Domicile aims to fit somewhere between long-term corporate lodging for newly relocated employees, and hotels that businesses use for workers in town for shorter stays.
Domicile, a startup that rents apartments to businesses clients, says it has raised $5 million from investors.
The Seattle company, which announced the investment round Thursday, is the brainchild of the team at Madrona Venture Labs, a startup incubator owned by the stalwart Seattle venture-capital firm.
Ross Saario, Domicile’s chief executive, said that when the venture was launched in late 2016, it was focused on properties for vacationers. That didn’t last long. “Looking at the competitive landscape, we decided to refocus on business-to-business, corporate contracts,” he said.
Today it’s seeking to fit somewhere between long-term corporate lodging for newly relocated employees, and hotels that businesses use to house workers in town for shorter stays — offering corporate relocation and travel managers a one-stop shop. “Our units are great for two days, two months, two years,” he said.
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Like many of the technological middlemen of the new economy, Domicile doesn’t own any of the apartments for rent on its marketplace. Instead, it leases them from developers or property managers, and offers them to primarily corporate clients. Domicile’s staff cleans and keeps the apartments furnished, and responds to guest concerns during their stay.
Saario, who previously worked on delivery technology at Amazon, says Domicile’s rentals are cheaper than luxury hotels for short stays, but that the aim isn’t to try to beat hotels or existing long-term housing providers on per-night prices. The bet is that more efficient use of space, enabled by Domicile’s software, could cut down on the need for spendy last-minute hotel bookings, and make things like check-in and help during a stay easier to get than from long-term housing providers.
In addition to the existing hospitality industry, Domicile has plenty of company among well-funded startups seeking to reshape corporate housing with their technology. Giants like Airbnb and WeWork see lucrative markets in short- and long-term business stays, and a range of smaller startups are coming at the market from other angles.
Domicile operates only in Seattle, Saario said, but it plans to start work in another unannounced city before the end of the year.
Much of the 120-apartment inventory listed for rent on Domicile’s website appears clustered in luxury buildings of the sort that have struggled to fill their units amid a boom in construction. Some of those apartments can also be found on consumer hotel-booking sites like Expedia’s Hotels.com and Booking.com.
Those listings will disappear by January, a bid to avoid falling under Seattle regulations taking effect next year that will curb the number of short-term rental properties a single owner may operate. Domicile will set its minimum stay at 30 days, outside the city’s threshold for short-term rentals.
Saario said the company’s customers include “dozens” of corporate clients.
The $5 million fundraising includes $1.4 million in previously undisclosed investments made between 2016 and April, and $3.6 million in new contributions. Investors include Crosscut Ventures, Madrona Venture Group, Zillow executives Spencer Rascoff and Greg Schwartz, Amazon consumer-unit chief Jeff Wilke and former Expedia chief executive Erik Blachford.