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Evan Hammer and Nick Persico, co-founders of Smart Host

Evan Hammer and Nick Persico, co-founders of Smart Host

Pricing a rental home correctly on HomeAway, Flipkey or AirBnB can put more money into a property owner’s pocket.

That’s the goal of Smart Host.

Smart Host wants to introduce intelligent pricing to the vacation rental market, said Evan Hammer, the company’s CEO and founder. Hotels and airlines have already mastered this. Yet vacation rentals are overlooking this innovation, he said.

“We help hosts make more money through market intelligence and dynamic pricing,” Hammer said.

There’s a need for this service, according to Ben Edwards, vacation rental manager and board president of the Vacation Rental Managers Association, a trade organization.

He flew in from Florida to introduce Smart Host during Techstars Demo Day in Austin on Sept. 3rd.

Smart Host is a subscription-based pricing engine for property owners or managers. The company helps them figure out the base price for a rental and then raise it for peak times or lower it as supply and demand in the marketplace changes. The goal is to increase the number of times a vacation rental home is rented at the best price, Hammer said.

“It’s a tool that is not readily available right now,” he said.

The vacation home rental market is made up of six million homes, which generate billions in annual revenue, Hammer said. When Smart Host has 1 million bookings on its site, it will net hundreds of millions in annual revenue, he said.

The startup, run by Hammer, Nick Persico and Dave Redding won the StartupBus North America 2014 competition last March.

The team of five met on the New York bus bound for Rackspace in San Antonio. They coded for five days to create a minimum viable product. In the end, they pitched SmartHost as an Android app. They won the competition. Then they went to Austin for South by Southwest Interactive. Hammer met with Jason Seats, managing director of Techstars.

Originally, Hammer applied to Techstars in New York with a different team. They didn’t get selected but they made the shortlist. Seats heard about them from the New York director. He liked the team and thought they would be a good fit for Techstars Austin.

Smart Host won a spot in the Techstars Austin class, which ran from June through August. Three of the original team members decided to continue on with the startup, Hammer said.

“Of all the teams in the last class, they were the youngest, in terms of business,” Seats said.

Smart Host spent a lot of time building their product to convince the market, investors, and partners that they could pull this off, he said.
In the end, SmartHost landed a pilot program with HomeAway, one of the largest vacation rental marketplaces in the world.