In The Big Chair – Amiad Soto of Guesty

PhocusWire

Guesty, a cloud-based tool to manage short-term rental listings across multiple channels such as Airbnb, Booking.com and Agoda, pulled in nearly $20 million in funding last month.
Amiad Soto co-founded Guesty alongside his twin brother in 2013. He has been named to Forbes Israel’s 30 under 30 list.

 

Q: Looking back at the inception of Guesty, what problem in the industry did you look to solve?

Our story began with my brother and me holding cleaning supplies, and realizing we were trying to manage too many tasks at once. When we came to understand the bigger significance of this problem, we pivoted our focus towards management companies who suffer the most from the same problems we were experiencing: managing listings and reservations across multiple channels, adjusting price points, coordinating with homeowners, guests and staff, and so many more.

Juggling all of this also really cuts into time for branding and scaling business. Our goal was to consolidate these tasks so they could be accomplished from one convenient, easy-to-use dashboard, as well as to automate wherever possible, ultimately giving our customers more time.

 

Q: Your most recent move – raising nearly $20 million in funding – is pretty significant. Where will these funds allow you to go next?

So far, our focus was on having a good product. Now our focus is on making an even better product and bringing it to the most amount of people.

The pillars shaping our momentum are: quality, automation, compliance and integrations. This new capital will jump-start our ability to achieve more of the goals we established when we founded the company and meet even more property management needs – all while maintaining our startup speed.

Even though our product is the best one in this market, our vision for it is going to take it so much further.

 

Q: What makes Guesty appealing to investors?

Investors appreciate the size and potential of our market, and how focused we are on product quality. The results that Guesty achieved in those verticals, both in market share and product dominance, has been amazing and is growing exponentially. Our investors believe in our ability to be the leaders of consolidation in this market.

 

Q: What would you say accounts for the fragmentation in the vacation rental industry?

All markets begin fragmented with many small companies who realized a problem early and competed to solve it. Over time, efficiency consolidates the market.

For example – the hotel industry has been consolidated, but much more quickly because of significant investments. Fragmentation in the vacation rental industry specifically has been relevant to the fast evolution of tourism, leading property owners and managers to try meeting newly emerging travel needs one by one.

The end result was even more fragmentation in the industry – many segregated and un-synced tools. Today, being competitive in this industry means covering as many needs as possible at once, and by consolidating all of these tools, this is exactly what Guesty is trying to revolutionize.

 

Q: What challenges do property managers face as more listing sites become available – Booking.com, for example, ramping up its home-share presence?

More listing sites means yet another channel to manage, another platform to familiarize themselves with, another market to compete in – not to mention, the need to keep them all synced.

The major benefit of more listings, especially on sites that have traditionally been limited to hotels, is obvious: increased visibility and more opportunities to profit. But as these listing sites move to expand their audience and become more competitive, property managers will need to do the same in order to stand out as variety grows.

They also need to work that much harder to build brand loyalty. The biggest challenge is definitely centralizing all of the actions required to achieve this.

 

Q: Why do you think Airbnb still has an undesirable reputation among some property managers?

What Airbnb has done for property managers is similar to what Uber has done for taxi drivers. It’s essentially taken their “specialty” and opened it to the masses, so that anyone with an extra home, room or tent can create an account and compete with seasoned property managers for guests.

This means it’s driven up competition, but Airbnb has also been a tremendous asset to property managers, offering them access to the millennial traveler – a demographic that has been majorly underexposed to vacation rentals in the past. But they are on the rise, soon to be the majority, so property managers who take advantage of their demographic are setting themselves up for success.

Another challenge is that Airbnb’s success is putting a spotlight on industry regulations and is requiring property management companies to keep up with and quickly adapt to frequently changing regulations. But with five million properties and counting, Airbnb’s success can’t be ignored.

 

Q: How do you think Airbnb’s latest set of products such as Airbnb Plus, etc., has or will help alleviate any concerns?

Products like Airbnb Plus give professional property management companies a platform upon which they can stand out from the “occasional host” crowd. Its rigorous criteria advocates credibility for the hosts in the eyes of travelers, and this type of reward for good hosts ultimately make Airbnb a powerful partner for property management companies.

 

Q: How are you seeing vacation rentals offer more hotel-like services, or the other way around?

Vacation rentals are stepping up their game to match some classic hotel features in terms of provisions and customer support, while on the flip side, hotels have begun opening smaller boutique properties for a more personal experience.

We see hotels using more listing sites, and at the same time those listing sites moving to incorporate more vacation rentals. It comes from the need to appeal to a wider audience to stay competitive, and I’d again point out the growing millennial influence on the market.

❝I personally think voice-activation – specifically in its early stage – is cool but impractical.❞ // Amiad Soto – Guesty

Q: How are you seeing the market adopt new technologies, such as in-home voice devices?

The vacation rental industry is always on the lookout for new innovations that simplify or enhance the rental experience, and keep them competitive. Many helpful technologies are being implemented; for instance, we’ve just added new integrations with SlickSpaces and VirtualKEY, both of which enable keyless check-in. They have other cool features as well, like shutting off lights and regulating thermostats when properties are empty.

Some of the bigger property management companies are investing in voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo, which can certainly add to the guest experience. One company, VTrips, recently announced an investment of a million dollars to incorporate this kind of technology into many of their properties. I personally think voice-activation – specifically in its early stage – is cool but impractical.

 

Q: How has your partnership with Agoda helped you grow business in Asia?

This partnership is still new, and just recently went live. We do anticipate major business development by giving our users this outlet through which they can more narrowly target travelers to and from Asia, and we have already seen new leads since the announcement. We’re also expanding our platform to include multiple languages very soon.

 

Q: You co-founded the company with your twin brother. How has that been rewarding and challenging?

The benefits outweighed the challenges for sure. First of all, Koby – my brother – is super smart and talented. Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and having the kind of honesty that is guaranteed with family is rare in the business world, and ours really benefited from it.

❝What Airbnb has done for property managers is similar to what Uber has done for taxi drivers.❞ // Amiad Soto – Guesty

It was challenging because we’re twins and we share opinionated personalities, which makes disagreeing about anything extra frustrating. But, we knew that success for one of us meant success for both of us, and this whole project came to life because we were working together.

 

Q: You were named to Forbes Israel’s 30 under 30 list – what are the challenges of being a young CEO in the travel technology space?

Israel’s entrepreneurship environment is very open to young leadership, which has been a huge benefit for me. I don’t think youth is a limitation in this industry. In fact, most of the travelers in the world today are millenials, so in some ways, my age is actually more of an advantage than a challenge because I understand them.

Being young does, of course, come with limited experience, so the biggest challenge for me is efficiently managing a company growing as rapidly as ours.

 

Q: How do you motivate your team?

Right from the get-go, we hire self-starters, people who care about the quality of their work and who we can see will have the best interests of the company in mind.

At Guesty, we’ve set up the kind of work environment that makes our team members feel valued. We’ve got pilates, yoga, a great HR department that regularly checks in with the staff, karaoke nights, a health and wellness professional on site and just a general open-door policy that encourages feedback and communication.

It’s my experience that employees who feel heard and appreciated don’t need much motivating beyond that. They know they are a part of the Guesty family, and they want to see that family grow and succeed.

 

Q: Where do you see your company in the next five or 10 years?

I’m not a fan of predictions. Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined founding a successful company like Guesty. In startups, goals change quickly, and we like to embrace this mentality even while we grow. What I can say with certainty is that our vision goes way beyond what we’ve already accomplished, and we’re making huge investments to get there.

 

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In The Big Chair – Amiad Soto of Guesty
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