A software company founded by former HGTV producers that helps people monetize items in short-term rental (STR) properties has secured $1.85 million in seed funding.
The Host Co., created by Annie Sloan and Mikel Hubbard, was financed in the oversubscribed round by HearstLab. The Artemis Fund, Untapped Capital and a number of unnamed angel investors participated, as well.
Based in Oakland, California, The Host Co. is a digital commerce marketplace that allows owners of STRs to earn additional income by selling furniture, artwork, crafts and even food items through an intuitive online retail experience. Owners use The Host Co. to list item descriptions, prices and images at a specified web address and share that URL with guests. Guests can pre-order items or buy once on-site.
In the same way Shopify and Etsy offer entrepreneurs powerful eCommerce experiences, The Host Co. empowers STR owners with an opportunity to earn as much selling local goods as they can from hosting.
Customers can access additional services including a “pre-stock my pantry” feature and peruse local artisan products for sale. Users can keep items they list for sale in stock at their rental, or set up immediate delivery or shipping once guests check out.
The Host Co. makes a commission on each sale.
In addition to short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo, The Host Co.’s software can be plugged into boutique hotels, office spaces and in most places where consumers congregate when staying away from home.
In its short tenure, the company found that more than 40 percent of guests purchase an item when in an Airbnb connected to one of its customers’ stores. More than 90 percent of guests at least open the store when in the rental unit.
Airbnb had its most profitable quarter ever in the fourth quarter of 2021, Inman reported. It recorded $1.5 billion in total revenue, an increase of 38 percent from the quarter prior. The STR industry leader’s continued success is largely a result of pandemic-charged remote work trends.
“We’re in the midst of a revolution in travel because people have new-found flexibility in how they live and work,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said to investors during a February earnings report.
Vrbo had an equally aggressive Q4, reporting traveler deposits for bookings as of $1.7 billion at Dec. 31, 2021, compared to $1.6 billion as of Sept. 30, 2021, according to earnings reported by parent company Expedia Group.
Given the surge in the short-term rental industry, The Host Co.’s timing for funding couldn’t be better, according to co-founder Hubbard.
“On the heels of an incredible year for Airbnb, the short-term rental industry is exploding with tens of thousands of new hosts gearing up every month, primarily women looking to maximize their profits,” he said. “Our mission is to empower hosts to achieve positive financial and social mobility through the platform.”
Most STR hosts are women over 40, The Host Co. said.
“Demand for our technology is accelerating at a rapid pace, and we now have a waiting list of over 1,100 additional hosts,” said co-founder Sloane. “This investment will enable us to scale and expand our logistical capabilities, partner with more short-term rental hosts, and further enhance the guest experience.”