Building a family business is one thing, creating a highly scalable tech start-up that has family values infused through its DNA, is something else.
Sean Breuner is the Founder and CEO of AvantStay, the future of millennial travel. AvantStay is a hospitality tech company, providing guests with short term stays across the US.
Breuner saw an opportunity when realising that when travelling, increasingly people favor unique, localised experiences staying in short term rentals that feel like family homes, over chain hotels. He wanted to build a business that gave guests consistent luxury experiences, at scale. In essence, combining the best of hotels and short term rentals, and revolutionising the real estate and hospitality industries, using technology.
Maybe not so surprising is the fact entrepreneurship runs through Breuner's blood. His family started a furniture company that went on to IPO, as well as a successful real estate business. Given this, Breuner already knew the potential challenges and upside of starting a business with a family member. When he saw a gap in the market to modernise the real estate industry via scalable tech, he approached his brother Josh to join him.
A key lesson, Breuner shares, is to trust each other’s capabilities. Josh helps run the operations side of the start-up, while Sean, a Columbia Business School alum, former investment banker and tech start-up exec, focuses on technology, fundraising, hiring and growth. There's a level of transparency and open communication that family members working together share that is hard to find anywhere else.
At the heart of the business, the two brothers view “family extended” as integral to all their actions and ethos. AvantStay’s team is extended family, and the start-up's guests are made to feel part of the family too. The vision, Breuner says is to “create memories by bringing friends and family together”.
And it's working. A significant percentage of bookings are made by young families and professionals, and the company is growing at 400 per cent quarter over quarter. AvantStay has managed to capture the millennial desire for shared experiences, valued over material things.
While family values play a huge role, so to does the team’s approach to building highly scalable tech, and a revenue heavy business. Since its founding, AvantStay has leased over 50 properties across seven different markets. “We have created a one of a kind, turn key experience where everything is set up for you the moment you walk in the door. Our start-up is built on a system that scales each guest experience via sophisticated technology and automation, while maintaining a singular, local feel.”
Guests feel they are staying in a family home, with all the conveniences provided thanks to AvantStay’s utilising the Internet of Things (IOT hardware). Homes have keyless entry pads, Amazon Echos, some are even pre-programmed with welcome home notes, and concierge services such as local restaurant recommendations. The result is a business that feels high touch, experiential and bespoke, while simultaneously backed by technologies of scale.
What's next for this exciting start-up? They have been approached by a number of strategic partners and having already perfected the model, now have plans to grow the business dramatically. One to watch for 2018? Our money is on this familial business, with a highly scalable digital future.
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