Please introduce yourself (any co-founders) and your startup?
Sabrina Bethunin and Co-founder, Quirin Schwaighofer from MadeComfy.
MadeComfy was founded in 2015 with the dream of a customer service-focused solution to short-term rentals where hosts and guests were at the heart.
How did you go from idea, to MVP and launch?
The idea arose from my co-founder, Quirin’s, own challenges with managing the process of hosting guests via peer-to-peer platforms like Airbnb in Sydney. He was renting it out whilst travelling for work, however, finding the time to manage everything entailed with hosting guests was difficult. It was the equivalent to running a hotel, as he needed to respond to guest enquiries, facilitate handing over keys, resolve any ad hoc maintenance issues, clean the property and arrange fresh linen, towels and amenities for each guest. As guests are paying good money to stay in private homes, they expect the same standards as a quality hotel.
With a full-time job, Quirin found it hard to juggle both his work commitments and managing all the tasks required to host guests in his apartment. To support looking after guests, he enlisted my support, which got me thinking….there must be others in need of this kind of help.
I then undertook additional research on how the peer to peer short-term rental sector has evolved in more mature markets such as the US and UK and found numerous successful companies.
Seeing there was a clear gap in the Australian market for businesses providing this service, I became passionate about it and together with Quirin decided to launch MadeComfy.
Together Quirin and myself bootstrapped the business initially. Whilst we were proving the concept it was self-funded and once we realised we had a service that was both in demand and could achieve scale, we decided to undertake our first round of funding amongst our investor network.
What challenges did you face during this period and how did you overcome them?
The complexity of our business was initially associated with having clear processes and procedures for everything we do, as well as strong supportive systems and also to have the right people leading each function.
At the beginning we were supported by friends that helped us get the business started. The initial concept was quite flexible in terms of offering parts of the service like “just cleaning and linen”. We soon realised that to be able to guarantee the quality of the services and the success of the logistics behind it we needed to be in charge of the whole process.
After the validation of the concept we have been focused on building robust processes, developing and implementing new systems as well as a forming a professional team that will allow us to scale our services outside Sydney. Whilst it is quite easy to open a website and manage bookings and check-ins for 5-10 properties, it is a very different game to provide a value adding service and a unique guest experience on a consistent high level for a few hundred properties.
The main challenge after proving the concept was funding.
We needed to have funding to move the business forward quickly and take advantage of the opportunity. We were lucky enough to be supported by our network of friend and families that were willing to back up MadeComfy.
During this journey to build and launch your startup what is one thing you look back on with a sense of achievement?
In the 24 months MadeComfy has been in operation, we’ve had numerous obstacles to overcome, however, many great achievements.
Our biggest achievement so far would be securing over $1.5 million in funding, with investors believing in our passion, drive and knowledge of the short-term rental market to deliver a service that is unique and one increasingly growing in demand.
It is with this investment into the business, it is allowing us to differentiate ourselves from potential competitors in the same space, in which we aim to do this by focusing upon customer service, that we are highly data-driven to inform both our customers and make business decisions and that we are building bespoke technology based on our customer’s needs.
At the end of 2016 we achieved another milestone, which was to break even, allowing us to continue investing into the business and growing it.
Another achievement has been to attract talented individuals to join the business and creating a high-performing team to achieve our targets for 2017. Through starting MadeComfy we have generated employment for 30 people. We recently appointed incredible talents in the fields of marketing, sales and technology to drive these areas of the business moving forward.
Personally, starting MadeComfy has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever undertaken. My previous background was in the corporate world of finance, however, in launching MadeComfy it’s exposed me to the full breadth of managing a business including marketing, operations, sales, IT and HR. The range of experiences I’ve had in launching a business has enhanced my skills and knowledge to a new level.
Offer us one insight, tip, marketing strategy or growth hack that has worked really well for oyu and your startup?
Word of mouth has been one of the most powerful means to grow MadeComfy’s business – so providing a great quality service in which you deliver upon the expectations set with your customer is always important. And where possible to exceed them. The halo effect we’ve seen from customers who told their families and friends about what we do has been remarkable and largely on account of how far we go to deliver a great customer experience.
How is your startup going and what do you aim to achieve in the next 3, 6, 12 months?
Moving forward, MadeComfy will continue to invest in our IT and operational infrastructure to deliver excellence in customer service for our property owners and guests. In addition, we plan to roll launch across other major Australian cities in the 2nd half of 2017, as we currently we only operate in Sydney. Our goal is to be managing 3,000 properties by 2020.