Since its inception in 2008 the community based rental marketplace – Airbnb – has grown to over 35M guests across 34,000 cities worldwide. And as a result, recent calculations claim that the company is now valued at $24 billion.
This “community sharing economy” has caught the attention of a number of entrepreneurs who have followed in the footsteps of Airbnb and focus on other areas.
This week we spoke with Roddy Campbell, founder of the startup Vrumi.com who claim to be the Airbnb for workspace. Having just gone through a successful round of investment on Seedrs.com – the company sought after £400,000 only to be overwhelmed by support with near on £1 million! See more on the Vrumi profile on Seedrs.com.
Thank you for speaking with us today Roddy. Let’s start with you telling us a bit about Vrumi and the people behind it?
Vrumi is a Sharing Economy online property marketplace connecting workers and professionals needing space with householders who have rooms available in the daytime.
It solves the problem for self-employed, freelancers, micro-workers and other professionals to find spaces to work in, in areas they couldn’t previously afford, and may not need full time.
For householders, Vrumi provides an additional source of income from rooms in their homes sitting idle during the day, such as sitting rooms and dining areas.
Vrumi’s website allows householders to upload rooms available for rent, with photos, prices and availability. Professionals looking for a space to work can search for their requirements, and then communicate and reserve directly with the host over the Vrumi messaging, reservation and payments system.
There are two founders; William Sieghart the founder of the Forward Prizes for Poetry and I. My background being a hedge fund manager nigh on 30 years. William and I have been lifelong friends.
So who is your typical host? What do they do?
Our typical hosts are;
- People out at work during the day
- People with adult children who have left home
- Families with children at school during the day
- Semi-private space owners e.g. rooms above shops and pubs
- B&B hosts who like renting out space during the day, or during off-peak travelling season
But why can’t they just work from their own home?
Either their homes are unsuitable or their location is an issue.
And what businesses are best suited for your service?
Best suited remains to be seen (as it’s still early days) – different groups have different take-up rates, but therapists of all sorts are ideally suited, as they like the regular once or twice a week feature. There’s also small startups, as they like the flexibility of daily rate, and then there’s the media as they are always looking for a room for a week or a month.
Having launched just six months ago, what have been your biggest challenges?
UX without a doubt. You launch a minimum viable product with only a holiday website (Airbnb) as a model, you don’t know what people want in reality. You know it is hard to use, and then watch people finding it hard to use and try and make it better, in both user experience and functionality. Thinking without second-guessing is hard.
Because of our Founder experience we have found team-building and money-raising and publicity perhaps easier than some.
You’ve just completed a rather successful round of investment through seedrs.com, congrats! What are your plans for the future now?
Speed and scale. London, UK and overseas all in the next 12 months. We have tiptoed along since August 1st when Ben the CTO joined, during which time we have spent on average under £25k per month, getting the basics right and attracting nearly 300 rooms onto the site.
There has not been much budget to spend on content, UX, and marketing to the Guest side, all of which we are currently ramping up.
When it comes to insurance; do you ensure that members have public liability insurance as a minimum? (Given the risk that insurance may be invalid as they are using the property for commercial purposes)
You have put your finger on the main risk, along with fire of course, and these are the two main risks for Airbnb as well, so we watch what they have done in these areas.
Insurance is the biggest practical problem we face, not that it is insoluble but the insurance industry is not set up for us so it will take time to develop a suite of products we can provide to Hosts who cannot get appropriate cover through their existing insurers. (My house insurer provides liability cover to anyone I invite in, but restricts theft and damage).
Thanks for that, now to the lighter questions we have to ask… what is the most unusual property you have on offer?
Beautiful and unusual dining in Notting Hill, £250 day rate Tranquil garden shed in Kensal Rise, £85 day rate Dutch barge in Southwark, £15 day rate Inspiring warehouse in Hackney Wick, £17 day rate Converted pub in Peckham, £100 day rate
What about the most expensive?
The Harpy, London Houseboat in Beromndsey, £2,000 daily rate
Thank you very much for your time Roddy, and good luck with the future.