Anyplace is a B2C marketplace where travelers can book fully furnished accommodations on a monthly basis. The company works with extended-stay hotels, serviced apartments and co-living companies in major U.S. cities and just announced its expansion into Europe.
With a founding team from HotelTonight, Airbnb and Booking.com, Anyplace has raised a seed round of $2.5 million.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
Anyplace is a marketplace that allows people to secure flexible-term furnished housing rentals in major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and other cities internationally. We strive to make the process easy, much like booking a hotel.
Our customers can book, pay and manage their stays completely online through our website or iOS app. We work with extended-stay hotels, serviced apartments and co-living companies.
What inspired you to create this company?
I [CEO Steve Satoru Naito] came up with Anyplace as a way to solve a personal pain point. I hated the idea of committing to a long-term contract for housing, setting up utilities and getting the place furnished without the certainty of how long I would need that living arrangement.
I wanted something that was a bit more flexible and would adapt to my needs. I came to believe that digital nomads would enjoy an experience like this, too. I started this company to build a global network for flexible housing rentals that other people like me could use.
Give us your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the company.
- Strengths: We’re the first mover in this new space: a B2C flexible housing rental marketplace. There is no B2C online marketplace specializing in flexible housing rentals for individuals like me. There are many C2C marketplaces such as Airbnb and sublet products, but people need to communicate with hosts/subletters quite a bit to secure a room.
On the other hand, we provide an easier process that’s more like booking a hotel room since we work with professionally managed properties.
- Weakness: We currently offer only English-based services and can only support transactions in USD. Since we get a lot of travelers and property interest from other countries, we need to utilize other languages, currencies and capabilities soon.
- Opportunity: Co-living is the trend; in fact, many co-living companies are emerging in different countries. The $10 billion market is expected to propel to $15 billion globally by 2020. Remote work and nomadic lifestyles will be more common within a decade, and there is a huge demand for flexible housing rentals.
- Threats: Large companies may expand into the flexible housing market sooner or later since this market will be growing. We need to create a strong brand and community faster than other companies.
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
For travelers, there is no easy option for booking flexible-term furnished accommodations for 30-plus days. Travelers and digital nomads usually use Airbnb or sublet to secure a flexible accommodation. Airbnb and sublet products are C2C businesses, so it takes time and energy to communicate between the subletter and sublettee, and there are many subletting scams.
Additionally, it’s hard to extend a stay through sublets and Airbnb since subletters/hosts usually want to sell their rooms only for a specific duration. Our business, however, is B2C. It’s easy to secure a room, and there are no scams with Anyplace. Our customers can extend their stays until they want to move elsewhere. We also provide a more stable housing supply.
With regard to properties, we introduce global customers to our property partners and provide them with an easier process for accepting travelers/tenants through our screening process.
So, you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
We list our great properties on the website, and customers so far have been satisfied with them, according to our high NPS scores. We intend to focus on organic growth, such as word of mouth, and build a referral program to acquire more customers.
We also plan to build a global community to encourage people to start a nomadic lifestyle, in addition to spending some money on thoughtful paid marketing and partnerships.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
We’ve accommodated 500-plus customers in our partners’ properties so far. There is huge demand for flexible housing. The market size of co-living is $10 billion globally and is expected to propel to $15 billion by 2020.
How and when will you make money?
We charge our partners a small commission per customer per month. Our customers can pay rent by credit card through our website. We take a small commission from that transaction and then send the rent to our partners on time.
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We already generate revenue, but we won’t be profitable for a while since we are currently in the investment phase and working towards are Series A. We’ll continue to invest money to further improve our guests/partner experience in the meantime.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team, and why do you have what it takes to succeed with this business?
Our founding members are travel industry specialists; they used to work at HotelTonight, Airbnb and Booking.com. We’ve also brought people onboard a different perspective from companies like Zomato, Fab and Honeybook.
Together, we’ll build a great online customer experience and scale our product very well. More than anything, we’re passionate about expanding the nomadic lifestyle all over the world.
What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
There is huge demand for flexible housing, and most of our partners’ properties are fully booked in major cities. We need more supply to accommodate customers on the waitlist.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact, so, why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?
Flexible housing is the trend, as can be seen from the many co-living startups emerging these days. Remote work is becoming more common as well. These trends will change people’s lifestyles and housing needs, helping us make an impact on the travel industry.
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