Tag: Homeaway (Page 2 of 2)

HomeAway teams up with 3 Day Startup to foster new companies

By Luke Carrière
Special contributor to Silicon Hills News

Ever wanted to start a company but didn’t know the exact market or have the exact expertise? 3 Day Startup is teaming up with HomeAway, a recently IPO-ed Austin startup, to challenge, inspire, and help students and recent graduates to create companies in the travel space. The goal is to meet co-founders, work with great mentors, and build momentum for your new tech startup. We would like to invite you to apply to this exciting new event, which will be held the weekend of April 13th to April 15th. Please apply as soon as possible as we have rolling admissions.

We’ll combine the regular 3DS format – sixty hours of little sleep, high intensity doing, including market validation, prototyping, business model generation, etc – with HomeAway’s unique insights in the travel industry to help you create new companies. HomeAway has generously agreed to donate access to their API, their top executives, and has agreed to host free boot camps on the travel space in general and specifically, the $85 billion vacation rental market. The experiment here is simple: what happens when you combine 40 brilliant participants, 3DS’ proven methods for company creation, and the insights and expertise of a $2 billion company? As always, you, the participants will own the company. (That’s right, HomeAway isn’t taking any equity in companies that come out of the weekend, although they have acquired a lot of companies (16) in the past few years.)

Accepted participants will be mentored by some of HomeAway’s finest employees, including Chief Technology Officer Ross Buhrdorf. Over a dozen rockstars from HomeAway’s engineering, marketing, and sales departments will also be on hand at the event to help you build your companies. If you’re interested in participating in this unique new event, please click here to apply.

HomeAway’s CEO gives lessons on entrepreneurship

Brian Sharples, CEO of HomeAway

Be paranoid, curious, strategic and humble.
Those are just a few of the secrets of being a successful entrepreneur, according to Brian Sharples, CEO of Austin-based HomeAway. He gave an insightful speech recalling some of the lessons of his life at Capital Factory’s Demo Day recently.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur all of my life,” Sharples said. “I’ve had some that haven’t worked out at all and some that have worked out OK.”
For some reason, from the beginning, HomeAway has just exceeded expectations, Sharples said.
“A lot of that is because we do have a very seasoned group of people,” he said.
Sharples founded HomeAway in 2005. It is a vacation rental marketplace that matches homeowners with property managers and travelers interested in renting a home.
“HomeAway was a very big idea to take a huge market and try to consolidate it on a worldwide basis,” Sharples said.
The idea came to Sharples on a vacation. He had just finished with another startup IntelliQuest Information Group, a supplier of marketing data and research to Fortune 500 technology companies. He decided to take a few years off and travel around the world with his wife and three kids.
“We like to stay in houses more than hotels,” he said. “It gives us a lot of space to run around.” But finding properties in Southern France and Italy to lease was not easy. He had to find property managers and make arrangements with each individual.
“As an entrepreneur, I’m always trying to figure out what’s the next thing,” Sharples said. That’s generally a problem he encounters daily or something that irks him. The vacation rental marketplace was a problem that needed a better solution, he said.
“It just kept nagging at me why wasn’t there an Expedia for vacation homes?” So he decided to create one.
But he drew from his experience and his failures at other entrepreneurial ventures. Like the time he borrowed $1 million from some venture capitalists to corner the used car market by creating massive events at football stadiums around the country. He built an enormous structure in San Francisco.
“The day we opened a freak storm and tornado blew in with 75 miles an hour winds,” Sharples said. “It just completely leveled the place. No one died. But a lot of cars got destroyed.”
“And long story short, I lost the first $1 million I ever took in about three hours,” he said. “I learned very quickly that you not only have to have a good idea but one that can be executed. You have to have a good plan.”
Investors are looking for a great idea combined with a terrific plan for execution, he said.
Since then, he’s had incredible paranoia about managing risk.
“I learned that day that I didn’t spend enough time thinking about risk,” he said. “I didn’t buy the right insurance policy.”
So when he started Homeaway, he thought a lot about managing risk. He wanted to find out who tried and failed at creating a home rental marketplace.
“Looking at competition is such an important thing,” he said.
Before putting the HomeAway business plan together, Carl Shephard and Sharples spent five months talking to everyone they could find about the vacation rental market. They knew nothing.
“We talked to customers. We talked to suppliers. We learned a lot of cool stuff,” Sharples said.
They also discovered that in 1999, Expedia bought the VacationSpot and paid a ton of money for it around $75 million. A year later it went out of business. So they hunted down Rich Barton, ex-CEO of Expedia, to find out why VacationSpot failed. They flew out to Seattle and met at a café with Barton and two members of his former management team. They told how they tried to turn the business into a hotel business. Within a year, the company was gone. None of the customers wanted to deal with that kind of a model.
“Customers in this business preferred a marketplace model because they were dealing with their personal homes and personal possessions,” Sharples said. “They wanted to talk to the people they were renting their houses out to. Travelers wanted to talk to the owners too.”
“It was a business where the conversation was really, really important,” Sharples said.
“The best model for our business was a super, super boring model. It wasn’t sexy technology. It was a marketplace model bringing together buyers and sellers.”
Since launching, HomeAway has raised $405 million in private funding and acquired 17 websites. The company recently went public and has a market valuation of $3 billion.
Business is about game theory and planning for the future, Sharples said.
“When you introduce your company, five competitors may react to it. Some may over react to it. Venture capitalists may react to it,” Sharples said. ““This is a great time to be an entrepreneur. There’s a lot of money out there. But I’ve never seen such a fast follow market.”
For example, about 18 months after Groupon launched, it saw 100 competitors spring up, Sharples said.
Sharples started HomeAway when he was 44.
“There is no way if I started the company in my 20s or 30s, the company would be as successful,” he said.
Age and experience play a big part in creating a successful venture, he said.
“The stuff that you messed up makes you good,” he said. “The lessons you learned in life.”
Sharples advised new entrepreneurs to surround themselves with as much experience as possible.
“It’s really critical when you’re a young company,” he said.
Also, it’s important to hire people to complement your skill set, he said. Also, investors want to see humble entrepreneurs.
“It’s OK to say you don’t know everything,” he said.
At the same time, you have to be a little cocky. You have to show your passion. You have to answer the question “What’s your higher purpose?”
“One thing I love about our company is it’s a travel business. It makes memories. It’s about happiness. It’s about making people money,” Sharples said. About 600,000 people transact between $7 billion to $10 billion in revenue on HomeAway, he said.
“What is that higher purpose? What are you aiming for long term,” he said. “If you don’t have that passion, you won’t attract investors. It’s not just about the exit strategy and how are you going to make money.
There are a handful of high profile companies that get funded with lots of money and they haven’t figured out how to make money. That isn’t the real world.
“You have to know how your business is going to make money,” he said.

Video courtesy of Capital Factory:

Doing the Austin Startup Crawl

After the action-packed Capital Factory Demo Day, techies hit the hotspots on the Austin Startup Crawl tour to network, nosh on snacks and drink.

More than 700 people RSVP’ed to the event on Facebook and Plancast, said Josh Baer, one of the Austin Startup Week founders.

Bob Metcalfe talks with entrepreneurs

San Antonio-based Rackspace sponsored the event which included shuttle buses taking people from stop to stop. The event was very well organized and a lot of fun.

One of the largest stops was at Capital Factory’s offices on the eighth floor of the Omni Building downtown. All of the Capital Factory finalists were in attendance to talk about their companies along with some other startups. Bob Metcalfe was there too. People mingled and ate pizza, drank beer and margaritas.

The next stop was Infochimp’s offices. It just bought another Capital Factory alumni, Keepstream. They served up beer from a keg and had a bottle of vodka on ice.

Visitors hanging out at Infochimps offices

Other shuttle bus stops included HomeAway’s offices, UShip, Cloudmasons and more. For the complete list of companies participating in the Austin Startup Crawl visit its Facebook page.

Austin companies seek tech talent in Silicon Valley

By L.A. Lorek
Got tech talent?

Then Austin companies want to recruit you.

A group of Austin CEOs plan to travel to San Francisco and Sunnyvale on Sept. 13th and 14th to hire engineers, software developers and others with technology skills.

Many Silicon Valley area companies already have a presence in Austin, but this will be the first organized effort by area CEOs to hire high tech workers from California, said Joel Trammell, chairman of the Austin Technology Council.

“We certainly have good talent in Austin,” said Trammel, who also serves as CEO of CacheIQ. But the city’s growing high-tech industry needs more, he said. His company seeks three or four more software developers, he said. And it’s not alone.

In May, the Austin Technology Council hosted a high tech CEO summit and many company executives reported a shortage of  engineers, coders, programmers and software developers.

The 30 companies travelling to Silicon Valley to recruit include Homeaway, BazaarVoice, Gowalla, CacheIQ, Ravel and Creditcards.com.

Why would software developers pull up stakes and move to Austin? The city repeatedly lands on best place to live in the country lists.  Austin ranked second behind Silicon Valley on the nation’s most innovative places list compiled by Forbes Magazine. And Kiplinger’s list of best cities for nurturing a business. Austin offers a much lower cost of living, shorter traffic commutes, high quality schools and a strong high tech community, Trammell said. Also, Texas does not have a state income tax, he said.

“The lifestyle is amazing,” said Bart Bohn, chief operating officer of Ravel, which needs four new employees focused on product sales and services. Ravel does analytics on big data.

“Austin is shockingly easy to recruit for,” Bohn said. “It has great brand recognition. Everyone thinks of it as fantastic lifestyle with good technology jobs. A lot of people get exposure to it in other ways like Austin City Limits Music Festival and South by Southwest.

Already, several big Silicon Valley companies have offices here.

“Most people don’t know that Apple has a 3,000 person office in Austin,” Bohn said.

Google and Facebook also have offices here and Evernote is going to open one soon, he said.

“Austin is known to have a great talent base,” Bohn said.

Austin has recently seen an explosion of good, credible start-ups combined with the opening of established tech companies’ offices and that has increased the demand for technology talent, Bohn said.

“Maybe that sucked up a lot of talent that would be available for other companies,” he said.

CreditCards.com wants to add up to five new employees to its staff of 55 in Austin, said CEO Chris Speltz.

“We need to grow the talent pool here,” he said.

For more information, you can follow the Austin Technology Council on Twitter @ATCouncil or  follow the conversation on Twitter with #ATXGrow.


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