Lerer Ventures partner Eric Hippeau has seen a lot of social travel startups, but none have impressed him. He asked his Soho Tech Labs colleague, Paul Berry, to come up with something better.
The result was New York-based CasaHop, a startup that is soft launching today and will officially launch in the next four to six weeks.CasaHop is the first startup the former Huffington post executives, Jonah Peretti, Ken Lerer, Paul Berry and Eric Hippeau, have incubated.
Right now, people can add their profiles to CasaHop. But when the site fully launches, they’ll be able to swap homes free of charge.
Unlike Airbnb, homes are exchanged on CasaHop for credit instead of cash. And instead of being able to rent a home from anyone, users can only swap homes from people who like them, either economically or through shared interests and personal connections.
For example, if you have a beach front home, you could swap with a ski-in-ski-out home renter in Colorado. But a home owner with a tiny apartment in New York City wouldn’t have access to either of those getaways — unless they built up enough credit on CasaHop to unlock them. The credit feature adds a social level to the Airbnb concept, and Berry says they will be key to CasaHop’s impending success.
Berry created CasaHop because home exchanges are his favourite way to travel. “My wife and I have done about 15 of them,” says Berry. “It’s the best way to vacation, especially when you have kids.”
Berry says the beauty of home exchanges is they work across all economic levels. “Greg Coleman is involved in CasaHop, and his home exchanges are with people like Jerry Yang or Tiger Woods. For them, a home exchange is way better than a hotel. Instead of staying at the nicest hotel they can stay at the nicest house.”
Home exchanges work across various vacation lengths, from full-blown trips to weekend getaways. “It’s great for the city house country mouse exchange,” says Berry. “Everyone in the city is dying to get away and everyone form the city is bored and dying for action.”
Berry says his favourite part of swapping homes is receiving a personal, handwritten note from the owner upon arrival. The notes give the vacationer tips about how to live like a local in an unfamiliar place. Berry wants to capture that feature in CasaHop. CasaHop will also have a photo feature.
Since no cash will be exchanged on the site, CasaHop will likely generate revenue via ads and local partnerships. CasaHop will team up with restaurants and other venues to help its travellers explore new areas.
“If you are a yoga site or a magazine online, you should be able to use CasaHop to enhance your site with travel tips and housing listings,” says Berry. Berry says CasaHop will also partner with universities around graduation and orientation time, when locals want to escape college towns and parents are looking for places to stay.
CasaHop is close to securing a $1 million funding round, which will give the startup about 18 months of runway.
Florent Peyre is CasaHop’s president; he was VP of business development and strategy at Gilt City. CasaHop’s CTO will likely be Kriti Godey, a developer working in Rhode Island. Four developers are working on CasaHop full time and another will join the global team soon.