When Jay Roberts was offering his room to travelers on a home-share site, he was impressed by the opportunity to meet all the people who were staying in his apartment. “It was just an amazing way to connect with people from all over the world,” Domio Co-Founder and CEO Jay Roberts told PYMNTS.com in an interview. At the same time, he realized that travel is a personal and emotional experience. He wanted to share and improve upon the experience for people staying in a home share. In particular, he found that there were a lot of amateur hosts and he wanted to provide consistency and reliability to travelers.
The result was Domio, a site that allows travelers to use apartments in cities such as Austin, New Orleans, Nashville and San Diego. In order to stay in one of the listings, travelers can book through the company’s website using their credit or debit cards. Before they arrive at the property, the travelers receive check-in instructions, and, in most cases, they can be self-sufficient and check in themselves through a code given to them on their mobile phones for keyless entry.
When it comes to timing for Domio, Roberts said that Airbnb expanded the pie and got travelers comfortable staying in homes. At the same time, in terms of markets, “millennials are more mobile,” according to Roberts. More specifically, he said that millennials are more outwardly mobile. Rather than trying to climb the corporate ladder, they want to travel. They want to meet new people and try new food. At the same time, platforms like Uber have made it easier for people to get around, and travel has become more democratized and attainable for consumers.
In an effort to further take on the group travel market, Domio is teaming up with Upper90 for a $50 million joint venture to exclusively fund up to 25 apartment-style hotels for group travelers. The offering comes as Roberts said that hotels have historically neglected building larger spaces for families and groups. He noted that 83 percent of global hotel rooms and Airbnbs are focused on single and couple travelers — that is, only one or two people. Furthermore, he said that 17 percent of accommodations cater to three people or more. But, on the demand side, he said that more than a third — or 37 percent — of global spend on accommodations is for group travel.
To fill this need, Roberts’ company is taking an asset-light approach to the apart-hotel buildings in the process. Instead of owning the buildings, he plans to lease them. That way, his company and customers can get the enjoyment and benefit of the buildings without having to own them. If that concept seems similar, other companies are offering rooms in newly-created luxury apartment buildings to travelers. But Roberts said that concept helps new buildings, while his company plans to sign long-term leases. The company’s first apart-hotel concept, Domio Baronne ST, is set to open on December 1 in New Orleans.
Earlier this month, the company announced that it notched $12 million in Series A funding. That round was led by Tribeca Venture Partners, with Loric Ventures and SoftBank Capital NY also participating. In a press release, the company said that capital would help develop the company’s technology platform as well as grow its apart-hotel brand. That news comes on the heels of the company’s previous $5 million raise in convertible debt and equity financing from angel investors and individuals. To date, the company says it has served 70,000 travelers through its properties. Through the utilization of software, the company claims that it has been to have an occupancy rate of more than 82 percent, suggesting that companies can generate efficiencies with home-share style properties.