The new additions to Sonder's leadership team

Sonder announces changes to leadership team

US: VC-backed hospitality startup Sonder, which closed a $170m Series E round last June, has announced a number a leadership changes and team additions.

The company, which leases apartments and turns them into furnished, short-term rentals, has confirmed the appointments of a new president, chief technology officer [CTO] and vice president of market operations [North America].

In the first change to the leadership team, Sonder has announced that Sanjay Banker, who joined Sonder in January 2019 as chief financial officer, has been promoted to president and CFO.

According to Sonder, the decision had “long been in the making” and formalises the work he has already begun, including helping oversee strategy in many areas of the business in addition to finance. Banker’s two-plus decades of experience working closely with management teams to help companies reach their full potential will continue to position Sonder as “the leading next-generation hospitality brand”, according to the startup.

Banker said: “My two years at Sonder have been an incredible experience. I’m continuously impressed by the resilience and commitment of our entire team. I’m honoured to continue leading our Finance organisation while also expanding my role to drive Sonder’s broader business strategy and mission to reshape hospitality.”

Meanwhile, Satyen Pandya has been unveiled as Sonder’s new chief technology officer. The “seasoned technology leader” arrives at Sonder with over two decades of experience at companies including Amazon, Flexport and WeWork.

According to Sonder, Pandya has been recruited to continue “building world-class technology” by utilising his “deep background in leading software engineering, product management, data science, UX design and program management for e-commerce, hospitality, healthcare, and telecom products and applications”.

Pandya said: “I’m thrilled to join Sonder, a company that’s leveraging technology to create a better and in many ways more efficient hospitality experience, as the company’s new chief technology officer. At the core of Sonder’s business model is innovative, proprietary technology that delivers a streamlined and more seamless guest experience, as well as more efficient operations management systems.

“The team has already made significant progress in developing sophisticated systems to deliver on this mission and I look forward to pushing the boundaries on what we can create,” he added.

Christian Hempell joins Sonder as its vice president of market operations for North America, bringing 25 years of hospitality experience in the industry and a ​track record of building high-performing teams that deliver strong results. Under his leadership, Sonder’s North American markets will be focused on delivering an “exceptional branded guest experience and overseeing highly-efficient operations across more than two dozen cities”.

Hempell said: “Having spent more than 25 years in hospitality, I’m acutely aware of the endless opportunities for rethinking how the industry operates. I firmly believe that Sonder is on the cusp of fundamentally changing the ways travellers stay and interact with branded hotels and professionally managed apartments and I am incredibly optimistic about the positive impact our teams and operating model can have on this space.”

Sonder has also announced that Daniel Dyball has joined the company as senior director of public policy, EMEA.

With more than 15 years’ experience in corporate and regulatory affairs, Dyball will focus on growing Sonder’s business responsibly and sustainably across Europe. He joins Sonder’s EMEA leadership team and has held senior policy roles at public service broadcaster Channel 4, UK National Lottery operator Camelot and HM Treasury.

Prior to joining Sonder, he worked as UK executive director at Internet Association, the trade body for leading internet companies, where he launched and then ran its first international office in London, engaging constructively with the government, media and third sector on a wide range of tech policy and regulatory issues.

Mèlika Carroll, VP corporate affairs, Sonder, said: “Since 2014, Sonder has focused on redefining the travel experience through inspiring design and modern service. With spaces in over 30 markets and seven countries, we focus on partnering with every city we operate in – forging strong relationships with communities, developers and local governments.

“As we continue to grow in Europe, we’re thrilled to welcome Daniel to our corporate affairs team. His deep experience in government policy and regulatory developments will help us continue to grow responsibly, while ensuring we’re supporting the local communities in cities with Sonder spaces,” added Carroll.

Dyball said: “I’m delighted to be joining Sonder during such a pivotal growth phase as the company expands responsibly across EMEA. Through its industry-leading technology, unique business model and world-class team, Sonder is powering innovation in the travel and hospitality sector.

“I look forward to partnering with policymakers and local communities to help bring millions of guests memorable experiences in truly remarkable spaces,” he added.

Founded in 2012, Sonder achieved a $1.3 billion valuation after its June funding round and it now operates a reported 5,000 units in 35 cities around the world.

This year, the startup is set to pursue expansion in its founding city of Montreal, where it secured a $23 million loan to open up a new hub office last month, and in Scotland, having signed its first property in Glasgow recently.

At the same time, Sonder is aiming to hire up to 700 employees over the next five years. The startup currently employs 120 staff, according to The Real Deal.

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