For certain travelers, the key to visiting a new country is to experience and live the local life – like how a native would – which few tour packages outside of homestay vacations can offer. This is the space in which online short-term home rental community site LocalBigwig.com operates in.
Currently in beta, New York City-based LocalBigwig.com helps facilitate the search for local life experiences in metropolitan destinations around the world by connecting global travelers with homeowners offering short-term rentals for furnished local homes. Not everyone wants to live in an expensive hotel during a vacation overseas, after all. If you’re a local homeowner hoping to lease your furnished property, all you need to do is sign up for an account, take a picture of your home, provide a short description and submit your listing. Travelers, on the other hand, simply sign up, look for a suitable home within the listings, inquire with the local homeowner for more information if required, and make a booking.
The site not only offers homeowners and travelers an intuitive platform to connect, it also offers a safe and controlled method of booking transactions. There’s also resources and advice for the uniformed traveler (and homeowner). The site offers rentals of only full apartments – as opposed to airbeds, couches, or spare bedrooms – to provide its older demographic their desired privacy. The company also runs an operational arm providing services to homeowners to make it easier and safer to rent out homes.
LocalBigwig.com was started by founder and CEO Ray Madronio, who started his career as a programmer for a global IT consulting company. He later took a break from work to attend business school, and whose last formal corporate job as a director of direct marketing for a fine jewelry and luxury watches retailer.
“All along, however, I was into real estate,” Ray says, “I found myself enjoying open houses every Sunday and learning more about the real estate market, especially in New York City.” He found the capabilities of the existing websites that catered to the short-term rental industry to be lacking, so he knew there was a tremendous opportunity to create an online community for this market and was one of the triggers for starting LocalBigwig.
“LocalBigwig combines my experience in web development, project management, marketing and real estate,” Ray explains. “I gained experience in the short-term home rental industry in NYC and found that travel into NYC and demand for short-term home rentals continue to both be strong.”
Building A More Engaged Community
Despite just launching its beta recently, LocalBigwig‘s online community has been growing and travelers have already found quality short-term rentals from the site. Building sizeable customer traction was one of its biggest concerns, but it seems that hurdle has been crossed.
“Members are encouraged to communicate outside our system which will truly help get that comfort feel about the other party,” explains Ray about the benefits of using the site. “Our website is based on a flat subscription-based model which removes expensive and confusing commissions.” He says its subscription-based model yields a fresher set of home listings and, hence, acquire a more engaged membership community. “We review not only the traveler profiles but also the home listings to ensure a certain quality standard is met.”
The startup is part of the NYU-Poly Business Incubator Program, supported by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the real estate division of Trinity Church, the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and supported by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It is fully bootstrapped, but Ray acknowledges that they are currently exploring their options for outside funding. “Additional funds can help fuel our growth and launch our other great ideas,” he says.
It has a current team of eight.
A Big Plug For Starting Up In New York City
“There is no feeling like working on a project that you are passionate about,” explains Ray about his decision to work on LocalBigwig. “The entrepreneurship experience has already proved very rewarding for me.”
Ray also says that as an entrepreneur, it is important to listen to the advice of ‘those who have been there’. “I have learned to listen to others with experience in various aspects of running a startup. Though these guys may only be a month or two ahead, their lessons learned are valuable and can help jumpstart decisions that you have to make for your company.”
Ray has worked many years in Silicon Valley, but has found New York City to be a fantastic place to start a company. “The entrepreneurs here are very knowledgeable, motivated and helpful. With the special benefit of belonging to a relatively smaller but smart startup community, I recommend exploring whether NYC makes sense when looking for your startup’s home base.”
Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.