The promise of the sharing economy—in which under-utilized assets such as private homes and cars are made available to rent—is creating entire ecosystems of new business to support it. That’s what twin brothers Amiad and Koby Soto had in mind when they launched Guesty in 2014. Their focus? Helping Airbnb’s hundreds of thousands of hosts around the world manage and rent their properties to the site’s 17 million guests.
Their idea was born of frustration. The Sotos, who lived in Tel Aviv, Israel, at the time, found themselves scrambling to tend to guest-related issues when employing Airbnb to rent out their own apartments. When Koby’s idyllic vacation on a Spanish beach was interrupted by e-mails from a pesky Airbnb-booked guest, he became annoyed. But Koby, who writes code and had participated in three Israeli startups, and Amiad, whose background is in sales, also saw opportunity.
The process is simple. Rental-property owners provide Guesty with access to their Airbnb accounts. Then, when a potential customer expresses interest in renting, Guesty takes immediate action, answering questions about availability, parking and nearby attractions. For the property owners, Guesty automatically updates calendars, schedules cleanings and screens potential customers. In return, hosts pay Guesty 3 percent of all booking charges.
The Sotos view their service as a marketing advantage for the hosts. Through their research, they found that Airbnb customers often commit to the first host who replies to their queries, meaning that Guesty’s timely response can make the difference between a place sitting empty or generating money.
By early 2014, the 20-person company had relocated to San Francisco and signed up some 750 properties. The business model helped the Soto brothers secure more than $1.5 million in seed money from Y Combinator and others. Amiad hopes to count 10,000 vacation rentals as Guesty clients by mid-2015—a number that should translate into seven-figure revenue.
Meanwhile, the Sotos are working on affiliate programs and other services, such as automated check-in solutions for hotels that could eliminate the need for front-desk help during the wee hours of the morning.
“We feel like once we put a product out there, people will find other ways to use it, and that’s great,” Amiad says. “We want to build Guesty from a small niche into bigger niches, and then into other niches altogether. That’s how you keep growing.”