Onefinestay launches as an 'unhotel', lets travelers stay in other people's homes

Calling itself an ‘unhotel’, Onefinestay, which launches first in London, lets travelers stay in someone’s real home while the owner is out of town. For guests, it’s being pitched as a better value alternative to a premium or boutique hotel with the attraction being that they can “live like a local” (or so the marketing goes), while for house owners the service is a way to generate “hassle-free income” since it’s fully managed with Onefinestay doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes, such as inventory, insurance, and even providing towels and toiletries. The contract, however, is between the guest and home owner not Onefinestay, so in that sense they are simply an intermediary.

Its founders are Greg Marsh (CEO), Demetrios Zoppos (COO), and Tim Davey (Head of Technology). Marsh was previously on the investment team with venture capital firm Index Ventures, while Zoppos has held leadership roles at several companies, most notably at GF-X, the trading exchange for airfreight capacity which raised £50m and was acquired by Descartes, where he was co-founder, Ops Director and later CEO. Lastly Davey was previously  co-founder and CTO of SnapTalent, the web recruitment ad marketplace, which raised funds from Y Combinator and Index. So it’s an experienced team with form.

Along with booking a place to stay through the site – from a luxury apartment “in aristocratic Mayfair”, a family home in “stately Holland Park” or a bachelor pad in “leafy Primrose Hill” – there’s a further technology tie-in. Guests are loaned an iPhone for the duration of their stay so that they can make local calls and get info about the local area and the home that they are staying in. The latter is made possible via barcode labels that have been placed around the home, such as on a painting or a set-top box.

“You press the scan button in our app, point the phone at the barcode, and a short video plays automatically of the host explaining e.g., the history of the painting, or how to use the TV”, explains Marsh.

That’s pretty neat and certainly demonstrates the versatility of smartphone platforms like the iPhone in providing bespoke audio/visual experiences that would have been harder and more expensive to offer in the past.

Despite Marsh’s VC experience and contacts (or perhaps because of it), Onefinestay remains boostrapped aside from funding from friends and family.