A Vibrant Startup Ecosystem, Powered by Airbnb
When a seed is planted and a tree grown, it begets an ecosystem as soon as it’s strong enough. The tree supports life: bacteria thrives in its roots, birds nest in its branches and ants swarm its trunk. It’s similar with business ecosystems: when one becomes big and successful, new adjacent businesses emerge, forming a mutually beneficial relationship through which the best can bloom.
Airbnb is a perfect example of a business that has developed enough clout and financial girth to spur the birth of an ecosystem of emerging startups. These new companies prop up Airbnb and other short-term rental startups like HomeAway, and profit from their continuous success.
These startups are great for hosts, convenient for travelers, and rewarding for the businesses facilitating hospitality services. So long as regulators, governments and angry neighbors don’t fully chop down its steady trunk, Airbnb’s value will grow and add additional value to the ecosystem it continues to nourish.
So what does this Airbnb-fueled, travel-friendly ecosystem look like? It is already surprisingly crowded. There are several types of services that can be considered in Airbnb’s orbit, some of which depend on it, some that stand alone, and others that seek to expand on the concept.
First there are the companies that exist as support systems for Airbnb hosts. Many of these are property management services cover host duties like property listing, guest screening, key pickup, check-ins, cleaning and other services. Some (Guesthop, Airenvy, Superhost etc) offer inclusive packages for hosts, while others (Keycafe for key pickup and Porter for cleaning and linen replacement) are more task-specific.
Supporting startups also include marketing services like Airspruce, which matches hosts with travel writers to pen listings, and pricing analytic services like Beyond Pricing and Smart Host that offer market-based pricing advice.
Additional services cater toward travelers rather than the hosts. These startups are cooperative with Airbnb, but may benefit any traveler and even local residents. Recreation services like Vayable recommend destinations and book trips for tourists, while food services like Feastly provide in-home dining experiences. Airbnb guests are also likely to use ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to get around.
Next, there are a growing number services related to or derivative of Airbnb. Want to swap homes instead of rent one? Try HomeExchange. Want to live out a sex fantasy while on vacation? Try Kinkbnb for “sex positive travelers.” With Airbnb-style services for sharing boats, office space, pet care and more, the possibilities are seemingly endless (and in some cases, bizarre).
As wonderful as this crop of startups are, there is at least one risk factor: Airbnb is planning to expand their role by providing new hospitality services not currently under their direct purview. What this will mean for the current ecosystem, we can’t be sure. It could result in partnerships with or acquisitions of the services previously mentioned, or direct competition with them.
What we can be sure of is that Airbnb, already valued at $10 billion, is a powerful force indicative of a real and growing industry that can be capitalized on beyond its peer-to-peer roots. Opportunities have never been so diverse for property owners, entrepreneurs and travelers, who all have unique roles to play in the redefinition of modern tourism.
The seed has been planted, the tree grown, and people from all walks of life and business have made their nests in Airbnb’s plentiful branches. Only time and growth rings will tell if the ecosystem will someday get the axe or develop outwards and up, but my bets are on the latter.