Andrew: Hey, they’re freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner and I’m coming to you from yet another Airbnb in Austin, Texas. My wife and I came to Austin with the idea that we were find a lot of space and also be close to all of our friends. Who’ve moved here to Austin, Texas so far, we have not found the ideal place for us.
So we just keep moving from Airbnb to Airbnb. Our kids are loving it. They keep turning all these different bedrooms into clubhouses. My wife has gone a little bit crazy. She doesn’t know where anything is. She’s not really enjoying the fact that she doesn’t know whether there’ll be a pillow in one room or not in an it’s just been a little bit challenging for her.
Dude. I’ve been loving, seeing all my friends here, everyone from San Francisco is coming here. Luca, you considering.
Luca: Yeah, actually has been a topic in the house, so we don’t know yet.
Andrew: It’s, um, it’s a move that a lot of people are making or considering, and I totally get it. I wish that we would have made the move maybe two, three years before. Maybe as soon as the pandemic hit, we should have said, boom, let’s go to Austin, Texas. Well anyway, now everyone else is coming here, but it’s still fun.
And so I keep adjusting my podcast, recording setup, making sure that everything works. And I’m glad that it is working because look, I’ve been looking forward to talking today. Lukas Umbay Zambello, whose voice you just heard. He is the founder of journey. They make software that allows people who run not exactly the types of Airbnbs I’ve stayed in, but maybe bigger operations to allow them to run.
I think he’s pushing the contactless point of it, but for me, it’s more like the all-in-one take good care of your, um, of your guest, um, solution. If you have multiple units, whether it’s a hotel or an Airbnb with multiple units, and you want people to see what it looks like, they could see it. They could even book within the journey app that, um, is customized to you.
And then when the guest arrives, they get to unlock the door, using the journey app. They get to. Connect to wifi using the journey app, which the Airbnb app also does pretty well. But let you turn on the temperature a little bit higher, a little bit Kohler. Everything is done through the journey app.
What’s fascinating to me is that he’s a dude who came here from Italy, searching for the American dream, got into real estate and through real estate, decided to do the software. And, um, and I’m curious to see how it’s going. I’m curious to see how many people there are, who have enough Airbnb units to need this.
And, um, we can do it all. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first Luca uses I use it’s called Gusto. If you’re paying people, whether it’s full-time employees, part-time even 10 90 nines, Gusto is your solution. I’m going to tell you, you should use them for free at gusto.com/mixergy for a limited time.
And the second, if you need to hire developers, they’re vetted developers available to you from my past guest at lemon.io/mixergy. But I’ll talk about those later Luka first. Good to have.
Luca: Yeah, thank you for having me. Good to be here.
Andrew: is it for somebody who has like a whole apartment building that they would be likely to use you to list their properties on Airbnb and independently?
Luca: Yeah. So it’s actually for. We S we say professional, we call them professional hosts. Um, so they could have multiple houses or they could have like the entire building, or they could have, um, you know, 10 units in one building and 10, 10 units, not our building. Um, since Airbnb started, um, about 15 years ago, uh, has become more and more of a.
A platform for people to open entire businesses, uh, and run entire businesses on Airbnb and allow really like independent people to almost have their own like menial towels. Um, and this has been.
Andrew: I have noticed that. So a lot of the Airbnbs that we’re in are owned by people have multiple units. I’m actually seeing Luca little. Uh, people now, since the cities do not allow short-term rentals, they’ll even list long-term rentals on Airbnb. And then there are a lot of people like us who aren’t looking to come for a weekend or a week, but want to be in a city for a month or two to experience it, to live in it.
And so they’re listing on Airbnb and these professors, the whole thing’s becoming much more professional, but when, when someone’s using you, are they using journey because they have a whole apartment building. Do they have a full hotel? Do they have multiple units in the same city? Is it a combination?
Andrew: All three what’s the majority
Luca: The majority. Well, it’s actually 50%. It’s like hosts that have multiple units.
Andrew: sprout. Okay.
Luca: The other 50% has independent boutique hotel owners, or like what we call a parcel towels, which is somebody owns an entire, um, apartment complex and it’s converted into actual talent listed on Airbnb.
Andrew: Got it. Okay. I’ve been in those. I kinda like those, I like that every detail of the whole building is set up for us as guests. Okay. So 50, 50, but not anyone who has like one house to list on Airbnb for that. Airbnb is fine on its own.
Luca: Yes. And, and the reason is, is because our system is. To improve the experience for a professional host to now have we’re unifying the experience for both of the guests on point and a whole standpoint. So we want them to get, I’ll give you a central centralized platform that allows you to control everything and all your units anywhere.
All from one single place, whether you’re listing them on Airbnb, booking.com, Expedia or, or an hour as a host, you want to see everything there in them to allow you to have remote control of things like AC or, uh, locks or dark codes and things like that. All from, from a centralized, uh, place.
Andrew: But the hosts even really need that because when we get into a place Airbnb and BRBO, which is the Expedia product, which actually is surprisingly good. Um, They, they immediately tell you, hear the tears, the code to get in. Here’s how you can adjust the thermostat. Here’s one click button to connect to wifi and the wifi account name and password.
It seems like it’s all there. If someone’s on Airbnb, why do they need more than.
Luca: well, there’s two reasons. One from a host standpoint. It’s the code that you get sent. And I’m saying something that is like, maybe like get security thinking about it. A lot of people don’t know. Um, but very likely you’re using a lockbox when you get to your Airbnb or even if it’s an electric lock, you have. That code might have been the same exact code of the previous desk.
That’s not very safe for example. Right. Um, then on top of that, you don’t have any of the functionalities as a guest to be able to open up. Remote doors. Um, you don’t have the functionalities of having control both as a guest and as a host of common areas. For example, pool area, the garage door, if it’s a house, uh, you know, main entrance of a building, for example.
So our system actually can all like. It gives you that smart connection across basically any type of access system of a house or a building. Uh, and then as allows you automatically, it has a host to, to give access to. So for instance, somebody makes a booking on Airbnb. Uh, our system automatically creates an ID for that, for that guest and.
It creates an axis that starts from the beginning and it finished to the end of their stay. And so you’re going to have a unique code now you can use. The entirety of the building. So whether it’s a pool, whether it’s, uh, your own apartment and that court discussed them to you and only worked for your reservation on top of that, you also have the ability to do it through your phone without even entering the code and just pressing one button and opening, whatever door you want to open and remotely controlled thermostat
Andrew: I get that. I get the, so when we get into places, I actually bring this little device with me so that I can open and close the garage door from my phone. I just connect it into their garage. And I opened it up because if I come in with my bike, I don’t want to have that clicker with me. And I don’t want to have to come with my bike all the way through the house.
We have a couple of cars with us. Usually like in this place, they give us one clicker. All these things seem nice to be able to do from your phone, but is that really so urgent that landlords are willing to pay you money for.
Luca: Yeah, that’s the, one of the, see if you, if you have a single unit, maybe not. But if you’re running a thousand units or even just even talk to units, the logistics around it, it’s, it gets very complicated. Um, just, just updating codes for oldest units, plus making sure that the entire system communicates with everything, every outer piece.
Um, it’s it gets very complicated. That’s that’s just like a small portion of actually what we offer our system. And it gets a lot more complex than that. Like, we offer things like dynamic pricing, um, unify inbox. So like a guest, whether they messaged you from Airbnb or they send you a text messages, UCA. On the same on the same place they’ve messaged you from BRBO, whatever they message you see in the same place we actually offer 24 7 customer support. So for example, if you’re a host and you don’t want to be the one doing the guest communication, we handle the entirety of the guest
Andrew: Oh, you’ll handle the chat with guests for me.
Luca: Yes. Inquiries, um, communications. Just just the accounting side of things. When you have multiple units spread out different buildings, there’s the thing is that hospitality. And here’s how I’m talking about both hotels and Airbnb. They’re all like, maybe like. maybe there are hundreds of solutions and you probably will need at least a good 20 to 30 to have this fully automated operation as a, as a host.
Um, and what we did is we kind of like you’re the best vendors or whatever. There wasn’t something where you build it. And we created a single system. So now as a host, you just need a single system.
Andrew: Cleaning service. That seems like a big one. You handle.
Luca: Uh, we don’t Do the cleanings, but we have a software that allows you to manage remotely manage cleaners. And this is becoming more and more of
Andrew: you mean by remotely managed cleaners?
Luca: Um, meaning that means, um, We for example, create, Uh, a unit like our 10, like they’re basically like custom codes, format specific, cleaner. And so, so for example, like, uh, there’s a guest just checked out automatically.
We send a notification to all your cleaners. One of them is going to grab the job. Um, when they go clean the units, they have that specific code. So they have to enter when they get in. And when they get out on top of that, they have to take photos specific. Did they have to match
Andrew: So this is everything that somebody who has multiple units would need in order to manage their properties. And when I look at it and say, this doesn’t seem that important, it may not be important if I’m thinking about one product and one, uh, one unit, but once you start getting into the dozen or more, it becomes really important.
And I get that. Okay. How much revenue you guys producing with the.
Luca: We are right now in terms of volume that we bring in where at. $12 million a year right now if we annualize it. Um, and then that to us, uh, we’re, we’re getting Close to a billion right now.
Andrew: Close to 2 million net to you in revenue, not profit.
Andrew: Got it. So the 12 million includes things like payments to the cleaning services. Is that what.
Luca: Uh, we, we basically, uh, when we calculate the volume is all the revenue we generate to, to all of,
Andrew: Oh, meaning how much money the landlords might be making from their units on Airbnb. Okay. I got it. All right. This whole thing started because you came to the U S from Italy when you were 21 years old and you didn’t know anyone and to meet people, you did what.
Luca: well, the first thing when I came here initially went to school. Uh, I came here to study and then, um, I realized that one of the best things I could’ve done to meet people was actually working in clubs. And one of the first things I did, I became, uh, my life promoter, uh, in LA you know, Hollywood clubs.
Andrew: How’d you get people to come to the clubs? I guess I get that. The clubs will say, look, you look good. If you could bring us good people. Sure. We’ll pay you per person. How’d you get the people to come in.
Luca: Yeah, this is funny actually, because I saw an opportunity as a good entrepreneur. I saw saw an opportunity and I jumped on it. Um, and so I, I did a certificate in.
marketing, uh, UCLA. And I realized that a lot of people, especially international students, um, and you know, people, UCLA comes from kind of like everywhere in the United States or outside of United States.
Many people didn’t know how to go into the Hollywood clubs. Um, and, and there was like one specific bar. There was like, you know, university bar and it was like, Maybe 500 people every, every weekend and going there are almost like every night, there were so many people going there. And so one of the things that I did at a time was not a guy who was also named Luca about, um, that had kind of joined me of this in this mission.
So at first we just, we’re just approaching people and say, Hey, do you want to go to a Hollywood cop? We saw that that was working. So one time we actually got a limousine. So we edited time was like $500. And for me seemed like this like crazy investment. I’m like, this is not going to work. I’m just going to lose a lot of money and this is going to be the best situation.
And we parked it in front of this, uh, uh, university, uh, bar. And then we went inside and we literally were asking. Every gore that was in there. If they wanted to go into like super schools, the club in Hollywood and that we had a table and everything was going to be for free. And we actually know that Lincoln was in With 50, uh, and 55 0.
Andrew: you could fit 50 people until limo.
Luca: Yeah. Like it was like a, this hammer hammer limo. And we went to Hollywood and we show up to the scalp in Hollywood, which was like our first night as a, with our own table and stuff. And, and from there, it’s kind of like people were like, who are these guys that they show up with this. 50 girls, nobody saw before and things just kind of started from there and we repeated that strategy multiple times And then eventually
Andrew: the club pays you because. To balance the male women ratio and that’s it. And so they pay you per person who you bring in, they even in that case gave you a table. Is that right?
Luca: Yeah, that’s correct. They were actually at one point start paying us a flat fee plus commissions on, on the, on the entire night or, or did you know how many tables we were selling as well? On top of it?
Andrew: now people see you, they want to get together with you. Are you taking phone numbers in your phone book? Is that what it is? Yeah.
Luca: Yeah, I was, I was taking, I had like four close to 4,000 contacts on all my phone.
Andrew: And how would you message them? Are you texting them?
Luca: Yeah, it. was, we’re sending this blast group, text messages and saying, Hey tonight, we’re going to be X, Y, Z. And that’s kind of like how everything started, you
Andrew: So you just meet people, you take their phone numbers. If they look like interesting people, they want to be invited to the next place that you go, you start sending mass messages to all of them saying, this is where we’re going to be tonight. You get paid. Got it. Did you get to meet anyone? Like, did you make good friends?
Did you get to date?
Luca: Well, yeah,
Andrew: You did.
Luca: all of the above in. Uh,
what’s interesting is actually the, that I built a lot of my network initially from there, you know, a lot of the clients that they were going in clubs, especially that had money, I would ask, like, what are you doing? How did you do it? And, um, and I think that was like, how. I think It was really, really cool because I got to learn a lot. And then, um, one thing led to another and, uh, at one point I had a client that was asking me for like a house to rent out a house because he wants to throw an event and I couldn’t find anything. This is, this is like now I think almost 11 years ago, uh, 10 years ago.
And, uh, I couldn’t find anything. And so I, I started looking around and somebody told me about this website called BRBO at a time. So this was the very beginning, you know, nobody people didn’t know much about VRVO
Andrew: fully, it was at the time known as vacation rental by owner, and now they, now they call themselves VRBO.
Luca: verbal. Yes. Yes. Yes. I, I realized that there was an opportunity, um, Because in LA, basically most of the things were still happening through brokers.
If you need it to thrive that home, and most people didn’t even listen to them on, on, on this website. I got in contact with this broker. And I saw that he had this crazy portfolio of homes and he wasn’t listening to them online. So I think I did that night. It was, I went home and I spend literally like 24 hours straight, which is like drinking coffee and build a landing page was called house rentals.com.
And I started running Google ad words on it. Cause promotion for me, like being a promoter was just like a geek to get things going and. I wasn’t really looking to, to be in that space forever. Um, and, and, uh, uh, that landing page on year one made $1.2 million in revenue.
Andrew: Because people would pay you to do what
Luca: So people will pay me, um, kind of, to be the broker in between me and finding a home, finding.
Andrew: for a party or an event.
Luca: so we were, so we were listing only luxury homes here in LA and people rent homes for, uh, events, um, uh, for weddings, for TV productions, uh, like vacations. So, so we kind of be known at one point for dislikes, super crazy luxury homes.
We ended up having lady Gaga as a client that we ended up, uh, having several celebrities, oxalates.
Andrew: did lady Gaga want from you?
Luca: Uh, well, she was renting a house, um, a house, I think at the time she, she lived, uh, uh, in New York and she didn’t own a house here in LA. And
so she needed a house like every, like three, four months when she would come here in LA for a month, at a time.
Andrew: so basically you were like a manual, uh, Airbnb for people.
Luca: for luxury homes. Yeah.
Andrew: And you, would you find individuals to list with you or did you just keep going to VRVO.
Luca: we, this was like old people that were not listed online. This is like word of
Andrew: some dude that would be willing to rent their rent, his place out. Maybe even get himself out and his family out before, before renting and then come back in. Got it. So this was like a, like a mini Airbnb.
Luca: It was a mini Airbnb.
uh, where I didn’t really think so much of scaling it at a time. And because I realized there was like a moment or a momentary thing, because I realized that platforms like Airbnb and booking.com do, would have eventually taken over the space. And so I molded that business into that our management company, and then from a medicine
Andrew: Well, before we get into the management company, I’m on internet archive. I see house rentals. Would it house rental, Los angeles.com. That’s a site. There are two Lucas on the bottom. They’re just Luca Zambello, which is you and Luca for your Fiorini. Who’s he?
Luca: Uh, he was my business partner when I was saying, you know, when we were doing the nightlife promotion. So we, we kind of got into, into the luxury home business together. And then we kind of like split split up eventually because he wants to kind of go back into the event productions and that, and then I continue with the, with the housing
Andrew: You got into real estate and then into real estate software. And that’s what brings us to where we are today. Let me take a moment. I’ll tell you about my first sponsor. Listen, Luca, if you decided back then that what you want to do was turn this into more of a software company. You just struggled, right?
Because you could put up a quick landing page. You could sell, you can find customers, but finding developers would have been hard, right?
Andrew: And then finding ones who have the experience to do what you need them to do expensive in addition to tough. Well, that’s where a lemon.io. My sponsor comes in. Lemon was created by a guy named Alexander who, because he was from Eastern Europe.
People kept saying to him, do you know any developers? And at first he said, you know what? I could do some money. I’ll find, I’ll find developers. I know people in Eastern Europe. So he’d go and find developers for people, make a little bit of a commission for making the introduction. And this thing just kept escalating because the people he draw to him were so good that they would get repeat business and then he’d get referrals.
And then this thing went from just a, like a little side thing to get a little bit of money into this professional operation that is now lemon.io. And if anyone out there needs to find developers. And wants to pay less than they would if they were buying, you know, if they were hiring them from the us or Western Europe, he’s got access to these developers in Eastern Europe.
He’s incredibly good at vetting them to make sure that they’re really good. He’s incredibly good at standing by them. He’s incredibly good at frankly, responding to his email. I’ve already made introductions to him and people have been happy. I’m going to tell you right now, if you are looking Luca to hire a developer, if you want to talk to them, I think this is a great time to have a conversation with them.
Luca: just said that
Andrew: these developers
Luca: I just send the link to my CTO.
Andrew: wait, send them this link. lemon.io/mixergy. When you use this last Mixergy at the end. Yes, I get credit, but also you’re going to get a discount and frankly it helps. I think to come through me so that everybody knows that this is a group of people that need to be taken care of because Andrew’s going to talk about them in, uh, in the ads.
So please let them know lemon.io/mixergy, and do your research on them. You’re going to see a lot of your friends. A lot of others in the tech space have been hiring from Alex because Alex was kind of a quiet, shy guy, I think. But online he’s just exploded because he decided that he is, um, Almost autistic and his inability to like hide things.
So he shares his revenue numbers and his growth and where he’s getting his business from and all that. And so that’s developed a little community around them. Anyway, lemon.io/mixergy, I should shut up about them and let them do their selling for themselves. I just want to make sure I introduce them to you.
All right. So Luca, how did you then transition from doing these luxury houses to where you are now? What was the next.
Luca: Yeah. So we, we realized that. At online broker, unless you venture money and you were at scale, it would have become impossible. Um, so, uh, we pivoted the business, thanks to that relationship with that we created with some of this owners to, to do, to become a full management company. Right. Um, so we’re like one of the first Airbnb management company, uh, especially out here in LA.
Um, and did that. For a bit, although that was not necessarily what I wanted to do. I always
Andrew: let’s pause on that for a minute, because that’s fascinating to me too. You’re saying that it seems like some of your clients were already starting to list themselves on Airbnb instead of fighting it and saying, wait, they should be listing with us. Let’s raise enough money and become like a luxury Airbnb.
You said, okay, we’ll accept that. That’s where they’re going. But we know that they need some services that we use to provide we’ll do that. And those services were with.
Luca: The services was, um, you know, making sure that the places are clean, uh, list them on this platform like Airbnb booking.com and Expedia. So getting expert, becoming experts in that and becoming experts in pricing, becoming experts in, in guest communication. Um, and managing the guests when they come to a place.
Right. So, so all of that, that, that, that is, um, you know, now there’s thousands, tens
Andrew: Uh, businesses that do this,
Andrew: but, um, so what are some of the things that you learned back then about pricing? How would you figure out what to price? What are some of the tricks that you could teach us for listing and doing well on.
Luca: Yeah, so, well now there’s a multiple, multiple pricing software. Um, and, uh,
Andrew: the good sites for that?
Luca: for, well, we work with Wheelhouse.
Um, we have a direct integration. We will house, um, There’s there’s otters like, um, out there, but I think from our experience, they’re kind of like the best in the, in the business right now. Um, and the reason why you want to have a pricing tool is because it will give you the specs, the correct instruments to allow you to have a dynamic pricing.
What that means is like you set a base price and you set a minimum price, but then there’s going to be an algorithm. Basically 24 7 ever been, It looks at everything that is listed on the market. What if it’s Airbnb, you can call them whatever OTA and based on their Octopussy and what they’re priced app based on your, on, on the comps of off your Airbnb, it’s going to automatically kind of decide a price for you.
Andrew: It will keep changing the price on my Airbnb units. Interesting in real time. So I might wake up one morning and see that the price is $250 a night, but because there’s suddenly a shortage of property, it might jump up to $400. Uh, and you know what? I could see that happening. Say we were just in Denver and in Boulder, there were these huge fires.
I think a thousand houses were burned down. It was really sad to watch, but I can understand also that that meant that a lot of people are going into air B and BS. If somebody listed their price for what we paid for, which was what, two 50 a night, 300 a night to have it automatically. Jump up would make a lot of sense.
Otherwise you’re underpricing. Wow. Okay. And all that happens because it’s used wheelhouse.com and you just plug into that and wheelhouse automatically adjusted, adjust price through your software.
Luca: Yeah, exactly. And we have a direct integration. So like any, uh, customer that will be on our platform will be on wheelhouse without knowing that there are on, on, on, on wheelhouse. Um, and that’s the whole idea of our system is just to unify and select the best vendors so that you have a single system and you don’t have to know how the thing works necessarily.
And a lot of things that run for you. Um, but yeah, that’s the idea of hairlines have done this for, for a very long time and, uh, hotels were doing it. and, And um,
Andrew: And now Airbnb does. I had no idea that existed. Give me another tool like that.
Luca: Um, let’s see, uh, top of my head. Uh, well, I mean, well, like I was saying before, the, the tool that automatically creates the guests. The guests codes. That’s, that’s like something that, you know, if you think about it, if you have even 10 properties and you’ll have potential in a weekend up to, you know, 20 guests, just the fact that you can just automatically generate codes and you don’t have to physically go and change the lock codes, or it may not.
Andrew: I think they’re pretty lazy about it and they don’t, most, most of these properties don’t change the code and it is kind
Luca: Exactly. And it’s kind of
Andrew: in. Yeah. Um,
Luca: And that’s out of the thing as a guest, being on a journey, for example, utilizing journeying up, it’s a very safe environment for our guests because you know that the units are run by professional hopes. Um, every unit is going to use the code verification. If you’re a non multiunit setting, we actually have guests auction, guests verification.
They have to be compliant to whatever hotel laws are out there. So, you know, that everybody that goes into those units are verified. So you don’t have random people that they go in without any type of verification. So that’s the advantage from a guest on point aside from all the old touchless experience and the instant DOCSIS, um, features that we give you.
Andrew: Okay, let’s continue them with your story. You’ve decided you’re going to manage people’s property. Why didn’t you from there, go into, into buying your own properties and listing it. You see that there’s money to be made there. You’re helping these guys make money.
Luca: Yeah, it’s very interesting that You said that because it is something that I consider. Um, and, and I need, if I would’ve just followed the money, that’s probably what I would have gone. Um, but you know, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself and be honest with yourself and say like, what is, what is that I really want to do? And what am I passionate about? And the reason why I moved through your ass it’s because of company like YouTube of, uh, companies like Google, where companies are, you know, are basically that the tech company dream, right.
Andrew: You want to be a tech company? You did not want to be in the services space. You didn’t want to be in the real estate business. You didn’t want to be in Hollywood. It had to be software like these people who got you fired up when you were watching the internet from a distance,
Luca: A hundred percent
Andrew: what’s that thing behind you.
There’s a trophy behind you. It looks like I can’t make.
Luca: oh, no, it was just the other car that my wife would
Andrew: Okay. I thought maybe that was some kind of a like Techstars or something connection. It isn’t. Okay. So you said I need to be a software company and here you are doing management, even though you made good money from it, it wasn’t enough for you. And so you started working towards the transition to software.
And one of the things that you told our producer that you wanted to do. Do the work yourself, see what goes into, into managing these properties. And then once you understand, turn that into software.
Andrew: Talk to me about how deliberate you were. How’d you do this?
Luca: We we built an operation that was running almost 200 units under management first.
Luca: And then.
Andrew: guests sometimes short-term stay for weekends. Sometimes long-term like it. Lady Gaga needs a place to live.
Luca: Uh, well, that was like our first business and luxury homes. We then shifted into managing right. More places like, um, apartments and regular BnBs. Right. Like, and, and our main focus was short-term stays like, so we only went into markets. We actually left LA because LA was one of the markets. No short-term saves anymore.
And so we went to Dallas, we went to Nashville, um, uh, All CDs that allowed, uh, short-term stays and allow them legally. Cause that was step one. You don’t want to, obviously we want to build a legit business. And so we went to markets that allow us to do that. And then, um, we start piece by piece, develop, automating a lot of the processes that necessary for you to be an operator.
And there’s millions of processes
Andrew: Give me some of that early days. Let me take me back to the beginning.
Luca: Um, the early days was when we were managing this homes for, for like someone who’s owners in LA. And we start seeing the CD cracking things down and we were like, okay. I don’t think there’s going to be a future for us here in LA. So we need to figure something out. So, first thing I did, it was to fly to, we looked at this, there’s like this tool’s called air DNA, and it’s a tool that allows you to see what are our BnBs are making around the world, which is pretty cool, actually.
Andrew: I’ve seen people who want to buy Airbnbs or buy properties and list them on Airbnb. They use that to understand what a property is worth, what they could sell at different times of the year. I remember going through it and not realizing until I went through that site. That, um, how big the Salesforce conference was for.
For property prices, like suddenly the week of the Salesforce conference, every Airbnb would, would shoot up according to rDNA.
Andrew: Okay. So you were looking there and saying where’s their money to be made.
Luca: Exactly. And, um, and we picked, uh, Dallas and Nashville as emerging markets. Um, thanks to that tool. And, uh, we flew there, start meeting owners and eventually, somehow convinced some people to give us their properties. And what we realized as well is that we shifted from single family homes to multi-families and the reason why I want to go to multi-family because we said it’s a lot more scalable.
Um, But the idea was to do that, to then start building all the automations around it, but it’s expensive to do that. So one of the things we had to do is like at the same time, we’ve got the first 50 properties. And then after that we have to go raise money. So we went and at the same time, start looking for, to raise money and, uh, and we were able to raise our first seed round, uh, for 1.7, $5 million.
That was our first round.
Andrew: With the idea that you would create software or based on what you were doing at the time.
Luca: So we have a little bit of software when we went there, it was like very bare, bare minimum and kind of like show, uh, I still remember today that beach, like going to these investors, like look our ideas to put all this properties in the app so you can instantly book them. Um, and, and, uh, and we found someone that was, I guess, crazy enough to believe, uh, in our crazy idea.
Andrew: But, you know what? So here’s the thing that I, I don’t understand that when I went to journey, the site seems to say, this is software to help you rent and manage your property. Are people really looking to have their own software to rent their properties? Aren’t they expecting that all the rentals will come from the major booking platforms like Airbnb, like Expedia’s product.
Luca: So we, but actually like if you’re listening on our app, um, sometimes even up to 20% of your revenue may come from our app directly
Andrew: Well, people are using your app to book.
Luca: And the reason is, is because. It’s a collection of right now as a small collection, our goal is to make it a very large collection or what we call it.
instantly accessible units. So what it means is think about this as a host, you booked many Airbnb. So, you know, probably exactly what I’m talking about. There is inconsistent. In any OTA that you’re using, there’s massive inconsistency in multiple different things. One it’s safety, two it’s accessibility. You don’t know how to get in, like must. It may be okay, how you get in, but it’s not the same experience. You having a different experience every time and maybe a lock box and maybe an electric lock.
You don’t know that, um, payment processing it’s okay. It’s okay. Experience, but it’s not this instant experience. And then accessing the new information. It’s not always on the same order. So for us, our goal was to allow a guest to. Potentially being a CVO right now. Like you’re hopping from Airbnb to Airbnb in Austin, right?
Let’s say tomorrow, you want to find a different Airbnb. If we were in Austin, which we’re aren’t, you we’ll pull up the Germany app and be like, okay, which location do I want to go to the location? You double click apple pay. And you, your payment is done. And then the second year payment is done. If you’re selecting the check-in for that day, you can check in immediately on that property without having to talk to anyone.
And you can preset your room temperature before getting in. And you know, that it’s run by a professional host. You know, the place is going to be clean. You know, the place is going to be professionally run and you know that your experience with the technology. Side of things is always going to be consistent.
Andrew: Got it. You know what it is problematic that there’s an inconsistent experience with, with all these different places that you don’t know what you’re going to get until you get in the place. And I, I can understand that. All right. And truthfully, for a long time, I just used nothing but Airbnb. And then once you start to really care, you look at different places.
I also understand that I could talk to the owners a little bit before getting in there. I can make sure that the internet is solid. Every part of the, every part of the house. I think we even asked this place to put a desk in for us since we’re going to be here for a little bit. Right. And so you realize that you could be a little more discerning and spend more time.
Okay. So your entry in is doing the work. Your end goal is to have software that just manages everything. Take me just one more part of the, of the history here. Before you had the software up to speed. What were you using? We’re using a sauna. We’re using something else to manage. Talk to me about the early days of software before.
Luca: Yeah. Um, we used our parts of software, right? Like, Um,
I say 90% of professional home run hotels or Airbnbs use something called PMs it’s property management software. Um, what that allows you to do it allows us to do some of the functionality of what, what I was mentioning to you like a unified inbox or ability to list in multiple different platforms, but it, and then it allows you. To create not perfect, but connections with third party auditor party vendors, like it could be the wheelhouse of the situation. Like it could be, eh, a guest verification app, right. But all of this is spread out. All disconnection are not seamless. And that means that you have to pay multiple vendors. And he says they’re complicated system.
And very likely it doesn’t work very well together.
Luca: Constantly sedation, is you my opinion? Who’s going to be one of the biggest, um, one of the biggest businesses in multiple industries, it’s going to happen. It’s happening with us in hospitality, but it’s happening in logistics. It’s happening across the board with multiple different things, because think about it.
Even when you’re using your computer, you have. So many tools now, right? You have your center, you have your slack, you have your zoom, you have your, a Google hangout, your calendar, and it’s, everything is kind of like spread out. And, and if you think about it, the more things are spread out, the less efficient they are and the best they work together.
Yes. You have some integration, but this integration will always work well together. So consolidation is a big thing. And from a business to business side, the biggest thing we’re doing is constantly dating. A lot of this aspect and then making it a lot more affordable because now one is consolidate, you’ve got access to economy of scale and you don’t have to pay 50 vendors, a lot of your revenue.
Andrew: All right, I’m going to talk about my first step. My second sponsor. You did not know lemon, and I love that you sent that over to your CTO. You do know Gusto. I known Gusto before I. I signed up this year. And the reason that I signed up this year is I needed an easy way to pay people who are 10 99. I need an easy way for them to see how much they were getting paid.
And I keep using the word easy for a reason. I’ve used other software that has a big feature list. It is a pain in the butt. I don’t want to ever have to fumble around to do this because if I have to fumble in my case, Luca, it’s me paying people. If they’re, if they’re submitting a bill and saying here’s how much I need to get paid for the work I did for you last month.
I’m the one who goes and pays them because they’re there doing the work for me. And if I have any bit of hesitation, what I end up doing is saying, all right, I’ll handle it later when I’m on my computer. And I don’t want to do that. I want them to get paid as fast as possible. It’s not like I’m making money on the interest for them.
Right. Meanwhile, they’re sitting and waiting. And so I want these for me. I want these for them so that they go. Did Andrew pay what’s the situation here with it. And I want that to be true for both a 10 90 nines and W2 people. You guys use Gusto,
Andrew: but you’re at a point now where you’re not directly involved in paying on Gusto.
Luca: that’s true.
Andrew: How many people working at the company?
Luca: I just know that my team is,
Andrew: How many people work at a journey right now?
Luca: uh, 35.
Andrew: 35. Okay. So someone else is doing it. Do you, do you get paid a salary? Do you go into Gusto to go see whether you got paid this month or, or where the money’s going?
Luca: I just got a nosy five. I’m getting paid from Gusto and that’s it. That’s All I know.
Andrew: listen up. If you want to be like so many of the other guests that I’ve interviewed here, you should go to Gusto right now started the year is a great time to switch to a payroll provider. Don’t worry if you paid with another provider, they will understand fact, the first question is, have you paid this year with another provider?
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You’ll get certified HR professionals. There are time-tracking hiring and onboarding so much more, but ease, ease. Ease is what I want you to understand for you and for your. And if you use my URL, I’ll get credit and you’ll get free time with their software. Go to gusto.com/mixergy. Right now you should.
And your people should love your payroll provider. All right. Raising money. How hard was it?
Luca: Um, I mean, it’s hard, but what’s What is it in a business?
Andrew: What was it like for you? How, how hard was it? I saw that you raised money from a company that intentionally says that they want people outside of Silicon valley, right?
Luca: Yeah. Yeah. We released the last round, um, nine and a half million dollar, uh, around, um, that was, uh, that was with them. And the reason why they won’t invest outside of Silicon valley, because there’s a lot of great entrepreneurs out there and, um,
Andrew: This is mucker lab, right? And so was it tough for you to get in front of them? It feels like LA has a really good community for, for raising money for thinking through where revenue is. Am I right?
Luca: Yeah, I think alongside with Austin, I think there are probably the best two places outside of, um, outside of Silicon valley right now, um, to raise money and meet our entrepreneurs and other startups. So I think it’s, um, it’s a great place to be. Um, you know, I’m, I’m grateful I was here and, um, uh, most, most of our investors actually LA based, um,
Andrew: So tell me, like, tell me about the process. What was hard about it?
Luca: Well there’s different stages, right? Like, so the first round that was hard because you really have very little. Uh, and so the has to, somebody has to believe in where you’re, what you’re saying, where you’re doing the, you don’t have a real track record. So that’s, that’s, that’s definitely hard. So you have to have your story straight and show like a very, uh, very, uh, compelling, uh, have a very compelling argument and show a very strong plan on how you’re going to go to your final vision.
Um, so that was, was the hard part. The first time. Like everything is just a matter of like putting yourself out there and just talking to as many people as you can talk to. Luckily in LA. There are like a lot of, uh, networking events, like, like, like speed dating, uh, events, uh, like, you know, founders, meeting investors and stuff like that.
And that’s actually where we found our first investor or copy of venture capital, uh it’s um, expert dojo. Um, it’s a. Um, they have an accelerator program now as well. Um, and the we’re doing a lot of these events probably still do. And that’s where we met the first investor, which kind of opened up the doors for the others.
Um, and then the second investment that we had to get, um, you know, that we raised the nine and a half million dollar one, which should we call it like a C plus we didn’t want to call it a series a, you know, it’s like becoming bigger and bigger. So they’re more, they’re more like, almost like B and C of, uh, of like 10 years ago.
Andrew: It’s hard. It’s still, it’s hard to call a $9 million, uh, raise a seed investment. Okay.
Luca: Uh, and, um, the second one was, uh, was really getting, especially because we Did it on lock in the middle of the pandemic pathology industry. So that was what was hard, right? Like we got traction. Our business was like actually going, if you put things in context and we were killing it, um, It’s hard to put things in context when you, you know, when, uh, everybody’s booked out by dynamic and what is hospitality is going to be,
Andrew: Did it hurts your business too, right? That at one point it looked like nobody was going to be traveling at all. Right. Brian from Airbnb basically cut everything to the bone, expecting that his whole business was going to fall apart for a couple of years. And then things turned up for you internally.
Take me to that scary point.
Luca: I actually did. So I’m a contrarian I’m, uh, uh, I, I believe in falling, oftentimes you’ve got feelings on things and one of the things we did in that moment, when everybody was cutting down budgets, we actually just kept, we put pedal to the metal. That’s how they say,
Andrew: You weren’t afraid.
Luca: No. I thought that this was going to be something that maybe it wasn’t going to be here to stay, But it, but eventually traveled would have started again because otherwise entire economy ward economy would have collapsed.
So I said,
Andrew: even if travel comes back again, there too, it could have been two years where it was suffering. If you think about like past wars after nine 11, it took a while. And then the government had to rescue company. Right. Marriott looked like they needed government rescuing. The airlines definitely looked like they needed government rescuing.
Luca was not going to get any government rescuing. So even if you were right in the long-term, why do you think you could survive the short term?
Luca: we sat unless every single hotel was gonna shut down, there’s going to be some level of travel and contactless experience. If anything was going to be at a high demand. We got a crazy amount of requests from motels, not right away, but I felt that that was going to come, right, like after a month or two of this pandemic where people are going to start looking for a solution. I said, if everybody stops expanding and we are the only one going out there and going strong to the sec on that peoples are going to start looking for solutions.
We’re going to be there. That’s exactly What happened. Um, so it was a risky bat. But it definitely paid off.
Andrew: What do you do to get customers? Do you make phone calls? Is it all online?
Luca: yeah. Um, right now, We’re starting to become known in this space. Uh, so we, we’re getting a lot of, um, a lot of people hearing about us seeing our app, uh, out there, um, seeing our video of like, you know, how easy it is to access the units and all of that. Um, and so we have, um, different customers reaching out to us.
We do, we do cold outreach, um, as well. We have a very interesting way of doing it. It’s been working out pretty well. We, um, we run surveys, paid surveys, actually to figure out what people’s needs are. And, um, based on that, it allows us to really target people that have exact problems that we can solve.
Andrew: Wait, how are you who you paying to do the surveys?
Luca: Oh, there’s a tour company that were, they were using, um, that, um, that that’ll help us to do that.
Andrew: And what they do is they find people who have multiple properties and then they ask them questions and then based on their needs, you get to follow up and, and do a sales call.
Luca: Exactly. We ask them if they’re interested on having someone reaching out to them, if we, we work to fix those problems and then based on their answer, we reach out or we don’t. And so that’s, that’s been working well for us. And then trade shows. I say like,
Andrew: They’re trade shows for people who own multiple Airbnb units.
Andrew: What are some of them?
Luca: Uh VRMA is one of the largest organization. Um,
Andrew: Vacation rental management association. This is an association of people who have multiple properties. Okay.
Luca: yes. And then, um, and then we also go to hotel conferences, independent or boutique hotel conferences, um, and. And that’s, um, th those are kind of like good sources of, um, you know, for us, it’s about getting out there and telling people what we do, because they’re out of the, is if there’s a lot of people that need exactly what we do.
So it’s, it’s just about spreading the word as much as we can. And then we do, You know, Google ad words and, um, some of the retargeting and some LinkedIn ads. Some Facebook ads as well. So that, that social being, being helpful, but we kind of be an underwriter, like a deal, uh, three months ago, we were basically like almost doing none of that.
Andrew: You guys raised a bunch of money and I hadn’t heard of you until I got an opportunity to do this interview. And I’m looking at, I’m looking at your traffic on SEMrush. I don’t think you guys kicked off until somewhere around may of 2021.
Andrew: Right. What what’d you start to do is that after a raise or something?
Luca: Uh, we did raise money around the exact that time. Yes. So I think, I think a lot of people heard of us from that race and then, uh, We purposely want it to be under the radar because I think we, we found, I think a unique opportunity in the market and we’ll B to B side where we didn’t want other people to necessarily know.
So we were like more like, uh, having a sniper approach, uh, for customer, if that makes sense. And then now we kind of are going out there and, you know, in the past 90 days we actually doubled the size of the company.
Andrew: Does it bother you? Is it a challenge that your company has spelled journey? J U R.
Luca: No, actually, they love it because it speaks to how, um, speaks to our efficiency. Uh,
Andrew: Okay, but what about from people spelling? Like if I heard journey whenever it’s, so it’s a straight up word. It’s hard enough to go search for someone because journey is just such a common word, but then if I have to spell it right too, I have multiple opportunities to miss you. If somebody tells me about you.
Luca: Yeah. I mean, I guess the price to pay for a, what we feel like it’s a cool name. It’s Okay. I think eventually people will know. And, uh, you know, if they see our name out there on how it’s spelled Howard logo, um, then they know based on that, um, it’s, it’s been relatively an issue. Like not an issue as far as I know.
Andrew: Okay. Yeah. And it looks like, um, I see, I see articles now being written about you. So it looks like you guys have got good press people. Now there’s a Forbes article about how, um, hotels are cutting back and in it, there’s someone at your company, the director of operations, Louis, I guess saying daily.
Housekeeping is essentially defunct. Now, even before COVID, there was a noticeable trend down, but. You are part of this new experience of less being provided by hotels, but at the same time, how do you still make it feel like a luxurious experience? And that’s what you’re tapping into this. We’re all talking about how there’s less, there are fewer services you’re saying, yes, we’re here to stand up and say, that’s true.
And at the same time, here’s where, um, we’re still offering luxury without the people.
Luca: A hundred percent and technology is what it’s, it’s the only thing, in my opinion, that can compensate for that. Um,
because technology allows you to have an elevated experience, um, with less people, we allow you to have a virtual front desk, 24 7, anywhere you are, um, So maybe you have less.
Andrew: where you, where you’re willing to do the calls and the text messages on behalf of your clients. I’ve met people who do these types of Airbnbs. They seem to love being contacted on a regular basis. I don’t understand why that would be my nightmare, but, uh, if you can outsource it so much better.
All right, Luca, the website is journey. So now next time I want to travel somewhere. Should I just go download the journey app directly and try to experience you directly?
Luca: A hundred percent let us know.
Andrew: right. I’ll give it a shot.
Luca: We’ll give you a
Andrew: out there whose who owns multiple properties? Definitely gotta be checking you out.
Thanks so much for being.
Luca: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Andrew: And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first, if you have people working for you, full-time employees or contractors or whatever, go to there’s. No, whatever. Go to gusto.com/mixergy. And of course, when you need to hire developers, go to lemon.io/mixergy, grateful to them and to you, Luca.
Thanks. Bye everyone.