Private property rental website Onefinestay is eyeing a US roll-out with an announcement about international expansion expected early next year.
Speaking at the Travolution Summit in a session on Digital Capital, the firm’s co-founder and chief executive Greg Marsh said the site had seen phenomenal recent growth as it seeks to capitalise on the trend for “collaborative consumption”.
He admitted as little as year-and-a-half ago he had no idea whether anyone would be interested in renting out their home to strangers when they were away. But now with 200 members in London and an initial round of funding under its belt, he feels the model is ready for expansion into international markets.
Marsh said onefinestay’s ‘unhotel’ model was inspired by sites like car sharing portal Zipcar and was not the same as US website airbnb.com, which has faced criticism for some questionable property recruitment tactics.
“People are increasingly open-minded and comfortable with the idea of sharing resources. People are more open-minded about buying things over the internet which are complicated and in that long tail of complicated product categories.
“I have been inspired by people like Zipcar who have worked out standardised component technology and assembled out of that operating systems to support quite a complex and logistical business. You can see us as really a hotel that’s spread across an entire city.”
Marsh said that around half of its properties are now recommended by existing members and that Onefinestay owes its existence to the powerful and efficient global distribution made possible by the web.
“You think something might work, but you really do not know in reality until you are selling something to people who will pay for it. What we wanted to do was test it as cheaply as possible. I did not want to spend someone else’s money doing something that was not credible,” he said.
Onefinestay was started with £200,000 of initial start-up funding from around 25 small investors and was officially up and running in the third quarter of last year. It has since secured further backing from a group in investors including Brent Hoberman, the founder of lastminute.com.
March said onefinestay had seen 1,000% growth in the last six months, although the firm had encountered difficulties and he expected it will continue to do so in the future. “We are very ambitious and we have had some pleasant surprises. I’m sure we will have some challenges and ‘near death’ experiences,” he said.