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No hotel rooms? No problem Every homeowner could be an entrepreneur

“I am either a homeless entrepreneur or I have 450 rooms in San Francisco, it all depends on your perspective,” said Brian Chetsky, 29, as he vacated his three-bedroom apartment in 2010.

AIRBNB.com had been founded in that very apartment just two years previously and needed office space. Now valued at $1.3 billion with illustrious investors including Ashton Kucher and the Andreesen-Horowtiz fund, Mr Chetsky and his two cofounders must be laughing all the way to their online bank.

AIRBNB is a “room rental” website that connects travellers with homeowners wanting to rent a room for a few nights. From a Fijian island to contemporary apartments in Buenos Aires and oceanfront properties in Bermuda, AIRBNB now has rentals in 19,732 cities in 192 countries and have already surpassed their 5 millionth rented room night.

The site is a gourmet feast of travel dreams. You can even rent Conan O’Brien’s 25,000-square-foot television studio in the Burbank. Bermuda is no exception as more and more homeowners list their gorgeous properties on this site.

Named as one of the top five start-ups in 2010 and top app in 2011, AIRBNB is one of those rare online entities, where you can clearly see the revenue model. Income by AIRBNB is generated on both the seller and purchaser in a modest percentage, once a room is rented.

Listing your property could not be simpler and there is no cost. The process is seamless, from accepting a reservation to receiving your money in PayPal a day after the guest arrives. All identity, including address of the property, is kept confidential until the guest accepts the reservation and their credit card is charged. The homeowner and the visitor can read reviews about each other before finalising the booking. To complete the process, the traveller reviews the homeowner and vice versa thereby creating a user generated review of the whole visit.

Graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2004, Mr Chetsky ran a design shop in LA designing toilet seats before moving to San Francisco. (Truth is more fun than fiction). Mr Chetsky and his roommate Joe, both unemployed, knew a prominent International Design Conference was coming to the city, yet all the hotels had sold out. Thinking they could earn a few extra dollars to pay the rent, they created a website called “air bed and breakfast” pulled together some airbeds and promised to make breakfast every day.

They never imagined that it would be the billion dollar site it is today, just three years later.

The AIRBNB founders believe they are creating a new economy.

“We are giving consumers access to millions of people, unique spaces and experiences around the world,” they said. “It’s a new way of life, a new way to meet people, a new way to make money and a new way to travel.”

And that’s where Bermuda comes in. It’s an opportunity for travellers to meet and experience Bermuda’s most valuable asset, the Bermudian people.

As soon as I read about AIRBNB being one of the most promising start-ups, I listed my property. I thought it was an opportunity for people to come and experience Bermuda at an affordable price, have an awesome time and give a great report to all their friends and family. We have been fortunate that every guest has been fantastic clean, quiet and a joy to host. A Hungarian airline pilot, an art history student and an aspiring Broadway actor have been some of our guests and have absolutely loved Bermuda.

Of course there are a few horror stories online, of guests trashing the home or stealing identity. In response AIRBNB has set up a $50,000 insurance fund, which hardly seems enough. However, the individual’s reviews are really the best safeguard.

So can AIRBNB solve Bermuda’s lack of hotel bed nights? Every piece helps and every great experience is the opportunity to spread the word to their friends and family to come back.

Something to read: www.airbnb.com/top40 A compendium of AIRBNB Top 40 spaces around the globe. From couch to castle, treehouse to houseboat, behold Airbnb’s finest, quirkiest and downright extraordinary properties available for your booking pleasure!

Something to watch: What every start-up can learn from AIRBNB http://gigaom.com/2011/02/22/airbnb/

This article was written by Lois Wilson. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Royal Gazette

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Published March 13, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 13, 2012 at 9:30 am)

No hotel rooms? No problem Every homeowner could be an entrepreneur

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