Earlier this year, Valor invested in Atlanta-based fintech and hospitality startup Rented.com.
Rented is the world’s largest B2B rental marketplace connecting properties with short-term rental managers. As the engine delivering performance behind many of the B2C marketplaces like AirBnB and Homeaway, Rented.com drives just under a billion in annual rentals across over 10,000+ properties and in 60 countries. Their team does this from a small office across the street from a coffee shop in midtown Atlanta, the destination capital of vacation home management. That’s where I first met founder and CEO Andrew McConnell. (There’s a lot of ways for VCs to meet founders for the first time. In this case, I showed up on a bike. I saw aspects of Andrew’s personality fairly quickly as he juggled that and chose to lean into it.)
He made a great personal impression, business-forward and flexible. Andrew holds degrees from Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and Cambridge University, and has worked with some of the world’s largest public and private entities as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. As we got to know the numbers behind his business, Valor’s initial impression of a quick thinker with poise was only polished. The $170B short-term rental industry is predicted to hit $200B in the next 3 years. Rented.com’s growth rate triggered Valor’s hypergrowth thesis handily and hasn’t slowed down since. The market is currently only 10% of global bookings. Both that share of the vacationer’s wallet and the wallet itself are growing fast.
Headquartered in Atlanta, ground zero in the short-term rental revolution
According to Lending Tree’s detailed 2018 study, there are simply more vacation rentals in the South or West U.S., which makes some sense regarding climate. Atlanta is strategically located in the center of the highest non-owner-occupied housing market in the country and surrounded by some of the top vacation property management companies.
Rented.com solves a real problem for real people with an elegant, increasingly predictable software model. If the AirBnBs of this world are the icing on the cake that helps a guest pick a property flavor, Rented.com is the bakery’s business engine for pricing it correctly and delivering it on time. Investing in Rented.com’s vision of a streamlined global short-term rental industry is in line with Valor’s commitment to backing real-world innovation.
The more Rented.com is used, the better it gets, and then the more it’s used. This allows Rented.com to use its unique data to build predictive models. According to the 2018 VRMB report, “Much of the vacation rental industry’s growth can be attributed in some way to technology: from smart locks to online booking software to same-day deliveries of that pesky missing bottle opener, the more advanced technology gets, the easier it is to operate a world class vacation rental business.”
Dream home on demand
People are voting with behavior–traveling more and using hotels less. Technology such as matured home/house/apartment rental marketplaces have onboarded a new asset class. In response, hotels are launching new models. Travel sites are promoting private rentals alongside traditional hospitality. There’s a general scramble to manage the growth on a climb to a trillion dollar global market in the spectrum of short-term non-chain rentals.
More dollars, less hollers
Rented.com sells pick-axes to both sides in this gold rush. For private property owners, they offer a turnkey solution that hits the homeowners’ major pain point. You want to make money renting your vacant property, but you don’t want to waste time or ruin your home in the process. Rented.com uses its market-leading analytics to tell you what you can be paid for your property, and then pays you monthly for it in advance. You can go on living your life with an extra monthly income stream. On the property management side, Rented.com consolidates an inventory of homes at rational prices that can then be upsold and managed. It curates only the best property managers to optimize rental income and minimize home wear and tear.
All of this means Rented.com creates a predictable cash flow and a revenue stream that returns money at more than one point along the process, all while adding real value not just transaction management. The value added can be mined over time with the machine learning at a global and hyper-local scale.
Meanwhile, hospitality merges and acquisitions are rapid and relentless. The hotel industry is highly fragmented, without a single player having a significant global market share. It’s estimated that the top hotel chains only account for a third of traditional hotel rooms on a global basis. What this means is, over time, as Rented.com creates predictable cash flows, hospitality buyers could turn to the platform to have more options to expand their footprints as desired, flagged and unflagged, with detailed optionality. This is just one of several opportunities in front of Rented.com.
At the time Valor met Rented.com, the company wasn’t looking for new investors. Valor made a case for adding value to the cap table with a small investment alongside existing investors, including notable lead investor Josh Breinlinger of Jackson Square, based in San Francisco. (His previous experience as an early team member at oDesk and a co-founder at Rev has contributed to a theory of marketplace dynamics you can see playing out in many spaces.)
“Lisa is the reason I initially chose Valor, and that I continue to know it was the right decision. At the time we met we were not actually looking for any new investors. Lisa’s energy and excitement, not to mention her ability to so quickly grasp the business and provide valuable input, made me reconsider, and how happy I am that I did!” says Andrew.
In the future, the opportunity to gain deeper insights into property value, macro hospitality trends, local geographic hospitality trends will continue to add value to this global industry. We look forward to seeing Rented.com remove the headaches from the short-term rental market and continue to be rewarded for the value it provides.