Meet Hostmaker, the startup bringing hotelier experience to the sharing economy
The sharing economy has taken off – there’s no doubt about that. Not only has it hit the way we treat cars, taxis and even food, but it’s also greatly affected the way we take holidays. Where we once took a budget hotel – complete with dubious bedding and a somewhat leaky bathroom tap – we now snap up affordable Airbnbs.
But with an ever-growing market of users hosting on Airbnb and similar short-term property-rental sites, how do property owners differentiate themselves and keep on top of busy property management? That’s where Hostmaker comes in: it takes your Airbnb listing and optimises bookings, looks after your guests and deals with home maintenance. In essence, it’s designed to take all the hassle away from listing your property on Airbnb.
Conceived by company CEO and founder Nakul Sharma, Hostmaker grew from the seeds of Airbnb’s disrupting influence upon the hotel market. Now, with over 15 years of experience within the hotel industry, Sharma is ready to refine Airbnb into a service that really works for both hosts and guests. I caught up with him to find out more.
1. Where did your big idea come from?
A couple of years ago, I was really impressed by the experience I had with Airbnb during my travels across Europe and Northern India. This led me to become a host myself. However, I soon realised being a great host is really hard work! That’s when the seeds of Hostmaker were sown and Hostmaker was founded in 2013.
2. What is the problem that Hostmaker aims to solve?
Nakul Sharma – Founder & CEO
Hostmaker takes the hassle out of managing short-term rentals for homeowners. It provides hotel-style cleaning services, linen rental and welcome packs for arriving guests, as well as pricing optimisation, guest communication and even design services or maintenance for Airbnb hosts.
It’s a hands-off solution for people who want to optimise their renting revenues without lifting a finger.
There are two types of services we offer: “Hands-off Hosting” and pay-as-you-go.
Hands-off Hosting is where we deal with everything on behalf of the host, including redesign of the flat if needed, photography, writing the listing, pricing, reservations, guest communication, housekeeping, linen rental, check-in and maintenance. Hosts just let us know the property availability, and we manage it accordingly.
Pay-as-you-go, however, lets guests book our services online whenever they need them. These services include housekeeping and linen in an Airbnb-ready package, and check-ins.
3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve managed to overcome so far?
Staying true to our values while growing extremely fast is probably the biggest challenge we’ve managed to overcome, and I believe we’ve done so quite successfully. We’re a responsible company, one that’s proud to have received the London Living Wage accreditation. Hostmaker is an operations business – it’s people-heavy and some aspects of it are quite difficult to automate. In the investor note I drew up at the start about the housekeeping team, I made a conscious choice that I didn’t want them to be treated as just a pair of hands.
These are the people who bring homes to life and represent the brand on the frontlines. They’re employed full-time (not on contracts) and are paid over the living wage. Being able to get that growth/responsibility mix right was a challenge.
Another challenge is recruiting the right team in each of the cities Hostmaker is currently active in. Finding the right talent with the right culture at the right time requires patience and a clear vision. We’ve overcome this challenge successfully in the past, time and again.
4. Where do you see Hostmaker in five years’ time?
Since getting into the sharing-economy game, what feels like many moons ago, it’s fair to say we’ve had some success – multiple amazing fundraising rounds, growth into new cities, and so on. We owe a large part of this success to spending countless hours in “the nest” getting the basics right.
While the sharing economy may be relatively new, hospitality is old-school, and we’ve years of experience in it. Accordingly, crunching the numbers suggests we’re doing something right. We currently support over 500 hosts across Europe, with 200 homes using our complete management solution in London, and 120 in Rome, Paris and Barcelona.
Building a sustainable business, and making sure our hosts are happy, while growing internationally and becoming a leader in the market, is our overarching vision for the future, regardless of that being in five or ten years’ time.
5. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before starting Hostmaker?I could never have imagined how fast Hostmaker has grown – I think this is among our standout achievements over the past 12 months. While this is a result of hiring multinational teams across different geographies, we’ve also had $2 million in financing from new investors.
New investors translate into more responsibility. Keeping our work-life balance right is critical, and although there has been a learning curve to get there, I must confess, we now have all the ingredients necessary to a real success story.
A lot of people think entrepreneurship is a sprint. Guess what, it’s a marathon.