We're starting this year anew with and our newest segment 'Startup Spotlight', where we highlight travel tech startups each month. This month we're talking to President and Co-Founder David Jacoby of Hostfully, a vacation rental management platform for companies and individual vacation rental hosts, helping hosts be better hosts.

What problem is Hostfully solving?

Providing 5-star hospitality (in the vacation rental space) on a consistent basis is hard work. Equally hard is communicating with a never-ending flow of guests and all their questions.  The vacation rental space has a big focus on the bookings-side of things: there are many listings platforms (eg: Airbnb, HomeAway, FlipKey, etc), softwares to help you list on multiple sites, and dynamic pricing companies to help you charge the right amount for your listing.  However, after a reservation is confirmed, there are not many tools to help hosts be better hosts and manage the hospitality experience.

How is Hostfully solving this problem?

Hostfully helps hosts (both individual hosts and vacation rental management companies) be better hosts.  Our value proposition is two-fold:

  1. We help hosts provide a more professional-looking experience to their guests.  Our flagship product is beautiful guidebooks, available both digitally and in print.

  2. We save hosts time (and money) by decreasing the amount of unnecessary questions they get from guests.  We make important information and local recommendations more readily accessible than the traditional, old-fashion method of out-dated and ugly binders.

David Jacoby, President & Co-Founder, with the Hostfully team.

David Jacoby, President & Co-Founder, with the Hostfully team.

What is the most important thing you're working on right now, and how are you making it happen?

Following the Lean philosophy of constantly testing and pushing new releases on the product.  As a scrappy new startup, we have a long roadmap of features we’d like to add.  Listening / watching what our users are actually doing on our website and the feedback they provide helps us prioritize.

What inspired you to start your company?

In 2010, my wife and I took a one year sabbatical and traveled around the world.  We visited 27 countries in 5 continents, and stayed in 38 people’s homes during that journey, including places such as Lima, Cairo, Jerusalem, Kigali, Hanoi, and Phenom Phen (from traditional vacation rentals, to Couchsurfing.org, to friends of friends).  It was then that I realized the incredible influence a host has on a guest’s stay; anything my host told me to do immediately went to the top of my priority list, above other travel guides like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Yelp, etc.

After that trip we moved to San Francisco and started doing home sharing in our home, on both Airbnb and Couchsurfing.  We’ve had over 100 guests in the past few years and I’ve become an Airbnb Superhost.  During this experience, I’ve realized two things:

1) The incredible pain-point of having a full-time job and trying to provide a consistent 5-star hospitality experience to my guests, and being in constant communication with guest after guest (both before their visit and while they are here)

2) The pleasure of hearing from them that they went to my favorite local recommendations.  Sure, they went to Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf, but it was visiting my local favorite brunch spot, coffee shop, etc that made their trip truly memorable and unique.

In looking into the vacation rental, I realized there are many platforms (like Airbnb, HomeAway, etc) that focus on getting the booking, and there are other tools (like property management softwares and dynamic pricing companies) to help with that.  But once the reservation is made, there are not many services to help the host be a better host and provide 5-star hospitality to their guests.  That’s where we come in.

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"We help hosts provide a more professional-looking experience to their guests"

David Jacoby, President & CO-Founder

Describe your business modal.

We are a SaaS platform for vacation rental management companies and individual vacation rental hosts.  Clients pay us a monthly subscription.  We are also a sales channel to connect businesses to tourists, of which we receive advertising / commission revenue.

What’s your go to market strategy?  How will you find and attract customers?

One successful component of our go to market strategy has been our high quality content.  We are the number 1 publication on Medium for “travel” and “Airbnb” and have had industry leaders publish with us.  There are many individual hosts who have started blogs about hosting, but there are not many “thought leaders” in the space…it is still pretty young in that regards.  We also have a strong social media presence, and we are present at both local and national vacation rental events, including having multiple speakers at the Airbnb Open in Los Angeles last November.

Who are your main competitors?

The vacation rental market is growing so fast, and the ecosystem is still in its early stages.  While it’s not the case 100% of the time, we always try our best to look at other companies in the space as potential partners.  What are we doing differently and how can we help each other out?  A rising tide lifts all ships.  

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