Tuesday, July 16, 2024
HomeTravelSTARTUP STAGE: Trustr is a private marketplace for vacation rental discovery

STARTUP STAGE: Trustr is a private marketplace for vacation rental discovery



Launching publicly Wednesday, Trustr is a vacation rental marketplace that enables its members to make properties they own available to people they know and capitalize on recommendations for places to stay from people they trust.

Trustr is co-founded by entrepreneurs and executives Bill Cummings, CEO, and Brent Hieggelke, CMO.

What is your
30-second pitch to investors?

Trustr is a new, first-of-its-kind vacation rental
marketplace. It enables its members to make properties they own available to
people they know, and capitalize on recommendations for great places to stay,
written by people whose taste they trust. 

Trustr brings greater
control, satisfaction and peace of mind to the short-term rental process. For
vacation homeowners, it allows them to curate guest lists for sharing or
renting their home on a private basis. For vacation home seekers, it is easier
to ask questions and get honest feedback from people you know about rental

The idea for Trustr
came from the co-founders’ personal experiences booking disappointing places,
and then later discovering that their friends had great recommendations for
better places to stay. They were also hearing from many second homeowners who
were underutilizing their properties because they didn’t want to rent to
strangers. As longtime entrepreneurs, they decided to tackle both issues by
focusing on the trust inherent in existing social networks.

both the business and technology aspects of your startup.

  • How Trustr works for
    property owners:

    • Private sharing: By
      making their homes available to private guest lists or broader circles of
      people they know and trust, property owners can maintain complete control over
      who knows about their property, who can access their detailed listing and who
      can stay there. Trustr makes it much easier to share or rent their homes, with
      significantly greater peace of mind.
  • How Trustr works for

    • Peer-to-peer
      recommendations: Find better vacation rentals faster by discovering and
      capitalizing on recommendations for vetted places to stay from people you know
      and whose taste you trust. With Trustr, you can easily book great properties
      that your friends, family and colleagues have seen firsthand and recommend,
      rather than having to rely on anonymous, inflated or – worse – fake reviews. 

Give us your
SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.

  • Strengths:

    •  Trustr is the first
      travel platform that combines the dependability of word of mouth with the scale
      of established social circles, making it easier to find or share great places
      to stay. It is booking platform-agnostic, and the only two-sided marketplace
      where both renters and property owners can benefit from trusted connections.
  • Weaknesses: 

    • Trustr is building
      this community from the ground up. To fulfill our potential of providing
      significantly greater satisfaction and peace of mind when booking properties,
      we need more people to become members, post recommendations and list their
  • Opportunities:

    • The vacation
      rental market still has tremendous growth potential, with 65% of vacation
      homes in the United States currently unavailable for rent – likely because many second homeowners do
      not want to rent their vacation homes to strangers. Trustr’s private listings
      allow them to participate in the market on their terms.
    • For vacation
      home seekers, the search for a place to stay can take hours and be risky
      because you are relying on reviews and descriptions from strangers – some of
      which could be fake or artificial intelligence-generated. Either way, the prospective renter knows
      nothing about the reviewer and their taste or how they like to travel. Unlike
      other options, Trustr allows members to see the places their friends and
      trusted connections have stayed in and are recommending.
  • Threats:

    • As a new
      player in the short-term rental market, the large online travel agenices might initially view
      Trustr as competing for awareness, traffic and bookings. However, Trustr is
      agnostic to where the booking occurs, we are set up to link to all OTA
      platforms for the booking consummation. What Trustr is offering is first of its
      kind – adding a new social discovery layer that drives all OTA businesses in a
      new direction.  

What are the travel
pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry

Searching for a place
to stay can take hours and be risky and/or disappointing. And unfortunately,
OTAs are increasingly plagued with scams, and vacation renters must rely on
anonymous and often misleading or inflated reviews from strangers. Word of
mouth has always been the most effective marketing tool, but it is inherently
unorganized, inefficient and hard to scale.

Trustr is the first
travel/rental marketplace platform that gives you the opportunity to hear about
and share great places to stay from/with people that you know and trust.

homeowners who previously have not been comfortable publicly renting to
strangers, we offer a more comfortable option to start sharing or renting to
people they know and trust. 

So you’ve got the
product, now how will you get lots of customers?

Trustr has two
distinct audiences to reach:

  • Home rental
    enthusiasts who will create and share recommendations for great places to stay
    and will invite others to join their Trustr circles.
  •  Second homeowners
    who will create listings and invite people to be on their guest lists.

Our go-to-market strategy includes a mix of outreach programs that will work with the industry
at large as we offer complementary and new ways to drive bookings. 

Tell us what process you’ve gone
through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the
addressable market.

Throughout the Trustr development
process, we talked to many OTA users and second homeowners, ran surveys and
focus groups and studied the vacation home market and existing research to get
a better understanding of the opportunities.

 How and when
will you make money?

main revenue streams will be earning referral fees from existing OTA platforms
and our “freemium” listing model. 

What are the
backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?

Trustr is
co-founded by serial entrepreneurs and seasoned executives Bill Cummings, CEO and Brent Hieggelke, chief marketing officer. Prior to starting Trustr,
Hieggelke co-founded and was CEO of a vacation rental startup, Second Porch,
which built the first sharing economy vacation rental site and was acquired by
HomeAway, now Expedia. Cummings has built a career focused on
developing innovative solutions to problems in many industries, including luxury goods, building materials,
supercomputing and health care supply chain.

How have you
addressed diversity and inclusion in your business?

The more
diverse our network becomes, the more diverse our offerings will be. Renting to
someone you trust reflects the unique makeup of your social network.

What’s been
the most difficult part of founding the business so far?

We are
confident that we’ve built a comprehensive product, so it has taken time and
money to get to the launch phase. 

travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact – so why are you
going to be one of the lucky ones?

We are
patient and have a new idea that makes sense for everyone who likes to stay in
beautiful homes and unique hotels, but wants to be certain that they are going
to have a great experience. Historically, word of mouth is the most trusted way
to source great places to stay and now with Trustr, we can scale word of mouth
by leveraging our members’ collective social networks. 

A year from
now, what state do you think your startup will be in?

We hope to
be steadily adding new members, new listings and new recommendations; driving
revenue to our partners and hosts; and fine-tuning our platform with customer

What is your
end-game (going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)?

We believe
that we are building something unique, valuable and additive to the travel
economy and existing platforms, so we are hyper-focused on driving Trustr
adoption and scaling our business. It is too early to speculate about what our
end-game options may be. But we are in this for the long-haul.

PhocusWright Innovation Platform

Phocuswright Innovation is a platform that fosters a vibrant and interconnected community of innovators, startups, investors and thought leaders contributing to the overall development of an innovation ecosystem in travel. Using this one link, startups can learn about all of the innovation-related events and programs from Phocuswright and PhocusWire.


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