Our story: Rentals united and Doinn more than an integration
I´m really having fun making these interviews to the people that have been important to me and to Doinn in the different stages of this startup journey
Vanessa de Souza Lage is the kind of person that is generous by nature and generosity always get back to you, especially in our industry where is more than clear that working together make us stronger and all the vendors should work as a team to bring value to the property managers and to our beloved industry.
From day one, Vanessa made me feel part of her life, her/our industry, and even her stage, as she is the pioneer of the #tieonstage movement, promoting women as speakers in the vacation rental industry events
Vanessa is also a serial entrepreneur, well known in our industry for founding the channel manager Rentals United and Vrtech
Rentals United was one of the first integrations at Doinn, and I have presented in several Vrtech events and several cities
I´ve been chasing this busy-bee for months to make this interview. I really hope you enjoy this post as much I am having fun while making it!
Noelia: First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vanessa: We’re doing perfectly fine, thanks for asking! It’s amazing how people can adapt! Also we’re lucky to be in Barcelona, the lockdown period wasn’t as tough or as long as others… Restaurants have been opened and the 10pm curfew is actually great when you work as much as I do 🙂
Noelia: You help to promote startups for vacation rentals in Vrtech and you have founded several startups. Entrepreneurs are born or made?
Vanessa: Entrepreneurs are born but successful ones are made!
I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur since childhood, always coming up with new business ideas! The first one: importing Dulce de Leche from Argentina to France as I loved it and it wasn’t available in French supermarkets then. I actually got my sister who lived in Argentina to send tubs over but instead of selling them I gave them away to my friends : ) So yeah, I think that the entrepreneurial drive is something you’re born with but turning your ideas into a successful business is something you learn.
As an entrepreneur I have struggled a lot, many times going down to my last 5 euros. I wish I had looked for mentors: so many mistakes could have been avoided! Rentals United is my 5th business and I’m still learning everyday. This is the great thing about being an entrepreneur… you always need to grow with the times, the circumstances, the market shifts!
Noelia: How the idea of founding Rentals United came up and what problem is currently solving?
Vanessa: Quite honestly Rentals United was born because my previous business was failing. And not just mine, the ones of our competitors too. We were medium-sized OTAs focused on vacation rentals and with the rise of Airbnb, VRBO and booking.com we couldn’t make the marketing dollar work anymore. Plus we had a supply/demand problem: we were all european OTAs but with different markets strengths. So we thought to exchange inventory and for that we needed a distribution software.
Rentals United was created for ourselves and as bookings grew we opened it to other channels: the beauty was that we could still make our commission but let VRBO, Airbnb, Bookings pay for the B2C traffic. Our first investor in 2014 saw the potential and by 2015 we left our agencies and became full time Rentals United.
Our company solves the supply and demand aspect of the vacation rental industry. We source professional property managers and offer them to advertise their properties on a large number of OTAs, both global and niche. Managers get more bookings, OTAs get more rentals to sell. Everyone wins.
Noelia: Tourism has been highly affected by the pandemic, but is the vacation rental industry becoming stronger or weaker of this?
Vanessa: The growth of the industry has just been put on hold for a year, just like every other hospitality vertical. Our growth has been exponential in the last ten years and every year we’re getting more professional, better organised, attracting more demographics… there’s no reason why we wouldn’t continue to grow at a rapid pace.
Noelia: In terms of product, is there any feature that your users are requesting more than before since Covid hit?
Vanessa: We had quite a lot of requests for mid-term (30+ days) channels last year which we duly implemented. Currently we see a big surge in leisure bookings so we’re hunting for outdoor-type inventory and already signed contracts with major glamping and camping channels.
Managers have always requested that we add a book direct channel feature to our software and we’re happy to now be launching a wordpress template which can be used with our Google vacation rental connection.
Noelia: You understood Doinn´s added value to the market from day one, when we could just provide services in Lisbon and Barcelona. From your perspective, the fact than Doinn is now available in more than 600 cities is really important to help property managers to grow or most of them have a city strategy?
Vanessa: 600 cities! Wow! Your astronomical growth is the testimony that I had the right hunch about your company when we first met! Housekeeping is very hard to scale. All the large property managers I meet always tells me that this is one of the major challenges to overcome when you grow. Your solution is for forwarding-thinking managers, it’s that one entry that’s going to make the balance sheet strong! Go DoInn!
Noelia: Thank you so much for this, Vanessa! I definitely recommend all those startups of the vacation rental industry to apply to win to the 2021 Vrtech award here and ….