Onefinestay offers its customers the opportunity to stay in an 'unhotel', someone else's house or apartment when they're out of town. It currently offers a number of properties in central locations in London.
I've been asking the company about how the concept works, the challenges involved, and plans for future expansion...
In one sentence, what is onefinestay?
Onefinestay is a new service that lets visitors to London stay in a beautiful real home while the owner is out of town, while enjoying all the convenience and comfort of a hotel.
What problems does onefinestay solve?
We are creating more accommodation in an overcrowded city, but using the resources we already have: people’s homes.
Instead of building more hotels on space that doesn’t exist, we are solving the demand for accommodation in an urban setting, while also offering an amazing new insight into London for those who are looking for a more distinctive way to experience the city.
For people who are often away from their homes, we provide a means for them to earn an extra income from their greatest asset, and by taking care of our members’ homes while they’re away, we help provide peace of mind.
When and why did you launch it?
Greg Marsh first had the idea for onefinestay after he returned from a holiday in Italy. He got together with two other serial entrepreneurs at the start of 2009, and they founded the business in September that year.
The company’s mission: to change city travel forever, to revolutionise the way that homeowners think about their empty homes, and to welcome visitors to the best parts of the cities where we live.
Who is your target audience?
Our guests are affluent, sophisticated travellers who can afford a boutique hotel, but seek a more unique experience, and the distinctiveness of a real home.
We appeal particularly to regular business travellers to London, professional couples seeking a unique way to experience the city, or for families with children. Our hosts are owners of distinctive central properties who spend time away from town for work or leisure.
What are your immediate goals?
We are growing rapidly, more than 1000% in just the first six months of this year, and want to continue to increase the number of onefinestay members in London.
To that end, we have invested in an operations infrastructure which grows as we do. The feedback from our guests to date has been extremely positive, while it’s the positive experiences of our host members which is responsible for most of our growth through new referrals.
We believe that if we can continue to get things right in London, and scale our operation here, we can quickly expand to other major world cities.
What were the biggest challenges involved in building onefinestay?
The operations infrastructure to support the servicing of a huge variety of homes spread out across the centre of a large city like London requires process engineering and bespoke IT systems.
We have invested a lot in this problem already, and believe we have a number of proprietary insights.
Are you releasing a mobile version soon?
We lend all guests an iPhone while they stay with us, which includes a onefinestay app and features recommendations and tips from the home owners.
How will the company make money?
Guests pay to stay in the distinctive homes of onefinestay members.
Who is in the team and what does it look like?
Onefinestay was founded by Greg Marsh, Demetrios Zoppos and Tim Davey, three serial entrepreneurs with property management, logistics, investment and technology experience.
Over the last 12 months the company has hired outstanding executives with luxury hotel, software development, consulting and operations expertise. The onefinestay team has grown rapidly since the service first launched in May last year, and now numbers more than 50 people.
Where would you like to be in one, three and five year’s time?
We have started in London, and within a year hope to have launched in a second global capital.
We want to see a onefinestay ‘unhotel’ in every major world city, and we are confident that our members, owners of distinctive and beautiful homes in the centre of those cities, will increasingly value their onefinestay membership as an intrinsic part of their global nomad lives, enjoying the comforts and character of home in every major capital they visit for work or pleasure.