Q&A with Austin-based BNB Shield

BNB shield logoQ. What is BNB Shield LLC?

A: BNB Shield LLC finds, reports on and challenges illegal, contract-breaking and unlicensed short-term rentals. We report these to the proper channels to ensure they are promptly removed from third-party rental platforms that include AirBnB, Craigslist, Home Away, Overnight, FlipKey, VRBO, VacationRentals.com, among others. A proliferation of short-term rental websites has appeared on the scene to meet both demand and supply dynamics for short-term rentals. In the last decade we’ve seen the concept of staying at a “stranger’s house” move from relative obscurity and uncertainty into a mainstream choice for any traveler.

The short-term rental market is increasingly disruptive to the hotel industry, with short-term rentals representing an increasingly competitive alternative to hotel stays– even at the upper end of the price range. BNB Shield represents a market response to the impact of the sharing economy. Many regulations are now on the books at many cities, including Austin, and there is simply no way to enforce them. While the city of Austin in particular has made great strides in enforcement there is more work to do. And we’re happy to contribute to that.

Q. Who are your customers?

A: Our customer base is hotels and hotel chains, apartment and condominium associations and municipalities. Our processes and reporting are tailored to each type of customer to better serve their distinct needs.

Q. Who is on your team?

IMG_1913 (1)A: Our team consists of Isaiah Tornero, software guru and programmer who leads a small operations team as COO. Jacques Casimir is CEO and conceived of the idea behind BNB Shield, and Jordan French, engineer and former Federal enforcement attorney, who serves as President of the company.

Q. Why are you guys the ones to do this startup?

A: Our experience in the short-term rental market, real estate and technology led us to identify the problem and create a useful system to properly enforce existing regulations that apply to short-term rental markets.

Q. What challenges do you face bringing your startup into the marketplace?

A. Each city acts as its own market for short-term rentals and, along with that comes a variety of enforcement regimes. In all instances whether regulation of short-term rentals in a given market are tight or lax or enforcement is strict or light the goal among tax authorities, hotel industry executives and condominium management firms is the same. They all need our services.

Bad actors will become more creative in how they hide, including manipulating photos and migrating onto lesser known rental platforms to evade enforcement authorities. We’ve developed tools that swiftly follow existing bad actors and also uncover new ones.

Q. How do you acquire customers?

A: We do receive inbound leads from apartment-complex management companies and from hotel managers. Most are frustrated with the very real impact of short-term rentals on their bottom line. We also get referrals from people we know or meet in the hotel and lodging industry. Practically everyone articulates that short-term rentals are a problem that needs to be addressed.

Q. What is the business model?

A: BNB Shield has custom software and algorithms that find detailed information on all the third-party short-term rental platforms. Our system reports regularly to our clients so that they know which rentals–and how many–are inside and in close proximity to their buildings. We also provide reporting on our success rate with challenging short-term rentals and show the very real impact on revenues.

Q. Are you bootstrapped or do you have angel or VC financing?

A: Bootstrapped. We all come from business-to-business service backgrounds where you “raise money” by selling something people voluntarily pay for because they have a need. But we’re open to bringing on strategic partners and building a strategic board of advisers.

Q. What Austin resources have you found most helpful?

A: Economist Thomas Young, Ph.D. is crafting a very visual, instructive white paper for us on the Austin rental market that shows the relationship between short-term rentals and their proximity to hotels and the resulting impact on room receipts. His knowledge of Austin and hotel markets in general has been invaluable.

Q. What has been your biggest win so far?

A: We landed one large paying client that is a condominium association with several dozen other contracts in the works. We just began selling and we’re building a sales team. We have a significant deal in front of a major hotel association that will really showcase our tech and impact on enforcement.

Q. What is your long-term vision?

A: BNB Shield will be nationwide and then international. Illegal or unlicensed short-term rentals aren’t just a problem in Austin. They are an international phenomenon. We’ve upgraded our technology and processes twice and we’ll continue to reinvest to make sure we’re well ahead of the demands on our systems as we scale. We will also get increasingly surgical about catching and reporting unlicensed short-term rentals. In total, our services benefit all parties involved, including AirBNB and other short-term rental platforms. They provide a great service but it’s important that everyone using them plays by the rules.

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