As Warren Buffet would say: I won the ovarian lottery.
Why? Because I was born in a place called Switzerland. It's famous for epic cheese, amazing chocolate, and one of the highest living standards in the world.
One of the nicest places in Switzerland is Laax. If you like snow sports Laax is the place to be. It's home to one of Switzerlands largest and highest rated ski resorts, along with over 150 miles of slopes and every kind of fun you could dream of.
Fortunately for me and you Laax was also the place my grandfather chose to build a vacation home back in 1968. The home he built would later inspire me to create GoNitely.
Fast-forward 44 years to 2012. My mother (after inheriting the house from my grandparents) leaves it to my brother and me.
I then set out to market the house by creating a little website with nice images and listing it on the platforms I found convenient – which worked. Kind of.
Marketing the house on so many different channels wasn't easy. To make matters worse the house was a 3-hour drive from where I lived. Whenever guests came it was always a gamble.
I could only hope everything got done right, from the housekeeper actually cleaning to the lockbox with the key to the front door opening up. Below you can see an actual picture of the house, or most of it anyway.
The Pre GoNitely Honeymoon Years
Fast forward another 3 years to 2015. Me and the co-founder of GoNitely (my wife) decide to go on a 1-year honeymoon around the world.
Now if being 3 hours away by car made management hard, being halfway around the world without reliable internet made it impossible. We had to find a solution.
We tried to find a way to engage with someone local to help us out. The 3 months after we left were shoulder season, with virtually no guests. This gave us time to figure things out.
I thought about the local tourist office since they were offering management services. But they’d gotten a mere 2 guests the last year we listed with them.
You and I probably wouldn't be wrong to assume this is because they couldn't accept the fact that major vacation rental platforms were becoming the go-to for bookings.
There was no way we would list with them after that. As a result we didn’t find a solution. Luckily we got my brother to do the job.
The GoNitely Idea
While on our honeymoon my wife and I began to notice something. In virtually all of the 26 countries we traveled through we saw empty homes. Lots and lots of empty homes. At prime locations too!
These homes were maintained, yet empty. So we started asking ourselves: Why are all these homes empty? Especially when Airbnb makes it easy for anyone to rent out their home.
We, like most travelers, would have loved to pay to stay in one of these empty homes. But they weren't listed. Not on Airbnb, not on HomeAway, not anywhere. Or at least not anywhere we were able to find them.
That’s when it started to dawn on us: What if there was a way to offer the owners of these homes a hassle free way to make money with their homes by opening them up for travelers like us?
We let the idea marinate in our heads for months. Upon arriving in California (still on our honeymoon) we suddenly found ourselves in the right place at the right time.
A friend of ours owned one of these empty homes in a prime location overlooking the ocean. Our friend had bought the home as an investment a while ago, but was too busy to use it for anything.
The view from that house
So we took it upon ourselves to try something out. We made them a deal: We’d front the money and work for free to furnish and fix the home so we could rent it out. After listing it, and if we made the money back, we’d reimburse ourselves. If not, they got free furniture.
3 weeks and $6,000 later the result was a rustic looking, yet still charming vacation home in full-on beach and surfer style.
The living room, design courtesy of my wife
Then me and my wife decided to list it. Within 24 hours, it was booked for 2 weeks. In the first month, it made close to $8,000. That’s when we knew we were on to something.
We dove right into it, choosing to settle down in California and begin buying properties. We quickly got to 10 houses and apartments to manage – and then fell flat on our faces.
Even though we were making good money, all we had was a mom-and-pop business, which was impossible to scale. We found this out the hard way when a client called us at 11pm from a property we managed 45 minutes away, asking a question we could only answer in person on-site.
Centralized Short-Term Rental Management Doesn't Work
With our properties, on any given Friday at 3pm, we’d have 5 parties checking in. We could only welcome 1 party in person, if at all.
We had to hope the other guest would be fine following instructions and also hope no-one at the furthest properties would have any issues or questions which would need us to go there. Then we begun realizing something else.
The rental platforms we wanted to list on weren't optimized for interaction between guest and owners. HomeAway didn't have Instant Book, leading to tons of back-and-forth with every guest.
TripAdvisor didn't allow us to export a calendar, causing double bookings. Meanwhile Booking.com had no way for us to accept payments. (Here's what I really think of booking.com.)
We had to stop. We fell into a black hole. We knew there was something there – but we hadn't found it. Not yet anyway.
We went back to the drawing board. We came up with all kinds of crazy ideas, all revolving around the same basic questions:
- How could we list on all major rental platforms from one single place?
- How could we coordinate maintenance and housekeeping for multiple properties in different locations in an easy and reliable way?
And most importantly:
- How could we duplicate ourselves, the managers? How could we manage a property that was out of reach for us or any central office?
The answer to the first question was there. Channel managers of sorts were popping up. For the second question of maintenance and housekeeping, there weren't many options aside from startups. For the last question there was no answer, until...
GoNitely Became The Answer
Research was showing us how there were millions of unused and under-used homes in the US alone (and that’s not counting all the vacation homes out there.) We also found out that there was no shortage of people looking for a part-time job.
We believed we could connect these two, (the under-used homes and the part-time job seekers) by creating a tool so easy to use that anyone could become a manager.
Our tool would make it possible to have a personal manager for every empty home out there. The managers would be someone close by, available in minutes if needed and e quipped with modern technology to solve all their problems.
Fast-forward to 2016. After hundreds of hours in development, over a year of trial and error and talking to home owners. After talking to neighbors, running countless tests and occasionally jumping in to clean toilets. After all that, GoNitely now answers the last question.
The technology behind GoNitely is creating the highest revenue for any property using multi-listing and smart pricing. The easy-to-use GoNitely app allows anyone nearby to manage a property.
Built-in tools like live statistics and reminders for anything from cleaning to answering messages make the entire process streamlined and transparent.
Home owners using GoNitely are experiencing an increase of over 500% in revenue the first month compared to traditional companies. We have neighbors who work as managers making over $1,000 a month by taking care of a property nearby. And we’re only just getting started.
Welcome to decentralized, technology-driven short-term rental management. Welcome to 2017. Welcome to GoNitely.
Everyone who contributed anything to the first version of GoNitely. And yes – we paid in t-shirts.