US: ShortTermRentalz speaks to Daniel Cruz, co-founder and CEO of washbnb, a tech-enabled linen solution for the short-term rental and hotel industries, which recently launched a crowdfunding campaign via Wefunder.
- Please introduce yourself, washbnb and the role it will play in the growth of the short-term rental industry.
I’m Daniel Cruz, co-founder and CEO of washbnb. washbnb is a tech-enabled linen solution for short-term rental property managers as well as boutique hotels. It’s linen rental, logistics, and laundry all in one simple service and completely eliminates the laundry problem from hosting life. We’re an early stage startup based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, and launched in February 2020.
We enable managers to improve the guest experience by providing a repeatable, high-quality bed and bath linen service that rivals that of top luxury hotel chains. washbnb saves operators time, improves professionalism in the industry, and reduces travel’s environmental footprint. We are part of the growing operations tech ecosystem in the short-term rental sector.
- How did the idea for washbnb come about? How did you know that you wanted to develop it further, build a team and launch the business?
washbnb was born from my experience as an Airbnb host in Milwaukee. After experiencing early success, I got serious about hosting as a business and added more units. I quickly realised that I wasn’t really in the hospitality business though because I was doing nothing but laundry all the time!
After calling every laundry company I could find on Google, it was clear that there wasn’t a good solution tailored to my specific needs. I was lucky to find Cat Simpson, who had experience in housekeeping and short-term rentals and became my assistant host [aka laundry manager] while she finished her last couple of years of college. We frequently brainstormed business ideas related to hosting and knew there was something to laundry but never got much further than that.
In late 2019, Milwaukee was selected to host the Democratic National Convention in 2020 [if you know the Airbnb founding story, you’ll know that these conventions actually set the stage for their success way back in 2008]. Everyone thought they were going to become instant millionaires in Milwaukee by renting out their place on Airbnb. I had some chance meetings with entrepreneurs who were preparing to launch new hosting businesses in my neighbourhood with no clue about how they were going to get the laundry done.
I quickly realised that a gold rush was happening and instead of joining the gold miners in competing for bookings as a host, I decided to help them with the laundry. I pitched to our first customer on 1 January 2020, and when he said yes, I quit my corporate job and went to work designing washbnb with Cat, eventually recruiting Brian and Nick.
- Tell us about the crowdfunding experience to date – what are the benefits for both the company and community in raising money in this way?
I never seriously considered crowdfunding until the end of February when it was suggested to me by a host after a meeting on the Clubhouse app. They wanted washbnb in their city and said they would invest if it would help get us there faster. Crowdfunding has the potential to radically change the types of companies that get early-stage funding because it can turn everyone into an investor with a minimum investment of just $100.
It has been a true revelation for washbnb and is propelling us to new highs almost daily by converting conversations and enthusiasm for our plan into actual growth capital. Importantly, it gives us a chance to align our values with those of our customers by giving them meaningful equity ownership in washbnb.
We started out as being ‘built for hosts, by hosts’ and now we can add ‘funded by hosts’. It ensures that we create value for our customers by helping them run their businesses more efficiently and effectively, and then get to share in the resulting growth. Instead of extracting from our customers like most commodity services do [like laundry services do], we add to their business, we improve it.
To do this at scale, however, we need capital. And for startups, that means investors. Investors that are also customers, or potential customers, will help us make decisions that continue to be good for both of our companies and ensure long-term continuity and value creation for all stakeholders.
- Why should property owners and managers be using washbnb as an essential tool for their business operations? How does washbnb solve the laundry problem?
Convenience. Quality. Trust in Clean. Sustainability. These are the primary value propositions of washbnb. It turns out that laundry is just one piece of the puzzle that needs to be solved in order to provide guests with a high quality, safe, stay with minimal environmental impact. washbnb saves time by eliminating laundry, linen procurement / management, and the logistics involved in having the right items in the right place at the right time. We provide linens that are used in luxury hotels and launder them using machines specifically designed for the job, significantly improving quality in both the product and how it is presented, as opposed to what most operators are able to offer in this industry.
Our washing process kills all pathogens, making it safe for guests. Although we didn’t have to change anything due to the pandemic, it certainly helps to be able to offer peace of mind to our customers and their guests that they’re using expertly laundered linens, every time. Finally, we designed washbnb around environmental sustainability which is a big problem associated with decentralised accommodations.
- Raising standards in the sector has been a key theme over the past year, how does your solution help operators to improve their guest experience?
Quality isn’t just in the thread counts and 100 per cent cotton, it’s also in the laundry process. It turns out that the most efficient way to do laundry also results in the best possible clean, dry, press, and fold because it is done by huge automated machines that are engineered and calibrated to do nothing but hospitality linens.
I don’t know many short-term rental operators who have the means to spend millions of dollars on laundry equipment, which means that they have to settle for some sub-standard method which also costs more per pound in terms of dollars and impact to the environment. Our medium-term goal is to do for short-term rentals what the Westin Heavenly Bed did for hotels in the late 90s.
Most of us have stayed in a short-term rental with terrible bed and bath linen situations. In our world, this would never happen. It starts with education and ends with having access to washbnb. There’s clearly a lot of work to be done but we’re already involved in host education, expanding access, and many things in between.
Read Part Two of Cruz’ interview on ShortTermRentalz on Monday [24 May].