US: Samara, the latest venture launched by Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia which adds small homes to people’s backyards through its Backyard product, has secured $41 million in a Series A funding round.
The round was led by venture capital firm Thrive Capital, with participation from a number of investors including 8VC, General Catalyst, New Legacy, SV Angels and Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell. Fellow Airbnb co-founders, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk, also contributed to the round.
Having started out as a blue sky product R&D team within Airbnb with the purpose of thinking critically about the future of living back in 2016, Samara launched by spinning out of Airbnb to become an independent company last spring. It is jointly funded by Gebbia and Mike McNamara, a former CEO of international product development firm Flex.
Samara will utilise the investment to expand its operations, including everything from manufacturing to marketing and research and development, according to Gebbia.
Backyard is designed to be a transformational, flexible dwelling, offering clean and timeless design and customisable floor plans and colours that complements one’s main home. Through its multi-use flexible layouts, Backyard can change in purpose and evolve with consumers’ lives, helping those who are seeking to expand their family or those creating a new income stream through a rental space.
Initially, Backyard is launching in California as its inaugural market, with thought given to the imminent housing crisis and rapidly increasing cost of living in the state. With regulations already in place to facilitate the densification of the state, California will allow Samara to have an immediate impact on people’s lives because accessory dwelling units [ADUs] are now considered a homeowner’s right by law.
With solar energy offsetting, additional living space, the ability to create new revenue streams through rental and more, a Backyard unit can significantly increase a property’s worth while allowing residents to optimise the space outside of their primary home.
Through the Backyard product, Samara is setting out to improve the way in which we live, starting by holistically reimagining the home. The brand design products are a way of aspiring to a “brighter future, balancing beauty, sustainability and simplicity”, according to its team, and the offerings consisting of both studio and one-bedroom units are being precision-built using “highly durable, environmentally-considerate” materials that are not readily available to most builders.
Additionally, Samara will seamlessly manage the construction process from end-to-end, including surveying, permitting, unit fabrication and installation, ensuring Backyards unit are completed quickly, within budget, and with minimal disruption to consumers’ homes. Backyard dwellings are therefore designed to last a lifetime.
Gebbia, who stepped back from his full-time operating role at Airbnb last summer and was also named among IHM’s 2023 ‘Ones to watch in travel, hospitality and real estate’, told Fortune that Samara Backyard would be conducive to multigenerational living and hybrid / remote working trends: “Families across California that need space are looking for these solutions. We’re taking the same playbook that Airbnb brought to the travel space of ‘make it simple, make it easy for the consumer’.”
In contrast to the opposition against short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb and the growth of their operations, California is passing more legislation that eases the housing shortage and makes it easier to buy and sell ADUs like condos, while decreeing that each ADU must be sold separately from a property’s main residence.
Each Backyard unit currently ranges from 420 to 690 square feet and costs between $269,000 and $369,000. They are also constructed with a steel roof and a hardwood floor made out of engineered oak wood, and can either be connected to the electrical system of the main residence or run solely on their own solar panels.
In the future, Gebbia and McNamara hope to unveil more products and innovations for Samara, including units for varying climates and different regions. Backyard units are currently designed with warmer weather in mind and the co-founders also want to produce units that can effectively survive in hurricane-like weather, making it easier to expand into more states across the United States.
McNamara also told Fortune that Backyard units could potentially one day be installed side-by-side in recreational facilities near parks or as corporate housing to broaden their existing addressable market.