With a small team and high-speed wi-fi access, your startup can work from almost anywhere in the world. Here’s how we used Airbnb to cover most of the costs of an eight-week San Francisco trip for our eight Copenhagen-based employees—and how you can do it too.
1. Set up your listing
We were headed to San Francisco to get in touch with early app adopters, network with other entrepreneurs, meet industry journalists, and, most importantly, escape the dark, cold Danish winter.
We had to raise $24,000—$17,000 for an Airbnb workspace and accommodations, and $7,000 for flights. That was our funding goal.
The next step was to list our apartments in Copenhagen on Airbnb. We agreed that all revenue would be put into a shared pot to cover the trip.
2. Get professional photography
Airbnb claims that having the Verified Photo ribbon on your listing’s photos significantly increases your bookings. It does. Definitely take advantage of their photography service.
3. Work out what makes your space different, and price accordingly
We realized that our founders’ apartment was one of the few in Copenhagen large enough to sleep 10 people. So we did our research and set the price below the other options available in that category to ensure we got the most booking requests: $199 per night. It’s simple—spend some time researching the competition. It will pay off.
4. Complete your profile thoroughly
Follow Airbnb’s guidelines and fill out EVERYTHING. This means your apartment description, your personal profile, and your guidebook. It’s tempting to cut corners, but this is time well spent and will save you a lot of question-answering later.
5. Ask your friends to write references
If you’re new to Airbnb, you’ll have no reviews. Instead, get your friends to write a few words about how kind and responsible you are. This gives potential guests peace of mind and will improve your visibility. Once you start receiving guests, ask them all to write reviews.
6. Always respond to requests straight away
You have to act fast to secure bookings on Airbnb. Prompt communication is key to securing bookings, so download the Airbnb mobile app and get notified right away every time a potential guest contacts you.
7. Employ a person on the ground
When your guests arrive, you’re going to be away with your team. So, you’re going to need an Airbnb liaison to welcome your guests, hand over keys, explain where things are and how things work, receive keys, clean up, and prepare for the next set of guests.
You’ll need to find someone you can trust, and you should pay them. We asked a friend (who happens to own a cleaning company) to be our Airbnb liaison, and paid her per booking. You really have to trust this person, and it’s super important that your communication is extremely good. I told all guests at time of booking that I would be using a friend to take care of them whilst I was away—it’s important they know how things are going to work right from the beginning.
I could go on, but you’re better off looking for answers to most of your questions in Airbnb’s ”How can I create a good listing” pages.
So, how did we do?
We’re now midway through our stay in San Francisco. To date, we’ve earned about $15,000 while away. There are still a couple of weekends where the apartment is available, so we’re hoping to generate a little more income to edge nearer to our goal
Already, within the short time we’ve been here, we’ve learned things about our product from other, more experienced entrepreneurs that we never could have at home in Denmark. We’ve networked and attended events almost every day since arriving, and most importantly, we’ve tested our product on the “early adopters” that are nothing but a distant dream when you’re sitting in your Copenhagen office.
The main chunk of our deficit came as a result of us not being able to find a company to temporarily rent our office in Copenhagen. And yes, we do take this very seriously. We tried everything: estate agents, our local startup network, freelancers, and co-working websites such as Good Co-Working and Deskmag. The problem we encountered was that our large space was too expensive for most freelancers, and that any company who could afford it didn’t want the space on such a short lease.
This got me to thinking—why isn’t there an Office Swap website out there? Wouldn’t it be cool if startup companies around the world could connect, and exchange offices for a couple of months at a time. Someone should make that site, or maybe someone already did? I’d love to learn more about this.
You can do this!
As small, agile startups, our flexibility puts us in a privileged position that we absolutely should take advantage of. The world really is our oyster. Our experience has already provided us with professional and personal experience that you really can’t put a price tag on. We’re productive, happy and more motivated than ever to build a product that kicks some serious ass.
Decide where you want to go, make Airbnb your friend, and take the leap!