StartupStay.com, a new global community for entrepreneurs who travel, is our tech start-up of the week. The duo behind the venture are Facundo Villaveiran and Fred Caballero and they are both operating the start-up out of their respective Dublin and London bases.
I bumped into Villaveiran, who is based at the Guinness Enterprise Centre, at the recent Dublin Beta start-up event where he spoke all about StartupStay.com, which just launched in June and operates solely as a web-browsing app at the minute.
Villaveiran, who has been living in Ireland for the past eight years, already set up another venture with Caballero in Dublin four years ago – Channelship, a web agency. Plus they also set up Bloggertone, a website for businesses to interact with each other, back in 2009. The site rebranded as Tweak Your Biz in March.
Incidentally the duo both hail from Buenos Aires in Argentina. Caballero is now based at Tech Hub in London.
Via StartupStay.com, which Villaveiran and Caballero have bootstrapped, start-up entrepreneurs can search for fellow entrepreneurs who can host them when they are travelling to a city for a conference, for instance.
"It’s like couch surfing for people in business," says Villaveiran.
He says self-starters who travel can also use the site to arrange meet-ups with other entrepreneurs when they are visiting cities for events. The idea is almost based on the principle of karma where people can give back by sharing business ideas and by networking. As well as this the person who is being hosted will avoid having to pay for accommodation.
StartupStay.com has a feature where people can search by city, specialities or start-up accelerators.
"Entrepreneurs do not pay to be hosted and membership is by invitation-only," explains Villaveiran.
So how did the idea for the start-up come about? "We had been looking to serve the global start-up sector for a while but needed a specific concept and problem to solve. We then realised that there were no hospitality exchange networks focusing on entrepreneurs only," explains Villaveiran.
He says that after surveying more than 110 people in business, himself and Caballero realised that the core issues start-up entrepreneurs face when travelling for business include costs, accommodation and productivity.
"In less than five weeks, entrepreneurs in more than 200 cities and 60 countries have joined Startup Stay."
Since then, Villaveiran said new members are also inviting entrepreneurs in their own networks to join the site.
"There is a constant flow of people looking for accommodation, with real-life networking experiences already happening."
In addition, he says that the itinerary feature that lets entrepreneurs announce their trips to locals is triggering interesting networking results.
"Many locals are spontaneously arranging coffee meet-ups with incoming entrepreneurs before their arrival," adds Caballero, who claims that there are no hospitality exchange platforms serving entrepreneurs only at the moment.
"People in start-ups live and breathe a unique lifestyle and attitude and want to connect with each other. Startup Stay enables users to find hosts and guest entrepreneurs with specific skills and interests," he says.
So what markets are the co-founders are honing in on?
"We want to help entrepreneurs travel worldwide so our objective is to have members everywhere. The top destinations that we have to focus on now based on usage include the US, namely San Francisco and New York; western Europe, including Amsterdam, Dublin, London, Madrid and Barcelona; eastern Europe; Latin America; and Asia," says Villaveiran.
Tech start-up scene
As to why they have set in both Dublin and London, he says it’s because both locations have a vibrant start-up scene.
"Dublin in particular is just a wonderful space to be if you are starting up. There is a big start-up community eager to help out and participate. There is also what I call Dublin’s ‘handy networking factor’, Because it’s a small capital you can actually build face-to-face relationships that really last, as well as benefit from straight forward introductions," explains Villaveiran.
Goals for 2012
And the plan for the remainder of 2012? "We want to reach critical mass by the end of the year in order to ensure the community is fully served in terms of demand and offer. That will enable us to also start monetising with added value services," says Caballero.
Villaveiran and Caballero plan to monetise by launching premium features for members as well as building partnerships with global start-up events.
As to challenges while setting up, Villaveiran says there have not been many. "Maybe we run with the advantage of having set up companies before so that helps in not feeling so overwhelmed."
And his advice for other aspiring self-starters? "Get out there and do it! There is no such thing as going for the ‘safe’ option any more. It always takes more than expected so stay as lean as possible in terms of finances so as to avoid unnecessary pressure and be able to think clearly and iterate."