With more people working from home than ever, the desire to take advantage of this new flexibility to travel is greater than ever.
But just because you have the ability to travel and work from anywhere doesn’t mean you can afford it.
Opendoor alumni Justine Palefsky and Tasneem Amina teamed up in 2021 to start a company, Kinship, with the goal of making travel more accessible through a unique home exchange model. And they’ve raised $7.75 million to help make the option available to more people.
Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) led Kindred’s fundraising, which included participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Caffeinated Capital and angel investors such as Elad Gil, CEO and co-founder of Opendoor Eric Wu, founder of ClassPass Payal Kadakia, the co-founder of Clubhouse and CTO Rohan Seth and Adena Hefets, co-founder and CEO of Divvy Homes.
Palefsky and Amina both worked at Opendoor around the same time, but not in the same departments. Palefsky started at the real estate technology company in 2015 when it had just 30 employees. When he left in 2019, the startup had 1,500 employees. Amina left the company in October 2020.
Both had in mind that they wanted to do something around remote work. But neither knew what the other was thinking. With the two expressing an interest in exploring something around the concept, they found an unlikely ally in pursuing a venture: their former boss, Wu.
“He realized that we were both very passionate and interested in starting something in the remote workspace,” recalls Palefksy, who is the company’s CEO.
The couple teamed up to launch San Francisco-based Kindred in March 2021.
“We started Kindred after battling the problem ourselves. We were both working remotely and wanted to take advantage of this flexibility to travel more and work from elsewhere. But none of the existing solutions or ways to do it really made sense for us and for our lives,” Palefsky said. “We felt like we had three options. First, we could find an Airbnb somewhere, which became too expensive for trips of more than a few nights. Or you could abandon your home and become a nomad. Or you can run your home like a hotel and put it on Airbnb to fund your trip. None of these options suited us, as they are inconvenient and a bit scary. »
Like many founders, the duo saw the opportunity to solve the problem they were struggling with and, as they surmised, so did many others.
Kindred’s members-only model works by creating a network to exchange homes. The idea is that the network is a “trusted” network so members can feel comfortable swapping homes. Interestingly, no money is exchanged between members, who pay an annual fee of $300 for the option of allowing someone to stay in their home and vice versa. If a member lets someone stay at their place for a certain number of nights, they can then bank those nights to stay at someone else’s place while they are away. It’s a give and get policy. For each stay, a guest pays Kindred a $30 service fee to coordinate the stay and for home protection. Members can arrange a cleanup themselves or Kindred can put them in touch with a third-party provider. Either way, getting started doesn’t take a cut.
Palefsky and Amina say a seven-day stay in a home — or condo or apartment — using Kindred is “considerably more affordable than a vacation rental or hotel.”
“We’re removing the overnight fee that you would pay with a hotel,” company president Amina told TechCrunch. “And a stay at an Airbnb would cost between $1,700 and $3,000 to rent, including cleaning fees and service charges. On Kindred, you pay between $300 and $500 for the entire stay. You can take 10 trips for the price you would spend on one trip.
There is no minimum or maximum stay. And the network is by invitation only. Kindred accepts uninvited people on a waitlist and if there is enough demand in a particular market, it will consider allowing them to be a member. To be clear, the network is not limited to homeowners. Tenants can also swap homes, the pair say, as long as they have cleared the practice with their landlords.
“There is no financial exchange between guest and host in this case. This makes Kindred very different from short-term rentals and therefore we have more of a guest policy than a rental policy” “Regulations against Airbnb are largely due to the structure of the company, which we believe encourages investors to buy inventory, which increases housing prices for local residents,” Palefsky said.
So, in addition to giving people the ability to travel more and more cheaply, the pair say they indirectly want to help prevent house prices from inflating further and taking homes off the market. In recent years, investment companies have bought properties, and many with cash. This has led many individuals and families to face not only less inventory, but also less ability to compete when trying to buy homes.
“The idea here is to also drive ordinary people with homes looking to travel more rather than creating monetary incentives that end up driving up house prices,” Amina said.
The duo started by inviting a few friends and people they knew to test out Kindred. Over the past few months, it has amassed several thousand members who have subscribed to its network or joined its waiting list. There are currently hundreds of homes available on the Kindred network in over 20 major cities across North America, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Canada and Mexico. So far, most of the startup’s growth has been organic.
“We’re past the point of trying to cut travel into two-week chunks a year,” Amina said. “The remote work revolution is here to stay.”
Currently, Kindred has 10 employees including its two founders. She will use her capital in part to hire people as well as to develop her product.
“We both had the opportunity to create products in companies that ended up becoming really huge,” Palefsky said. “And through that, we were able to learn so much about what it means to take an idea from zero to one and scale it. And we were lucky to have real champions, people that we have worked before, who saw what we were capable of and who helped push us to take the leap to do something ourselves through our track record of working with them in the past.
A16z general partner Sriram Krishnan said he was drawn in to lead the funding round for Kindred due to “a combination of the founders, the market and excellent timing”.
He described Palefsky and Amina as the kind of founders his company “likes to support.”
“We got so many referrals and rave reviews from their time at Opendoor and elsewhere. And when we met them, the reason was clear,” Krishnan told TechCrunch.
The investor also believes Kindred expands the market by providing confidence and convenience in a way that unlocks more primary residences. And according to him, home swapping is “entirely different” from renting.
“Kindred may bring net inventory of new homes to the vacation rental market,” he said. “The market size for primary residences is huge compared to investment homes. They have the perfect ‘why now’ as remote working has driven a growing appetite for travel, and we’ve seen rental platforms in the short term are limited in terms of supply, which drives up the cost of travel.”