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Cologne-based startup Homelike is challenging Airbnb by targeting business travellers

Vallabh Rao
26th Sep 2017
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Private rental aggregators like Airbnb have made their presence felt in the leisure market but are yet to capture the business travel market. Startup Homelike wants to stand out from other aggregators by focussing on long-stay and business travel.

We often find furnished apartments more comfortable and significantly cheaper than hotel rooms. However, it is anything but easy to find a suitable apartment and book it online from a remote location. For Dustin Figge and Christoph Kasper, staying in hotels while travelling abroad for work turned out to be tiring — with the limited privacy hotel rooms offered and the ‘home away from home’ feeling they couldn’t provide.

The much travelled-duo, who had spent months in China, USA, and a few European cities for work, came up with the idea of Homelike — a platform that enables companies and their employees to book furnished apartments in a quick and secure way. Its focus is on the simplicity of the booking process and the quality of the stay.

For the two founders of Homelike, this wasn’t the first time they started a business venture. Dustin, who is from Cologne, Germany, studied business administration at the University of Cologne in Barcelona. While in college, he co-founded a startup in the HR field, called Students Connect (today talentsconnect.com). After earning his degree, he worked for Arvato Bertelsmann as an executive assistant to the CEO. Dustin spent six months in China before working in the Silicon Valley for one and a half years. Christoph was born in Bavaria and studied business administration. After working for several media companies, he built the Cologne-based online career network squeaker.net. They met first while Dustin was founder of an HR start-up and Christoph CEO of squeaker.net. They decided to collaborate with their businesses 4 years later.

Homelike founders

Homelike was launched by them in 2014; ever since then, Dustin and Christoph have been attempting to question, facilitate, digitise, renew and improve existing processes in the real estate and business travel industries.

According to Dustin, there are various competitive hurdles in the furnished-apartment market which span across the value chain. For instance, every larger city has an oligopoly of (smaller) local brokers who operate only in one city and provide a complete offline process which is not very efficient. In addition, these services are usually twice as expensive as booking through Homelike.

Business travellers might need to stay at a place for a longer period of time; hence, by focussing on long-term hotel stay and business travellers alongside, HomeLike differs from its competitors. It covers the entire value chain — from listing to transaction — completely online and provides high-quality apartments, guaranteeing a great customer experience. Listings in various cities, as opposed to local rental and booking services, also makes Homelike stand out.

The 45-people strong company operates in 100 cities and offers 30,000 furnished apartments across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and London, with more cities soon to be added to the list. It partners only with professional landlords, who offer larger portfolios of “business ready” apartments (no room sharing). These apartments are verified by Homelike internally for quality, legal compliance, and standard requirements. Their main target groups are individual business travellers and corporate travel organisers.

In August, Homelike raised €4 million as fund from Cherry Ventures with participation from Coparion. “As consumers are increasingly looking for alternatives to hotel accommodation for business stays that last longer than one month, we strongly believe in this massive market segment — with a volume in the high double-digit billions in Europe alone and with the number of furnished apartments growing over 20 percent year over year,” Christian Meermann, Founding Partner, Cherry Ventures, said in an earlier press release.

“So far, we’ve acquired more than 10,000 corporate customers, ranging from small startups to large multinationals across multiple industries and geographies, including Jungheinrich, Siemens, and Adesso. Corporate clients have booked more than 400,000 nights with Homelike through its easy-to-use online booking process,” remarks Dustin on their growth so far.

In India, Oyo has recently raised $250 million from Softbank Vision Fund and $10 million from China Lodging Group, and launched Oyo Townhouse to cater to business travellers.

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