Airbnb For One-Percenters?
Lifestyles of the rich and famous – now a mouse click away.
Meet Luxury Retreats, an Airbnb like service except for very wealthy people looking for very luxurious — and highly specialized — travel experiences.
Founded by a 17-year-old high school student in 1999 when the company was called CaribbeanWay. That firm, unlikely as it sounds, was at over $1 million in sales from renting out villas (and the occasional private island) all over the Caribbean, Florida and Mexico.”
And while Poulin doesn’t mind the comparison to Airbnb (arguably the sharing economies second most visible player after Uber), it does seem worth noting that Luxury Retreats is actually its seasoned veteran.
And, Poulin notes, a fundamentally different service.
“You can’t just load a property and go. Our peel off is that we have a little more control. It’s not fully peer-to-peer because we certify all properties,”Poulin told TechCrunch.
So how exactly does Luxury Retreats work?
On the basic level - it bears some resemblance to Airbnb - albeit for “One-Percenters” as opposed to bargain hunters. The Luxury Retreats platform offers users the ability to rent 2,800 homes in 90 locations spread throughout Europe, North America and the tropics. Poulin noted the firm is currently focused on New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Paris, as all of those markets are “going crazy.” Rentals on average go for $1,500 to $2,500 per night — though the platform offers high profile properties which rent for considerably more.
For example, a night at Francis Ford Coppola’s nine-bedroom, nine-bathroom Palazzo Margherita in Puglia, Italy, will run a renter ~$10K per night, while a night at Richard Branson’s Necker Island costs a cool $78K.
“The sharing economy has exploded in popularity and we see a big opportunity in delivering predictability and consistency to our guests,” Poulin says. “Which is why our focus is on acting as a concierge service for all of our guests.”
On the basic level, that refers to the no “post and go” policy Poulin alluded to earlier. Luxury Retreats individually certifies each property on its platform as up to snuff before they go on offer. But beyond that, Luxury Retreats is in the business of providing guests with whatever they need, whenever they need it, during their stay.
That "whatever" could mean wine requests, speciality menus, yacht rental — the things one would expect. Importing ducks though — that has also been an offered service (for a guest that wanted a taste of their own backyard). Building houses of worship was also on the menu for one guest who needed a synagog built on their property.
Luxury Retreats sounds like an expensive service — and it certainly is, though the platform’s fees are fairly modest. All in, they charge a 20 percent commission for their rentals. Airbnb essentially charges the same, though their fees are divided between the guest, the homeowner and the cleaning costs.
“We’re a lot more direct,” Poulin noted.
And, he notes, they are also profitable, which Airbnb may or may not be.
They are also focused on growth. And that growth was most recently fueled by the $11 million in Series B funding Luxury Retreats just snapped up, care of previous investor (and fellow Canadians) iNovia Capital. The round was iNovia Capital's second infusion of funds in the startup. A previous round netted $5 million.
Poulin said the new funding will fuel Luxury Retreats' geographic expansion, but also the expansion of the concierge service and staff.
“Luxury is not sold, it’s delivered,” Poulin noted.
And, as surprising as it may initially seem - the brainchild of a Canadian teenager may be just the firm to deliver the luxury traveler into the sharing economy.
Innovation Investment Tracker
As June opens up, investment activity across the venture capital, private equity and other areas topped $4.6 billion. Key activity for the week was centered on trade finance and this early into the month, at least, strategic and/or venture backed investments held sway.
And perhaps the investments to date in June have been small -- or investors were just being secretive -- as seven of the 31 placements did not have terms attached.
Drilling down into sector specifics, activity was dominated by Friedman Fleischer & Lowe, which seeded its fourth private equity fund with a $2 billion capital raise, representing its largest vehicle to date. That dwarfed the Silverfleet Capital investment noted at $928 million.
The Friedman (et al) activity represents at least the majority of the trade finance sector money flows, which in turn came in at $3.4 billion – and that in turn stood at 79 percent of the total B2B investment tallied during the week.
At the other end of the spectrum, retail payments sector investments proved anemic, coming in at only 6 percent of the total. Most notable within this subset was the $80 million advanced to a late-stage round of funding for Sumo Logic, led by DFJ. Looking toward some publicly traded vehicles, RealPage bought Indatus ICIM Corp. for $49 million.
Geographically speaking, the U.S. proved to be the most active region, followed by Europe (excluding Russia).