Sean Breuner has worn many hats throughout his career, but none has fit quite so well as his latest venture: With his startup, AvantStay, he's looking to transform the short-term rental market by upgrading traveler experiences and expectations.
Breuner got his start in real estate before selling off one of his companies, heading to business school, and then pivoting to investment banking. After a brief stint at Morgan Stanley, he was called in to run growth for a west coast startup (recently sold to LinkedIn), where he focused on automating sales and building scalable software.
As he traveled the world in business school and later for his work, Breuner stayed in a variety of short-term rental accommodations--and he soon came to realize the consistency of his experiences varied wildly.
"When you stay at these properties, you get very, very different experiences," he says.
Hotels might seem like the obvious antidote. After all, they're promised on providing a consistent experience. But they lack the differentiated, local feel that is one of the defining reasons people seek out short-term rentals in the first place.
After staying in enough short-term rentals to confirm lack of consistency was a consistent issue, Breuner began to dream up a service that would offer the best of both worlds: Short-term rentals that offered unique settings and experiences while at the same time delivering hotel comforts for every stay. And he wanted to do it all with the help of virtual automation technology.
He started by investing in an experimental property, which he used to validate his idea. "We provided this great experience to our guests and had so many repeat clients," says Breuner. "We thought to ourselves, 'How do we do more of this?'" And thus AvantStay was born.
Since founding AvantStay, Breuner and his team have acquired approximately 50 properties in seven different markets. Breuner believes they can expand to hundreds of properties across the U.S. over the next 12 to 18 months. They're planning to do it all in a way that's never been done before: one that provides guests with consistent quality while also delivering the experiential accommodations modern travelers crave.
A Business Model Premised on Automation
"Avant [as in "avant garde"] is the French word for "before," ahead of its time, stylistically advanced," says Breuner. "[We're creating an] experiential stay where you walk into a property and everything is setup to have a great stay the moment you arrive. We do that at scale by building tech to manage that from one central location."
The company expands into key markets by leasing properties over the long-term and then re-leasing them to short-term renters. It's a win-win for the institutional landlords, investors, and homeowners from which AvantStay leases their assets: AvantStay guarantees 100 percent occupancy with no turnover on longer term master leases, always pays on time, and takes immaculate care of the property.
The ability to deliver consistent quality to guests is sustained in large part by the team's reliance on automation. The company's product and technology team automates operations at every stage of a guest's experience, from pre-stay to post-stay. Automated notifications are sent to hospitality, repairs, and maintenance teams, while guests are apprised of all the details of their stay in a non-invasive and efficient manner.
Designing for Uniqueness and Consistency
Each time they design a new property, the AvantStay team focuses on three core facets of the experience: real estate, the arts, and technology. "That intersection couldn't have been done five years ago, because home automation and software tech wasn't there," says Breuner.
On the real estate front, the team selects upscale properties in desirable neighborhoods identified via data analytics. The arts component ensures that AvantStay properties provide the unique, experiential settings expected of modern travelers. "We have key partnerships with many great up-and-coming design and furnishing companies," says Breuner.
The Internet of Things enables the AvantStay team to provide guests with utmost comfort and convenience at every stage of their stays. Every property is equipped with keyless entry pads, luxury mattresses and bedding, and many other fine touches to give an authentic yet luxury vibe. In-home Amazon Echos are pre-programmed with targeted concierge and support services such as welcome notes, restaurant recommendations, and suggestions for things to do in the local area. HVAC systems, pools, and spas are programmed to a comfortable temperature before guests arrive.
"All of the luxury items that used to be delivered through a hotel are now delivered through a mobile phone at a great private residence," says Breuner. "We automate this great experience without guests having to think."
The goal is to ensure that all types of travelers (from businesspeople to large families vacationing) will be able to walk into an AvantStay property and enjoy an upscale experience that is tailored to their needs--whether that means a property stocked with board games or a comfortable desk equipped with pens, paper, and other business accessories. "We want to maximize the experience that the asset is meant to provide to the traveler," says Breuner.
So far, he says, "Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We have a near five-star rating."
This feedback gives Breuner hope that he's well on his way to accomplishing his goal: building a revolutionary hospitality brand defined by real estate, arts, and technology.