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StayBillety, the Airbnb alternative for sports events and affinity groups, is raising money

staybillety, inc - barbara jones - syracuse (1)
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Companies that want to compete with Airbnb and other listing sites seek to tap into the unmet needs of specific consumer segments: Vrbo is about complex family travel, flOasis is for remote workers, misterb&b is for gay travelers. StayBillety has carved out another niche, made of university alumni organizations, sports fans, and event planners. The platform works with associations and organizations to help them find a place where their members can stay, for instance, to attend a triathlon in Hawaii. Thanks to its positioning and to its ties with the organizations, StayBillety is able to get on board supply that usually does not list elsewhere. Some triathletes would be OK to list their place to welcome fellow triathletes, but not other guest types. Same thing for alumni in a big university town.

Barbara Jones, the founder and CEO of StayBillety, details for Rental Scale-Up how her business operates, how the company rewards groups and associations for being active intermediaries. She also says why she’s now opening StayBillety’s capital to investors.

Video: StayBillety’s Barbara Jones on changing the way communities book short-term rentals

StayBillety, more than an Airbnb alternative for sports events

Thibault Masson:

What is StayBillety about?

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Barbara Jones:

In a nutshell, StayBillety is the short-term rental and home-sharing platform for groups and organizations and their communities.

Our clients are affiliate groups and organizations, be they alumni groups, athletics groups, sports groups, and service clubs. They provide the platform to their communities and when their community members book with StayBillety, a percentage of each transaction goes back to those organizations.

So they’re providing a new service, a new and relevant service to their communities.

Thibault Masson:

Can you walk through an example of how Staybillety can help organizations at a US university?

Barbara Jones:

Big organizations like universities in the US have very passionate communities. They have passionate fans for football, for basketball, around all kinds of sports, where there might be 50,000 people attending a football game. And they’re not all local, they could be coming from many miles away and are looking for a place to stay. They’d be delighted to stay with someone who’s part of their community.

Alumni organizations in some cases have over 200,000 members and they really want to support their school. Coming out of the pandemic, people may be having challenges in continuing to donate to the school. So maybe their way of participating in supporting their alumni is to open up that spare room. And it could be an alum that is traveling back to campus, back to the area for a big, what we’ll call a tentpole event. Or it could be an alum, let’s say of a San Francisco school, who’s traveling to New York. They would be more inclined to stay with someone who’s part of their community rather than with a non-affiliated short-term rental provider.

I really like The Economist’s quote that “tribal loyalties foster trust“. And the thinking behind StayBillety is that there’s a world of people out there who won’t necessarily open their home to a stranger, and conversely, they don’t want to stay with a stranger.

airbnb alternative for sports events

Thibault Masson:

That’s a great example. And again, so these communities are alumni networks, for example, are your affiliates on your platforms. You enable these affiliates to have their members find a place to stay or have their members also open the doors to some people. And that example also translates into the sports world, right? And that could be anywhere in the world that would work out, I think. So could you give us an example with the sports world in mind?

Barbara Jones:

We definitely recognize that there is an opportunity in the sports world. Some of our earliest affiliates were national sports organizations, as well as some colleges and universities.

One big event an organization that we work with is Run Ottawa and they run the Ottawa Marathon. And they do events throughout the year, they have over 13,000 people registered for the 2022 event. And so that’s very exciting. So we’re working with those organizations to have folks that are part of their local community, be they runners or not, they might be people that are just really interested in supporting athletics. And that’s where I get excited when somebody who’s a swimmer hosts a cyclist, you know, that’s pretty cool. So building community and engaging these communities in new ways is one of the great byproducts of this.

airbnb alternative business for sports events (2)

Thibault Masson:

And it’s your triple win, right? As an athlete, I get to stay with a fellow athlete. If I’m a triathlete, I also get to know great places where I can train. So I get this like connection and it’s very useful. If maybe I’m an organization, I get a cut, each time somebody stays somewhere. And StayBlillety benefits from being a platform and you also take a cut on the stay. In terms of business model, is it right?

Barbara Jones:

Yeah, absolutely you perfectly defined the model. It’s a win, win, win to be cliché.

My brother is a triathlete and he certainly was a focus group of one, as we were looking at developing this. And as he said, “if I’m a runner and I’ve got a race on Sunday morning, I don’t want to have to check out at the time that the accommodation service says, I have to check out, I want to come back and have a shower after the race. I want to maybe have a nap before I hit the road, if I drove to that event or if I have to catch a plane.”

That’s the type of thinking that applies to just about any sport. We are working with other sports as well. And you get each other, you understand the smelly equipment, you understand, “I need a drying rack”. So there are some other little bits and pieces that make StayBillety unique, but that baked-in understanding of each other, as well as the engagement piece, is really I think the secret sauce.

Thibault Masson:

A the moment, you are growing. You have a clear presence in North America. We talked about triathletes around the world, there are associations of triathletes around the world. So it’s a lot of growth for you. You are also welcoming investors to help you grow and grow with you. What can you tell to would-be investors in your short-term rental business?

Barbara Jones:

Contact me. We’ll start with that. We’re are triggering our pre-seed round. And we’re very excited about that. The focus has been and will continue to be on growth. Providing listings and home opportunities, as well as short-term rental opportunities around the world, to our community.

At the same time, we’re working on developing the relationships with the groups and organizations very much targeting large American universities to bring them on board and have been very focused on developing and strengthening those relationships.

So coming out of a challenging couple of years, it’s time to put some fuel in the tank and to put our foot down on the pedal to really grow this. I’m pretty passionate about it. I know the use cases are there, we have completely defined our product-market fit. And we’re ready to talk to investors that understand our space and can bring that additional fuel, maybe some of that intelligence fuel to help us reach new customers.

Thibault Masson:

All right. So if you are an investor watching this and if you’re going to bring fuel to Barbara’s venture, contact her. So what’s the best way to reach out to you, Barbara?

Barbara Jones:

Sure. [email protected]. And yes, StayBillety is definitely a play on words. Our hashtags are #stayingalike and #getawaysforgood. Every stay on StayBillety supports some group or organization.

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Thibault is the founder of Rental Scale-Up. He owns vacation rentals in St. Barths and Bali. He also leads innovative projects for companies within the vacation rental industry. Feel free to reach out to Thibaut Masson on Linkedin.

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