In the heart of Hollywood, inside an office located on the world famous Sunset Strip, Joe Liebke, the CEO of the luxury travel company Luxpads, sits at his desk breeding what he believes is the business world's next unicorn...
...and if you saw the title of this article and clicked on it thinking it would read like some seedy unicorn romance novel, turn off the Barry White music!
Business moguls and experts alike now use the term "unicorn" as a colloquialism, referring to mind-boggling start-ups that procure a billion-dollar valuation mark within a fantastically short amount of time. SnapChat, WhatsApp, and Uber are all part of this mystical "Unicorn Club", each touching the booming billion in less than four years. Liebke, like most entrepreneurs, is hoping to crack the unicornial code.
Breeding a unicorn isn't as easy (or as fun) as it sounds. It doesn't come with mood-lighting or champagne....or a simple "good idea." It is actually quite difficult to spot the signs of a potential unicorn while a new company is still in its stage of infancy, though that is exactly what investors are trying to do. Every investor wishes to have that sixth sense, the one that predicts which of the horses has that shining, billion-dollar horn just waiting to sprout on top of its head.
Joe Liebke is currently in this process. Having successfully launched Luxpads, a marketplace platform that rents out luxury Los Angeles homes, he is taking his large client base and what he has learned from the Los Angeles market to create VILLAWAY, a global marketplace for luxury home rentals.
Because of his strategy, he has made excellent progress securing over 7,000 luxury villas in over 100 destinations worldwide, and assembled an award winning Les Clefs de 'Or led concierge team.
Below, Liebke makes a great case for his company as a potential unicorn. And if you're going through this process yourself, perhaps this is some good food for thought that will get your creative juices flowing.
Identify A Potentially Gigantic Market
According to Radius Global Market Research, the vacation rental industry generated $85 billion in 2010 and is expected to exceed $100 billion in 2020. It's a huge industry that keeps growing, and Liebke sees room for VILLAWAY to be a key player in this massive market. Due to his success with his other company Luxpads, which rents luxury vacation homes all over the Los Angeles area, Liebke already has a substantial book of clients he can leverage when VILLAWAY is launched. "Our client base in Los Angeles is really the foundation for building what we want to do on a global basis," he says.
Offer A Unique Product
According to Liebke, "creating customized, extraordinary villa vacations for the demanding customer," is his forte. His experience as the CEO of Luxpads, has helped him determine what luxury travelers are looking for in a rental company. "We have learned how the discerning traveler searches, qualifies and eventually books luxury homes and villas," Liebke claims. It is because of this that Liebke has focused immense attention on getting the VILLAWAY website to be as alluring yet simple to use, so customers can easily find the perfect place to stay at the best destinations around the world.
Sure, there are plenty of other companies that rent vacation rental homes via the web, but Liebke feels VILLAWAY differentiates itself by utilizing the best new technologies and media forms in the platform and by emphasizing a superb level of customer service that many vacation rental companies fail to provide. "Many marketplaces are simply listing sites and offer little or no special services to their customers," Liebke says, "VILLAWAY will organize, integrate and set standards for property managers, personal concierges, client ambassadors, service team members, travel agents, vendors and providers to create an overall superior customer experience."
Pay Attention to Growing Trends
With (more than 20 years experience working in all facets of luxury travel, Liebke realized the need for a cohesive and intuitive platform to create a "user-friendly" travel planning experience. According to this article written by CEO and Founder of Applico Alex Moazed, platform business models have a higher potential for success and less competition, making them ideal for generating unicorns.
Businesses that use the platform business model connect producers with consumers, forming an interdependent relationship, like Uber with its drivers and riders. VILLAWAY connects vacation property managers with travel agents and potential guests. Essentially, it follows the conceit of the world-famous unicorn Airbnb, but rather than apartments and housing for the masses, VILLAWAY accommodates voluptuous villa rentals. In a way, an Airbnb for the elite jet setters, the customers who revere a quiet kind of privacy and service that most hotels struggle to provide.
"Our model, executed properly, will allow us to achieve extraordinary revenue and profit targets, which will likely make us a very valuable organization," Liebke says. Because the business is web-based, his plan boasts low marginal costs for supply, allowing him to take advantage of a massive worldwide travel network and referral system so he can add new properties at minimal cost.
Find Your Advantage Over the Competition
It's no secret the vacation rental company market is competitive. The main nemesis? Hotels, of course. Consumers cannot resist the allure of a well lit, bustling hotel lobby complete with aromatic floral arrangements and the convivial smile of a chipper bellman. Who doesn't love pushing the room service button just to have a basket of warm homemade croissants and hot coffee delivered at the front door or the freshly pressed sheets each day and chocolate mints on the pillows? Everyone enjoys being served.
Hotels have capitalized on this for years, but most people don't know that luxury home rentals, like Liebke's VILLAWAY, provide guests with the same experience. According to Liebke, his company will offer private chefs, bar staff, maid service, personal trainers, concierge personnel; basically just about anything a hotel could deliver and more.
Let's compare one of the Deluxe Suites from a top rated hotel in Beverly Hills to that of a VILLAWAY villa. According to the hotel's website, the Deluxe Suite costs $5,200 a night. That pretty penny covers 1100ft2 of space, one bedroom, a private patio with a garden view, a bottle of Krug Champagne, and a complimentary trip to and from the airport. Compare that to the 7000ft2 Beverly Hills Estate Villa offered by VILLAWAY which includes six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a private pool, a Jacuzzi, and a tennis court for $3995 a night.
"A villa vacation is an extraordinary experience but it can also be a tremendous value," Liebke claims, "often extended families that need more space prefer sharing a large villa over multiple hotel bedrooms. It ends up costing them less than all those hotel rooms and room service."
But it's not just the hotels that compete with VILLAWAY. Liebke says the company will also maintain a competitive advantage over other vacation home rental companies. His biggest competitor offers very similar and often times the exact same villas and amenities that Liebke plans to offer through VILLAWAY, however Liebke might just have the upper hand because VILLAWAY will have a catalog of over 7,000 different villas in over 100 world class destinations out the gate, whereas his next biggest competitor has half that amount.
In the end, Liebke knows his business will succeed because he deeply cares for the concerns of his customers. "VILLAWAY is a customer centric company at its core," he states. "Our client base expects and demands the highest levels of quality and service. Our unique model is able to provide this due to the consistency and efficiencies that our technologies leverage. VILLAWAY will launch in the coming months, and Liebke feels it will make a luxurious and much needed boom to the travel booking experience. Perhaps, the boom of a billion dollar unicorn.