“A lot of people think if something is free there must be something wrong with it”
So Emil Majkowski our #techguru and shareholder said to me the other day. And perhaps he has a point, otherwise you would not be reading this post.
We debated for some time whether or not to charge for our services. We were told, for example that an investor would not be interested in a company with “no business model”. Top tech blogger Mark Evans even says free means afraid to compete. This made me think twice. Are we afraid to charge for our services? Hmmm……Nah.
There are plenty of companies out there charging for what we do. Paid channel managers, paid property management systems, paid booking modules for your website. No, we are free because we want to do something else. We are not after 5000 users paying us 300$ a year. It would be a comfy living but we have different plans. We need all 5 million vacation rentals owners to use our system. And to do that we need it to be free.
If you know the industry, you will realize how fragmented it is, with properties spread among hundreds of websites. Some are possible to book in real time, for others you need to speak to the owner directly, and for the rest which are offline bookable the agent tries to hide the owner from the customer and works on a cut. In general the booking process is far inferior to that of hotel rooms.
Now imagine a different world where every property owner uses one system to manage their property. Every agent anywhere in the world would want to use that system because he would be able to sell inventory everywhere. From Whiskey Dick Mountain in the USA to Wagga Wagga in Australia, every vacation rental would just be there ready to be sold.
And imagine with all agents selling the same inventory how regular the sales would be for the property owners. There would only be a single calendar and pricing interface to keep updated, and plenty of incentive to keep everything right up to date. Proper real time booking would be a realistic proposition. Owners would not reject bookings because it would be bad business.
There is no Machiavellian scheme behind this, and we are not giving away free strips of paper. We believe that if we give away great free tools then you will tell your friends about them, and that free is great marketing. One day we will charge something for what we do but if you make us what we hope we can be the fees will be almost nothing.