Today I want to bring to you an awesome interview with former Airbnb employee, and owner of Optimize My Airbnb, Daniel Rusteen. Daniel gives us some unique insight into the sharing economy, home-sharing, and how to be a better Airbnb host. Check it out!
Q: Tell us a bit about the Daniel Rusteen story.
I’ll skip to January 2013 when things get interesting. I was without a job (just quit) and my roommate told me about Airbnb. I fell in love. You wouldn’t consider me a traveler up to this point, but when I did travel, I loved going off the beaten path.
The next month I applied for a job and got rejected. I knew I wanted to work there so I stayed at it and got hired a few months later. I fell further in love with the company over the next two years. But, deep down, I knew I didn’t like my actual job. I was in finance, as I had been since I graduated from college.
Fast forward to July 2015 and I got fired (fun fact: I left Airbnb with $15k of Airbnb credit because I got #1 in the company for a sales promotion). It was mutual, but accounting just wasn’t for me.
I left accounting behind and I went on to work as director of business development at a local Airbnb property management company and learned a ton! And, absolutely loved the work I was doing on a daily basis which I hadn’t felt up to that point. I left that company one year later to start Belo: Airbnb Property Management. I soon realized I didn’t want to own a property management company so I started OptimizeMyAirbnb.com which helps Airbnb hosts around the world be the best host they can.
Q: How would you define the sharing economy?
People who own stuff vs. people who don’t own stuff. And the people who own stuff, sharing it for profit. I own a couch in my living room and rent it on Airbnb, I own 2 bicycles and rent them on Spinlister, I have a kitchen and cook meals for folks through VoulezVousDiner, I even rent my time by walking dogs in my neighborhood.
The sharing economy allows people to own less stuff which allows them to move more freely. There is so much excess in this world (bike sitting in garage that someone would happily pay $25 for the day) that’s starting to be tapped, it’s exciting.
Q: What first drew you to the Sharing Economy Business Model?
Simple, it makes a lot of sense to me. Once people get over their fears about strangers (in Airbnb’s case) and learn that fear is totally false, a lot of opportunities open. I know a lot of startups these days say they’re changing the world, but in Airbnb’s case, I think they actually are.
They take it one step further and Airbnb is making the world a safer place. When you start meeting people from all over the world, (some who the media told you didn’t like Americans, in my case), you start to realize that you have much, much more in common.
This is what has drawn me into the sharing economy, specifically to Airbnb.
Q: What do you think of the ongoing regulatory and legal battles in the sharing economy – i.e. Uber and Airbnb?
Did you know that VHS (DVDs of the past, for some of the younger readers) was a big controversy just like Airbnb? Same with ATMs.
Airbnb will win in the end, no doubt in my mind. Cities like New York, San Francisco, Berlin, and Barcelona are making things difficult in the short-term and they’re on the wrong side of innovation. It’s upsetting to say the least.
Recently, I’ve decided to move away from my home city, San Francisco, due to how they’re treating innovative companies like Airbnb in search of Airbnb-friendly cities. I want to live somewhere with similar values to mine.
Q: Give us your views on the recent announcement by Airbnb of their new services?
They launched ‘Magical Trips’ while I was an employee and I’ve hosted trips through the program. The messaging has changed quite a bit since they first introduced it, but I’m not a huge fan. Although, I hope they figure it out.
I think they need to do a better job of matching travelers with travelers rather than travelers with activities. If you’ve ever traveled and had a truly magical experience you know it was because of the people you were with, not the activity you were doing.
Q: What are your predictions for the sharing economy into 2017 and beyond?
I actually wrote an article about this explaining my three predictions for the near-term future. Here is my thought process:
- People do not need to work in offices, so I think workers will start working remote more often. This means cities will have an identity change because people won’t need to live in a big city to cut down on their commute.
- “Housing crisis” will no longer be a term and Airbnb will no longer be an issue. Instead of 90% of folks on a city block being permanent residents and 10% being hotels/Airbnb’s, it will be flipped.
- You’ll only have a few permanent residents on a city block and one of those people will be a local property manager for their neighborhood. This will happen because people will be more able to travel the world if they don’t need to go into an office.
- Internet is basically a non-issue anywhere in the world and these other sharing economy services will make certain necessities (traveling in a car while you’re somewhere) possible wherever you go.
Q: What are your top tips for people wanting to get started using Airbnb?
To read my blog! I’m holding no secrets and I’ll eventually write about everything I know. If you have the time to read it all, you can be an Airbnb expert, too. Or, you can purchase my Listing Optimization (there are other services I offer to hosts who’ve first purchased the optimization).
Q: What are your top tips for current Airbnb hosts, and how they can become better hosts?
Photos, photos, photos. Check out my blog post on this. Photos are #1 and 95% of hosts aren’t doing them right. From highlighting your best first, to not having duplicates, to adding captions, and more. There’s a lot that go into photos, but they’re the most important.
Q: What sharing economy platform, other than Airbnb, excites you the most?
I was in a Lyft when I was at Airbnb Open in LA this year and I was talking with the driver who had a great idea for Airbnb for private jets. I know there’s an Airbnb for boats and it’s the same concept.
Would you pay a few extra hundred dollars to ride in a private jet with some of your friends to your annual trip, to Vegas, to your buddies bachelor party, etc.? I think it’s a fun idea.
Q: What do you think of the peripheral market coming out now surrounding popular sharing economy services?
Airbnb management companies, or Uber driver programs like Sherpashare etc
As one of them, I love the idea! No different than what happened with Google (SEO companies) and Apple (ihome, covers, etc.). They’re actually really needed. For example, insurance companies aren’t building for the sharing economy. It’s my hope that a major player recognizes this and starts building on it.
Q: Do you think Airbnb will go public in the near future?
My prediction is that we are due for an announcement mid-2018. Being a prior finance employee, I get a version of this question a lot, ‘do you know when Airbnb will go public?’ I know when I left there were some massive projects in finance going on that would probably have taken a couple years to complete and that would have needed to be completed before an IPO.
I also know that due to the requirements of an IPO, the earliest they would go public is after they complete their 2017 financial statements. That’s always been the known end game for the company, I never hear the CEO or an executive make remarks that would have me think they never wanted to go public.
You also want to go public in a hot market, so there’s a lot going on internally to decide when the right time is. For me, as a part owner (very small part owner), on one hand I hope they do soon, on the other, I don’t have to decide whether to hold or sell until they do.
Q: Talk to me about OptimizeMyAirbnb.com, how did it come about and what services do you offer Airbnb hosts?
While at Airbnb, I was also an Airbnb host so I was always fishing for tips and tricks to rank high in search.
I quickly learned that’s only one small piece to the puzzle. If you rank high and guests book, but you show them a bad experience, you’ll drop in the rankings. While working at the Airbnb property management company, I would ‘optimize’ our lagging listings and usually, it would result in at least one reservation within a day.
This was incentive enough because my bonus was based on revenues. I started doing this more often and recognizing a pattern. I’ve developed the process and it’s my flagship product which results in an 8-12 page report per listing.
I also include $255+ discounts to Airbnb-related products and services that are exclusive to my company.
One thing to clarify is the 627% I advertise. I monitor listings for 7 days after my optimization and the average host earns 627% of their nightly rate within 7 days.
For example, if you rent your home out for $100, you can expect to earn $627 over the next week. I will say that the variance is large, some hosts earn 0% and some earn 4,000%+. Regardless, your listing is much cleaner and clearer after my optimization and you’ve learned some valuable hosting techniques.
Plus, you get follow up message support with me after the purchase. If you succeed, I succeed, it’s as simple as that.