How many more times will you get an opportunity like this? It happened in 2001. It happened in 2008. It’s happening again in 2020. The economy collapses, a lot of people lose their jobs and then things rebound to something far more interesting. It’s going to happen again and we’re on the cusp of it. Because of this pandemic, it’s going to be a much bigger opportunity as things have fundamentally changed forever.
The key right now is to breath, try to read the tea leaves and hope for a bit of luck.
Backstory: We built a vacation rental platform complete with booking tools, the ability to take payments, tiered pricing, privacy levels and great listing pages. All of it. We were targeting people that didn’t normally list their places on the big listing platforms.
Private Porch went live on March 10, 2020 about 5 days before the lockdown happened. Perfect timing. #kiddingnotkidding.
So we took a pause. We looked at the landscape and realized it was changing quickly. While it’s easy to get discouraged during times like this, it’s better to try and make a bet on what it will be like on the other side.
At the start of the pandemic, Airbnb, Vrbo and the other short-term rental platforms decided to err on the side of the guests leaving the owners out in the cold by arbitrarily cancelling all of their bookings with no refunds. And now the owners are looking for alternatives. Turns out the opportunity in front of us is much bigger than we had originally thought. But we want to do it a different way by putting owners in control and flipping the whole vacation rental industry on its head.
Lessons we’ve learned from owners during this crisis:
- More than ever, guests are looking for places they trust, places they have been before.
- Owners don’t want to pay service fees; why should they if they have a bunch of former guests they can draw on?
- Drive-to vacation rentals are already showing a massive surge as people want to get out of their homes to somewhere safe.
- Owners want to be able to directly communicate with their guests no matter when and pay how they want.
For our company, we’ve decided to tweak a few things as well because of all this:
- Our product isn’t differentiated but our company has to be; customer success and community is paramount.
- No physical office: remotely work from anywhere in the world and have flexible schedules for our team.
- We need to be as nimble as possible (think the original Instagram at 12 people before they were acquired v. FB at 10,000 at the same time)
- The owners who participate in the platform should share in the wealth of the platform (more on that soon).
At Private Porch, we’re building the about.me for direct booking; beautiful landing pages, ability to directly book with an owner and a marketing hub to engage previous guests and trusted friends & family. We’re finally going to let owners be the business and not just the inventory.
If you’re interested in something like this or you know somebody who might be a good fit feel free to reach out or share.