US: Austin-based smart home rental platform Wander has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round and opened to the public for bookings, four months after the company officially launched and secured an initial $7 million in seed round investment.
The round was led by QED Investors, with participation from Redpoint Ventures, Authentic Ventures, Fifthwall, Susa Ventures, basketball player Kevin Durant and businessman Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures, Not Boring founder Packy McCormick, investor Sahil Bloom, Todd & Rahul’s Angel Fund, Alumni Ventures, Vibe Capital, Socially Financed, Bluewatch Ventures, hnvr, a16z, among others.
Since launching, the startup has achieved impressive growth, exceeding 30,000 users on its waiting list, while more than 2,000 founding members each pre-paid $100 in credit during the beta phase last year, allowing them to bypass the waiting list altogether.
Wander’s portfolio includes five listed properties in Gualala, California; Bandon Dunes, Oregon; Truckee, California; Port Orford, Oregon; and Joshua Tree in Yucca Valley. The latest funding round will drive the startup’s domestic growth strategy, with plans to also expand internationally in the future.
After stepping down as CEO of his previous company Coder last year, founder John Andrew Entwistle launched Wander to allow people to travel and work from unique locations, as well as provide a consistent and reliable end-to-end customer experience, following his own previous negative experience renting a cabin in Colorado.
Wander founder John Andrew Entwistle said: “I think people who are fans of the future can see what we’re trying to orient ourselves towards. We want to create the infrastructure to experience the world. With the pandemic you realise digital nomads are your banker, your lawyer. It’s really everyone.”
Aiming to empower its core target demographic of remote workers to turn their workstation into an “unforgettable travel experience”, Wander’s business model relies on Web3.0 [also known as Web3], the new iteration of the world wide web based on blockchain technology, which incorporates concepts including decentralisation and token-based economics. The model is dependent on nightly revenue from bookings, but the fact that Wander owns its own inventory will allow it to expand into other revenue streams such as turning the properties into long-term rentals in the event of another travel shutdown.
The calibre of investor that Wander has attracted in its Series A round suggests that there is faith in the startup’s ability to be profitable through Web3. Its ability to work and partner with local properties to clean and maintain each property, incorporate a human-based concierge service, introduce a cryptocurrency payment option and install reliable wifi, is designed to create a loyal community among Wander’s user base whereby guests can share their experiences on social media and other platforms.
The Wander mobile app allows guests to search destinations, book their trip and carry out a range of smart home operations, from unlocking the door to turning on the fireplace and adjusting the lights. Each property also comes equipped with its own Tesla electric car.
QED Investors partner Chuckie Reddy said: “Whenever you buy a property on this platform, the value of the company accretes. There is an opportunity here to effectively create a captive REIT that will own the real estate and be separated from the platform itself.”