managers are business owners. Directory listings are tantamount to an eBay for their product, yet nobody has come up with a turnkey website hosting solution for the sector.
WebChalet aims to fill this gap.
Describe the business, core products and services?
WebChalet’s turnkey website solution allows you to build and host a complete website for your rental business in minutes.
Every website is replete with customizable themes, calendars, unlimited photos, social marketing integration and the ability to accept inquiries.
Our founders have been in the website hosting sector for over a decade and know that success comes from servicing our clients.
Although our system allows you to do everything on your own, you can always call on us for personal help. We’ll help with your domain, email, logo development, custom design, SEO and marketing or specific development.
We’ll work with you to create an independent website that provides your business with an anchor for all of your directory listings and social promotions.
In the coming months, we will be launching an application store where we will continually roll out hooks into best of breed technology partners, from email marketing to blogging platforms.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Our core customers fall into two groups:
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
- Vacation homeowners that already list on directories like VRBO and HomeAway but feel it is important to feature additional photos and content to help seal the deal with potential renters.
- Vacation rental property managers who want to create a professional online appearance and access the latest marketing tools to drive their vacation rental business at a significantly lower price than other software companies.
We feel strongly that our customers drive the product design and have been working closely with them since we began developing.
Our beta users range from the everyday vacation homeowners to property management companies managing hundreds of properties. For the last six months, we have been incorporating their feedback into our product.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
WebChalet uses a subscription model. Owners and managers pay a monthly fee based on the number of properties starting at $9.99/month for a single property. Our service fee is month-to-month with no contracts.
Our strategy is to focus on providing the best service possible to our clients, and to grow steadily through client acquisition. Our subscription fees are modest in order to lower the hurdles of getting started.
From there we also plan on growing in profitability by offering service based add-ons like logo and website design or marketing consultancy.
We also see growth opportunities in partnering and integrating top scheduling and payment processing companies that help our clients run their businesses.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- We’ve been in the website hosting business for years and have a head start technologically speaking when it comes to servicing thousands of clients on one system. We are small, nimble and self funded and our team has a lot of experience (and patience) running bootstrapped businesses that are profitable from day one.
- Since we are bootstrapped our development cycles are slower than they could be. On the bright side, this helps us reflect and focus on what our clients actually need and what adds to our bottom line.
- Partnering with existing software providers or listing companies who have large networks of happy clients and who would like to tie their solutions into a website offering. We also see international expansion as a big opportunity.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- There’s a lot of competition in this space and if we see a lot of success, we expect entrants to follow very quickly.
You look around San Francisco and everyone has the next best thing and a wad of VC cash. You need to keep your head down and work hard toward a profitable and sustainable business model.
It’s easy to get distracted by those who still believe that they (or you) should be the next big hit wonder.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
Profitability and a happy and growing client base.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.