Lessons Learned from using Airbnb on my Vacation

Airbnb - Amsterdam Livingroom

Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.
– Robert Frost

I’ve been traveling the last several weeks through Europe and have been using Airbnb for some of my lodging choices. It’s been hit or miss, but luckily more hits than misses. I really do like how the site works in connecting travelers with hosts around the world, it made it super easy to get a nice spot on the cheap around the world. I could have done hostels but when you have to pay $30/bed for two people, that’s $60 per night already. If I could find private space under $60, I’m golden and we were always able to. Here are some of the tips I’d give to future folks using Airbnb.

Rent from folks with one listing only on Airbnb

Airbnb - Amsterdam Bedroom

The reason why I’d only rent from folks with one listing is because more likely than not, it’s their own space of your renting a private rooms from them. With that in mind, people who are giving their space up are more likely to have a more cleanly space since that’s where going to be sleeping after you’re gone. I’ve done both renting out a private room and the whole apartment — both had a cozy charm about them.

If you do rent from someone who has more than one listing, you’re going to have to ask yourself if the host is doing this as a business or is it actually their space. The experience I had with someone like this only provided us the minimum in accommodations and it didn’t have any charm or character since the host didn’t even live there (or even in the building). I wouldn’t do that again.

Have open communication with your host

You’re going to a home, apartment, or condo — you’re not going to a hotel or even a hostel with a front desk to checkin to. You’re not going to have room service or anything like that, so I suggest you do a lot of your communication on the front end.

  1. Connect with your host well before your arrival to discuss checkin process (i.e. getting there, key exchange, etc.)
  2. Get the phone numbers and emails needed — sometimes the host isn’t the one you communicate with.
  3. Make sure you get wifi code (if available)
  4. Make sure you get the ground rules for the space
  5. Try and get some tips and recommendations from the host since many of them are local

Communication is going to be key on the front end because it’s going to be so much harder to figure all this out during the vacation, plus you don’t want to worry about that when you’re trying to figure out what sites to see. Remember there isn’t any 24/7 desk you can call like at a hotel.

Utilize everything in the space you’re in

Airbnb - Brookyln

When you’re renting your space from folks on Airbnb, a lot of them are going to have some amenities you’d have to sometimes pay extra for at a hotel. For instance, while I was at Amsterdam — we had a washer we could have used to wash a lot of our clothes, which was awesome. The host even provided us with detergent to use. Plus, since these places is where they actually live, you’ll have access to their kitchen which includes the fridge and stove. These were super useful during our trip to help save money on food and drinks.

Definitely remember to take a look at the amenities on Airbnb because some of them are great to have. I know we didn’t even consider places that didn’t have wifi — so that’s definitely something to consider while you’re using the service.

So let’s recap:

Now the question is, would I do Airbnb again? Yes, I definitely would with the above things in mind. There’s definitely a different take to traveling when you get greeted by someone locally and if you’re able to get connected with people who welcome folks with open arms — even better. Several of the places we stayed at greeted us with beers and food upon arrival. It’s the little things that’ll make me use it again.

Grow your Startup on the Backs of Known Brands

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
— Isaac Newton

When you start out as a startup, no one knows who the hell you are. You can always make your big splash on TechCrunch, Mashable, etc. — but that traffic will just come and go. Sometimes people have this mentality of, “If I build it, they will come,” and I can tell you now that isn’t the case. You’re just an upstart trying to build credibility in the industry/space you’re competing in. It’s an uphill battle you have to face in order to educate everyone who you come in contact with about what you’re looking to build, but it gets easier and easier after getting some wins in your pocket. One way to build a winning streak is to use larger known brands to help build your brand.

Make connections with recognizable brands

During the earlier days at TeachStreet, we wanted to see if larger educational companies would like to use our platform of connecting with students looking to learn to gain more leads/sales for their business. I literally did the following to put together my list of brands I’d like to work with:

  1. Identify the categories we wanted to go after. In our case, it was: test prep, tutoring, music, fitness, and business/computer training.
  2. Within the categories identified, list the desired companies in those industries.
    Measure the opportunities with each company. For us, it was city and category coverage. Which one had the most centers, teachers, etc.
  3. Check your network and see if any of your connections have any ties with the companies on the list. We used our networks heavily, which even included teachers on TeachStreet. Linkedin is also a gold mine to help find the connection you need.
  4. Prioritize with the leads through introductions from your network first then move to cold calling.

This is probably the most difficult part of the process because it’s about landing that first partner to take a chance on what you’re doing. Once you land those first few established partners, you’re off to a great start. We were lucky to have a couple of great partners initially here at TeachStreet like Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions.

The brands should help promote the partnership

Once you get the first few companies on board, be sure to treat them as partners and have them understand that their involvement will help this partnership succeed. One of the ways these larger companies can help you is by promoting their presence on TeachStreet through email newsletters, blog posts, Facebook posts, and Twitter. This is probably one of the most valuable things you can get from your initial partners since their network of customers are probably larger than yours and if you’re able to capture a portion of those customers to use your site — that’s a great start. Plus, more likely than not, their competitors are following what they’re doing and their announcement will allow you to have easier conversations with potential partners in the future.

Showcase the successful partners as much as possible

Use the partners who have been successful on your site and showcase them like no other. Promote them on your blog, social media outlets, and primarily on your site. It’s important to have these initial partners be successful because in the end, you’ll be using them as your case study examples to potential partners on why your product is working. At TeachStreet, we were able to eventually bring on a good amount of Premium Partners to create a showcase page, which helped us get more business.

So let’s recap:

  1. Connect with larger brands you’d like to work with and close those deals
  2. Try and have those larger brands promote their presence on your product
  3. Promote and showcase the hell out of those partners

If you do those right, all you really need to do is rinse and repeat while improving the process and product along the way.