Startups #nofilter had the great pleasure to sit down with Assaf Karmon, CEO and Founder of TurnoverBnB, which offers AirBnB hosts free software to automate their turnover. TurnoverBnB helps notify existing cleaners when there is turnover, which is a massive help for any renter.
Read the interview below to learn about this space, exciting new things in TurnoverBnB’s future, and some other interesting tidbits:
1. How did the idea for TurnoverBnB start?
Like many startups, TurnoverBnB was born out of business school. I have a background in Software Engineering and had been working for several startups before doing my MBA. So, when a fellow classmate expressed interest in doing a startup, we started brainstorming.
TurnoverBnB was actually a pivot from another idea we tried for a micro-cleaning service. The gist of the micro-cleaning service was a cleaner would visit your house daily for about 15-30 minutes to tidy up the place. We tried it for a few months here in Honolulu, but ultimately our customers were more interested in the typical once-a-week cleaning. I think the idea still has some merit, but we weren’t able to execute on it.
During our micro-cleaning service, we kept getting requests for vacation rental cleaning. Since my partner and I both had hosting experience on Airbnb, it was a natural pivot to investigate a vacation rental cleaning marketplace model.
2. How do you make money from TurnoverBnB?
We offer a freemium model with optional paid features. Our free features essentially allow a vacation rental host (someone who rents out a property on Airbnb, HomeAway, or similar) to automate their turnovers. A turnover is the act of preparing a property in between guests.
So, for free, a vacation rental host can upload their rental calendars and our app will automatically alert their existing cleaners of upcoming projects. We also give cleaners a mobile app, which allows them to view project details, accept/reject projects, follow checklists, and upload photos of any damage from guests – all for free.
The premium part of TurnoverBnB is access to our cleaner marketplace. So, let’s say a host in Denver has been using our software with their existing cleaners for free. If they need a new cleaner or a backup cleaner, they can find a new cleaner on our database who has been reviewed by other hosts. For this service, we charge a 5% service fee to both host and cleaner for each turnover.
We also have an additional premium feature that allows hosts to pay their existing cleaners automatically using a credit card. When a cleaner marks a project as complete, funds would be transferred automatically to the cleaner typically within 48 hours. Our premium features are currently only available in the U.S., but we’re looking to expand to Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand soon.
3. Let’s talk about clientele. What are your customers like?
The hosts on our system vary greatly. We have hosts on our system with one property, but also have property managers with 30+ properties using many different booking platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway (VRBO), TripAdvisor, Vacasa, Flipkey, and others. Since our free software is available everywhere, we have hosts all over the world using it. The professional cleaners on our system vary quite a bit too from independent cleaners to large cleaning companies.
4. What are your most popular features?
Since we only launched our premium marketplace feature in October, most users on TurnoverBnB are using our free stuff – but our marketplace is gaining traction too. For our free features, the cleaners really love the mobile app, which allows them accept/reject projects, view project details, and upload photos of damage (from guests) on their phones. The cleaners also have a complete button when they finish, which alerts hosts when their property is ready for guests.
5. You are based in Hawaii – what is it like to run a tech company in Hawaii?
I think the biggest advantage to working in Hawaii is that our idea is very applicable here. We were able to speak with a lot of great people in the local vacation rental community that helped shape our idea. Having said that, 99% of hosts using our system are located outside the Aloha State.
From a practicality standpoint, I think one of the biggest challenges to working in Hawaii is the time zone difference between us and the U.S. mainland. When we wake up in the morning, it’s already past noon on the East Coast and we usually have a handful of emails from users to respond to. While most of emails are usually not time sensitive, I still feel bad from a service perspective making our users wait for a response. In the near future we are going to hire a service representative in the east coast to help with that.
6. Let’s shift toward startup funding. How are you funded thus far?
Up through now, we’ve been 100% self-funded, but we’re beginning to look for seed-money to help grow our marketplace. There is a local angel-investing group that’s relatively active investing in tech startups, but the pool of investment money is much smaller in Hawaii than on the mainland, which is another disadvantage to starting a tech company here. If you know any accredited investors, make sure to tell them about us 😉
7. What is the most exciting thing you have planned for TurnoverBnB?
When we started this project, we thought that creating this scheduling software wouldn’t be overly difficult. In truth, the programming hasn’t been overly challenging, but what we didn’t anticipate was the degree of nuance involved to accommodate most hosts’ scheduling habits. By now, most hosts are happy with our software, but we still get requests for new features quite frequently. One of our cooler features that we’re rolling out soon include an in-app messaging system that will allow hosts and cleaners to message each other about specific projects. We’re also working on a feature that will allow cleaners to request money from the host for supplies they picked up for a rental unit.
8. Speaking about the future, do you plan to accept bitcoin? Or a bitcoin alternative?
One of our next challenges will be expanding beyond the U.S., which will involve setting up legal entities wherever we go. I think a company could possibly skirt with not registering in a foreign country by accepting a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin (or god forbid Dogecoin). Ultimately though, we must pay cleaners and I don’t think most cleaners would be willing to accept bitcoins as payment – so probably not.
9. For fun: What website do you go to check when your internet isn’t working?
I usually go to my Gmail account first, so if that’s not working, I’ll type in CNN to see if something pops up. Probably not the best source for news, but it’s super quick to type.
10. For fun: Any advice for Startup #nofilter?
Keep doing a great job telling the stories behind startups, It takes so much work to get a startup going and it is always interesting to see how other people do it. It would be interesting to have a discussion with founders a year or two after the first interview to see how are they doing.