Property-management startup MadeComfy has partnered with US home-sharing giant Airbnb, but it’s been no bed of roses for the Sydney startup so far, and the hard work isn’t over yet.
Founded in 2015 by Quirin Schwaighofer and Sabrina Bethunin, MadeComfy is focused on the management of short-term property rentals through platforms such as Airbnb.
In May last year, the startup raised $6 million in a Series A funding round, led by Investec, adding to a previous $1.1 million from investors including Amaysim co-founders Rolf Hansen and Peter O’Connell and former LinkedIn Australia managing director Cliff Rosenberg.
Schwaighofer tells StartupSmart the business has seen 300% revenue growth over the past 12 months, and is gearing up for a significant Series B round before the end of 2019.
As MadeComfy has grown it has doubled down its focus on properties available all year round, rather than homes available for part of the year.
“We found we need to focus … to make sure we had a great partner all of the time,” Schwaighofer says.
However, it was Airbnb that approached the founders looking for a partnership, towards the end of last year.
According to the co-founder, MadeComfy brings “quality and consistent guest experience” to the table, allowing hosts to provide a better service — from 24-hour communication services to linen, towels and the quality of the interior.
The startup could also attract more properties to the platform, Schwaighofer says.
“We make it easy for people to manage properties on the short-term rental market.”
For Airbnb’s part, the tech giant has the resources to help MadeComfy grow, and the partnership makes it easier for the two teams to work closely together.
“They are a huge company and being able to have access to the right people is an important part,” Schwaighofer explains.
But, they can also work together on projects, allowing Airbnb to stay innovative despite its size. MadeComfy is still nimble, he adds.
“We can help them to do that, on the execution side of it.”
An uphill battle
For Schwaighofer, securing a partnership with Airbnb represents a certain validation.
“I still remember when I opened my Airbnb account in 2013 and took my first photos of my apartment,” he recalls.
Now, having Airbnb approach his startup and propose a partnership, “tells us we’re doing something right”.
The startup journey isn’t an easy one, and Schwaighofer says the founders were often told anyone could do what they do.
“We have always had this uphill battle, especially in the early stages when we tried to raise capital,” he says.
“It feels good that we were able to prove what we’ve been saying — that we are different and that we can grow in this market like no one else,” he adds.
“It is nice having that moment as a founder.”
However, the founders are not going to take a break to celebrate their success any time soon. In fact, as a founder, “you never do this”, Schwaighofer says.
“We’ve celebrated. Everyone is happy and proud. But it’s just the beginning again.”
Whether you’re closing a round of funding, signing a big new client, or securing a significant partnership, you have to look forward to the next step straight away, he explains.
“You have to start meeting expectations … the partnership is only as good as the paper it’s written on.”
A natural consequence
When startups are in their earliest stages, their often asking themselves how to get customers on board or how to secure investment.
“Most people say no to a new startup, or a new company, they haven’t heard about,” Schwaighofer notes.
At the same time, the more you ask for support or custom, “the more annoying you become”.
However, Schwaighofer’s advice is not to ask people for things. Rather, he suggests focusing on where you can add value to those people.
Startups should build a network simply by talking about their product or service, and find a way to add value to anyone they come into contact with.
This strategy led to MadeComfy being approached by investors, and bought customers to the startup’s door.
“Our marketing strategy is entirely inbound,” Schwaighofer says.
With Airbnb, it was the same thing. The two companies had a relationship — Airbnb had been to the startup’s events, and talked with MadeComfy customers — “but there were no strings attached”, he explains.
The “natural consequence” is that people will start to want to work with you, he suggests.
If they’re trying to build meaningful business partnerships, startups should consider what the other party has that they need, but also what they have to offer.
“What do you have that is not expensive to you, that adds value to the other side?” Schwaighofer asks.
You may not find it overnight, he adds, but through building a genuine relationship, something may well emerge.
“And if there is nothing that you can add value to as a startup, I think that’s a different problem.”