Minoan partners with boutique hotels and upscale rental properties to transform their guests’ stays into native shopping experiences.
The startup makes it accessible for the consumer to purchase any shoppable brand products in their lodging via an in-room QR code.
What is your 30-second pitch to investors?
We’re solving the retail gap by providing limitless experiences and effortless sales in a native, comfortable environment for consumers. And for our property partners, we’re unlocking untapped revenue potential in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
The guest stay is not just about the experience with staff and services - it’s the experiences with products and amenities that make a lasting impression. Minoan helps properties rethink the product experiences for guests while allowing them to cut costs, increase revenue and enhance the overall guest experience.
At the same time, we’re evolving the retail experience for consumers by placing top-notch products in real-life environments native to them. Filling a gap that e-commerce (tiny thumbnail images, be gone) and in-store (cluttered shelves) shopping leave behind, giving consumers a more authentic, first-hand understanding of how the product can be used in real life.
Have you ever been curious about where a hotel purchased its bed frame or loved the mattress so much that you wanted to take it home? Now, you can. Minoan makes it accessible for the consumer to purchase (any shoppable brand products in their lodging) via an in-room QR code. Available all through Minoan’s retail ecosystem, consumers can buy what they like through the portal online. Then, it gets delivered right to their doorstep.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
We’ve created an innovative and agnostic retail ecosystem that makes short-term rentals and hotels shoppable. We partner with boutique hotels and upscale rental properties to transform their guests’ stays into native shopping experiences. Within these properties, brands can organically and seamlessly integrate everyday uses and moments into consumers' lives. No cheesy marketing or advertising necessary.
Put simply; our model can be split into:
- B2B procurement portal for properties: which allows properties to seamlessly manage procurement while providing access to exclusive offers from brands
- Shoppable B2C platform for guests: which cohesively integrates the guests’ native experiences into a digital shopping platform, where they can buy what they’ve experienced in a real-life environment
- And lastly, real-time actionable insights and marketing: providing brands with the same data around clicks, engagement, conversion, ROI, etc., that they are used to seeing from legacy sites like Facebook/Google
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
- We’re creating value in a saturated market, consistently looking to diversify.
- We’ve partnered with best-in-class brands and properties.
- We’re creating a unique and sentimental souvenir tied to experiences for guests.
- We’ve designed an agnostic and user-friendly ecosystem that allows mass ordering across multiple desirable brands (all-on-one cart)
- We’re new to the market. With that comes an educational period for potential hosts and brands looking to partner with us and for the consumers engaging with the Minoan product.
- Travel is undergoing one of the fastest growth periods in history, with well-designed spaces becoming the new 4-walled influencers
- The untapped revenue potential for hosts and brands
- There are limitless native environments that could become shoppable.
- International expansion through properties and brands!
- As travel and retail are desire-led, an economic downturn is always a threat
- Possible shipping delays due to global supply chain shortages
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
We’re providing opportunities for hospitality properties to diversify and increase revenue. Through Minoan, properties receive a percentage of every purchase made via the in-room QR code We also help alleviate the financial burden that comes with outfitting a space (or multiple spaces if you’re a boutique hotel) through our Minoan pricing model, where brands can receive around 20-50% RRP for well-sought after brands.
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With the addition of these high-caliber brands (furniture, artwork or appliances), Minoan elevates the consumer experience and interaction with properties in a natural and not forced way. Consumers get to try fancy brands, and properties get to have them. Win, win.
For consumers, we envision a time where Minoan becomes a catalyst for where they choose their lodging. With a Minoan partner, consumers can expect that comfy Casper mattress or the OXO coffee machine in each and every stay.
There’s power in consistency.
So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
Word of mouth is a powerful tool in host communities, and social media is also another great place to find short-term stay rentals. Most importantly, we want to raise awareness (like this QA) to brands and properties that other, more intimate ways of shopping work – we’ve had next to no returns, proving the native approach is valuable. What’s more, properties looking to outfit their spaces with luxury and sought-after brands have nothing to lose; they need to furnish their property, so why not do it at a steep discount and have the potential to generate more passive revenue?
We’ve seen great success so far. Within our first year alone, we signed over 160 brands to the platform, including West Elm, Public Goods, Caraway Cookware, Burrow furniture (to name a few). We’ve also partnered with over 100 luxury hospitality brands, like the William Vale, The Harbor House Inn and Marram.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
Native environments are all around us: luxury rentals, boutique inns, hotels and resorts, co-working spaces and staged homes (or units), and Minoan can make them shoppable. For Airbnb alone, there are around 14,000 new hosts per month, and as the environment becomes even more competitive, properties will want to attract stays with luxury products and convenience. That’s where we will come in!
And for consumers, looks matter. The first thing consumers see when pursuing properties is the images that illustrate them. As humans, we’re creatures of comfort – having notable and recognizable brands only betters the chance of that booking. Right?
How and when will you make money?
Essentially, we don’t make money until we create value for you. So we really do want to champion our property's success. Once we have a property locked in and experiencing Minoan, there are three ways in which we can generate revenue.
- We add a small markup to Minoan Space Discount when selling to property partners.
- We charge a modest monthly brand fee to cover the cost of hosting the sites, data collection, reporting, etc.
- We take a small commission (off Minoan Space Retail Price) on consumer sales. But most importantly, we kick back most of it to the property partner.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
Minoan was founded by myself (Marc Hostovsky) and Shobhit Khandelwal.
I’ve had a pretty lofty background in retail, both online and in-store. As an early employee of Jet.com, I helped build the company up to $1 billion revenue run rate just 10 months after launch. Then, from Jet (and with the Walmart acquisition), I took over a $400MM business at Walmart, where I worked directly with Walmart’s eCommerce CEO — mechanizing the “category perfection” initiative to establish best-in-class templates for best managing an eCommerce business. During that time, I also had a hand in the eCommerce and in-store teams, facilitating the transition to omnichannel ownership.
Shobhit, my business partner, was also an early employee of Jet.com. He led the assortment and marketplace analytics efforts. Once Jet was acquired, he then led the assortment analytics for Walmart. With deep know-how of building data-powered products to help companies grow and deliver execution, Shobhit then transitioned to lead product and marketing analytics at MZ and Evernote before becoming the Chief Product Officer at Hauskey.
Now, and after spending many years trying to innovate from within online and in-store retail experiences, Shobhit and I realized the stark truth behind how we shop: Seeing is not enough to believe. The best product experiences happen in a wild, native environment.
Enter Minoan Experience, a new native way to shop.
How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your business?
We view D&I as two separate things, even though they are often bucketed together.
From a diversity perspective, we’re very focused on ensuring that we have a diverse representation within our small team.
We have employees who bring perspectives from various communities, such as CODAs, LGBTQIA+, and employees from different nationalities, including India, from which our co-founder Shobhit Khandelwal hails from.
Our team is also split evenly between men and women. While we have made some strides in capturing a diverse workplace, we still have work to do to ensure a collective voice and perspective is at the table. As we continue to grow and hire, we will always seek to incorporate additional perspectives to strengthen Minoan’s diversity of thought.
On the inclusion front, we want everyone to have psychological safety and to feel comfortable being themselves at work. I think anyone who has been in the workforce long enough has had at least one experience where they’ve felt “out of place” — it’s a shame when people feel they need to hide who they really are with their co-workers. At Minoan, we encourage and cultivate a culture of authenticity and have dedicated team-building sessions focused on allowing folks to curate more personal relationships with the rest of the team.
We’re also a workforce that champions all of our members. Whether you’re a part of our team in India or the U.S. - we aim to stand united under the same company and ensure everyone feels heard no matter their location. Through regularly hosted town hall meetings, we are excited to have our incredible talent scattered across the globe help shape the path forward for Minoan.
What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
Whenever you start a business, you deal with a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty is uncomfortable - our brains are wired to crave “certainty” because part of the brain’s job is to make predictions.
Getting used to uncertainty requires rewiring your brain to be comfortable being uncomfortable. It can be quite an adjustment, but once you get there, it’s an incredible unlock of your potential.
I’d say that’s been the hardest part.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?
Travel is undergoing one of the fastest growth periods in history, with well-designed spaces becoming the new 4-walled influencers. These native spaces offer moments for an intimate connection between consumers and products amidst an over-cluttering of brand attention. Hotels and short-term rentals are already aiming to create revenue, so we are confident we’re the perfect add-on for those just getting started or looking to revamp their spaces.
A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?
Well, of course, in every boutique hotel and short-term rental.
In a year, we hope to be a recognizable partner for host and short-term rental communities. We’re eager to provide our services and help property owners outfit their spaces with elevated and thoughtful brands at a reasonable price.
We’re also excited to continue to evolve our model as there are limitless native retail environments to explore. Who knows, maybe a plane or an airport next?
What is your end-game? (Going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)
When we focus on our “end-game” we focus more on accomplishing our vision, which is to become the “everywhere” store. If going public or partnering with another company puts us in a better position to accomplish that vision, then we’ll do it, but it’s certainly not a goal of ours.
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