CertiStay, backed by a team that includes industry veteran Terry Jones, provides safety and security inspections and certifications for short-term rental properties.
In August, following a successful proof of concept trial, the company launched its service in several locations in North America.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
CertiStay is a third-party safety and security auditor of
short-term rentals offering best practices and recommended standards above and
beyond regulatory requirements. The propriety auditing tool, the first of its
kind, has been developed by police and fire chiefs, insurance underwriters,
senior vacation rental industry professionals and government leaders.
All CertiStay audits are completed by fully trained auditors, while
the operational process is fully backed by leading software developers.
CertiStay is supported by a senior team of industry experts including Terry
Jones, the founder of Travelocity and the founding chairman of Kayak.
We have already launched in North America, with a global roll-out
planned in the foreseeable future.
What inspired you to create this company?
We launched CertiStay in order to solve a significant and growing
problem for the professional vacation and short-term rental industry.
According to Transparent
Intelligence, globally, the
short-term rental supply listed on major Online Travel Agencies grew 33% from
2017 to 2018 to reach a total of 7.1 million properties. Currently, there is
little regulation enforcement or safety standardization for homeowners or
property managers, nor is there a clearly identified way that guests can ensure
that the homes that they are booking, both meet and exceed safety standards. CertiStay
has been developed in order to create a global standard where guests are
assured of the safety and security of their accommodation whilst short-term
rental providers can reduce their liabilities and ensure that they follow best
practices. All this is wrapped up with a scalable software tool.
The company was founded by Wolf Worster, the owner of a successful
luxury property agency operating out of Los Angeles, Berlin and Vancouver. Even
with a small portfolio of high-end homes, things were not perfect on the safety
front and unfortunate accidents including falls, burns and even fatalities
occurred which spurred Wolf on to develop CertiStay.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
analysis of the company.
- Strengths: Our core strength is
that as a team, we bring a high level of safety and security expertise as well
as industry knowledge to the table and we have assembled a standardized
solution to the roadmap of unknown regulations and safety standards.
Essentially, we have done the work that most vacation rental managers and
leaders do not have the resources to do!
- Weaknesses: Since the beginning of
the vacation rental industry, there has been no solution to the problem of
standardization that we are solving. In many ways the industry has taken a
‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach to regulations, safety and security. Therefore
we are now challenged with breaking through that barrier of resistance to take
responsibility for the issues. CertiStay is essentially starting at Ground Zero
in the education of owners (of the assets), vacation rental managers and
guests, of the importance of utilizing our services and protecting themselves.
- Opportunities: We are positioning
CertiStay to become the industry leader for vacation rental safety and
security. We anticipate that every vacation rental (3.5 million in the US
alone) could potentially become certified. CertiStay is designed to be a global
company with many years of expansion ahead. An extended opportunity lies within
working with government bodies, as an educational opportunity and providing
access to their markets.
- Threats: We see our biggest
threat as the risk of being lumped in with gimmicky/one off optional products
and service offerings which are not solution based. CertiStay is specifically
designed to solve an industry problem, and we do expect to see copycat
companies that don't realize the full suite of services CertiStay is designed
to offer and the complexity of those services.
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from
both the customer and the industry perspective?
Simply put, we hope that CertiStay provides piece of mind (and
limit their liability) for the property owner, property manager and the guest.
This is a value proposition that simply doesn’t exist today. CertiStay’s
research and development team, which we have invested in heavily, is working daily
to enhance the product to a point where it can become more things to more
So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of
Our primary strategy to reach our customer base, is through a
targeted education program designed to bring awareness to the long-awaited
solution of the industry shortfall. To achieve this, we are working with
partners, trade associations, municipalities and current property management
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Alongside the building process of the CertiStay audit process, we
have also designed a comprehensive scaling model that will allow us to keep up
with demand. We have also already begun working with municipalities that have
shown an interest in having CertiStay set the standard for guest safety.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine
need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
Between our leadership team, we have years of industry experience.
Our CEO and President formally ran one of the largest property management
companies in the vacation rental industry. We have spent a great deal of time
and research during the development stage of CertiStay.
During our research, we have found most property managers and
owners have some knowledge of what is required when it comes to safety, but
that knowledge is limited and varies as you travel around the country. We are
also increasingly finding that most regulation has been reactive to incidents
as opposed to proactive. CertiStay will be the first company to bring a
proactive approach to the vacation and short-term rental industry.
How and when will you make money?
Our revenue will come through monthly on-going certification fees
and yearly renewals from each CertiStay certified rental property. In addition,
we will offer slated bolt on product lines that will continue to enhance the
safety and security for the guest's stay. Whilst each enhancement will entail a
cost, they also have a tremendous value for our customers in terms of liability
restriction and value-add.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding
team, and why do you have what it takes to succeed with this business?
CertiStay’s founder, Wolf Worster, operated an ultra-luxury villa
agency for 12 years in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Berlin. He was also a private
accommodation consultant for heads of state, including G8 Summits and the 2010 and
2012 Olympics. Wolf is the creator of safety and security audit.
CertiStay’s CEO and president, Randy Bacik, founded one of North
America’s largest Vacation Rental Management Companies with over 2,200
properties under exclusive management which he exited in 2015. An industry
leader, Randy is often called on to speak at major industry conventions and
associations. Randy is also an experienced real estate entrepreneur with
multi-state real estate ventures in the southeastern US.
CeritStay’s head of advisory council, Terry Jones, is best known
for founding Travelocity and serving as founding chairman of Kayak. Terry
served as CEO of Travelocity, transforming it to a public company with three
billion dollars in travel sales.
What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so
The CertiStay product is sound and very much needed in the
industry, however, getting past the hurdle of removing the blinders that have
been used to avoid the uncomfortable conversation of safety with no solution,
proves to be difficult. Maneuvering the diverse and complicated municipality regulations
and creating a flexible safety & security best practices application which
comply, overlap and often improve current municipal, county, and state
regulations is a daunting task. However, it is a task that we are
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an
impact - so why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?
The need for the product will be the driving point of CertiStay,
the industry knows there is a problem which has to date no viable or scalable
solution. Once the industry becomes aware that there is a great solution, which
is backed by our technology, we believe that our growth to scale up will be at
a rapid pace.
What questions might we have missed... ?
Where do we hope to be in five years time? We hope that every
vacation or short-term rental home will have and comply with the CertiStay
certification process. That’s over seven million homes.
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