Anyplace raises $5.3M to provide a home (office) away from home
In this era of remote work, people want as much flexibility as possible to live where they want, when they want.
It’s no surprise that we’ve seen a flurry of startups emerge to give people more options for long-term stays. Anyplace is one such startup. A self-described “digital nomad,” Satoru Steve Naito says he co-founded San Francisco-based Anyplace in 2017 because he wanted the product for himself.
True to its name, Anyplace began its life as a marketplace that gives people the option to book hotels or rentals for 30 days or more nearly anyplace they want to. That marketplace today is across over 60 countries in more than 450 cities. And now, the startup is moving into an operator role with its latest product, Anyplace Select, which is designed for remote workers and corporate travelers to be able to work from anywhere with furnished apartments that include a “fully equipped” home office.
As the pandemic has raged on and offices continue to be shut down, more people have had the flexibility to move around like never before. Anyplace launched Select last year in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and San Diego, and achieved a $1 million run rate within seven months of its launch, according to Naito, who serves as the company’s CEO. Monthly revenue growth of the Select offering is over 50% on average and, as of this month, its occupancy rate is over 90%.
Anyplace partners with real estate developers such as Greystar and AvalonBay to rent units, furnish them and then master leases them out at a higher price with its select offering. Each apartment has a “fully equipped office setup” and comes with a flexible-term contract (minimum of 30 days). They include a height-adjustable standing desk, ergonomic chair, 34-inch “ultra-wide” monitor, professional microphone, webcam, collapsible green screen, laptop stand, docking station and key light, among other things.
“Every Select apartment provides the same or higher level of productivity as a home office,” Naito said. “Wi-Fi speed will never be an issue either, as all units have gigabit internet.”
Why would a remote worker who wants to try living in another city not just rent a place on Airbnb? The ability to have a house or apartment set up for remote work is not as easy to find as one might think, Naito contends — some offerings might have slow Wi-Fi while others might not offer an adequate desk or dedicated workspace.
“Most current accommodations optimize for pre-pandemic stays. People really worked all day from their rooms while staying in hotels or Airbnb,” Naito said. “However, in the post-pandemic world, people are spending more time making Zoom calls and working from their rooms. So we are creating accommodations optimized for the post-pandemic world.”
Indeed, Airbnb has historically focused on short-term rentals, but now the hospitality giant is seeing an increase in longer-term rentals on its marketplace — evidence that there is increased demand for longer-term rentals. Last May, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told Yahoo Finance that 24% of Airbnb stays were 28 days or more — compared to 14% just two years prior. In further evidence of its belief in the trend, Airbnb also recently backed another startup in the space, Zeus Living, which started out focusing on offering flexible options for corporate travelers but is now expanding to a broader pool of potential customers.
While Anyplace had just been operating a marketplace, it is now shifting its broader business focus to be an operator with its new Select offering.
“So, Airbnb is not our competitor, but a partner and actually one of our biggest acquisition channels,” Naito told TechCrunch. “I don’t believe Airbnb will move into the operator space, with their own inventory. Their strength is in the platform business.”
To “aggressively” expand its inventory into other markets and continue to improve its functionality, Anyplace is announcing today that it has raised $5.3 million in a Series A financing led by GA Technologies, with participation from Jason Calacanis, Launch Fund, Japanese soccer star and Dreamers Ventures co-founder (with Will Smith) Keisuke Honda, Mercari co-founder Hiroshi Tomishima and East Ventures. The round brings Anyplace’s total raised to $8 million, and will go also toward boosting its current headcount of 17.
The startup has already begun raising capital for its next round, already receiving “several investment commitments,” according to Naito, due to the company’s “rapid growth and the surge in demand for the kind of accommodations that Anyplace Select offers.” Specifically, the startup is looking to expand to major cities in the U.S., particularly to popular vacation destinations such as Hawaii, Miami, Austin and Denver, Naito said.
“People no longer have to quit their full-time jobs to become digital nomads. Before the pandemic, people had to leave their companies and become freelancers or small business owners in order to live a nomadic lifestyle,” Naito told TechCrunch. “But now, tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter are allowing their employees to work remotely full time…The pandemic has created many new types of nomads. So this is a major paradigm shift in the way people work.”
Via email, Keisuke Honda told TechCrunch that he could “feel” Naito’s “grit” when he first met him.
“He raised capital from well-known U.S. investors like Jason Calacanis and he told me the story of how he made it. It wasn’t easy, and he struggled. He has overcome the language and various other barriers that immigrant founders face,” Honda said. “ I believe that grit is one of the most important things to succeed in a startup. Also, I was impressed by the fact that he built the product he wanted, and that he himself lives and works in.”
Honda added that as a soccer player, he has traveled to many countries and stayed in “many hotels and Airbnb rentals.”
“I have never seen accommodations like Anyplace Select with a fully equipped office environment,” he told TechCrunch. “Obviously, the number of people who work from home has been increasing and they don’t want to live only in one place. Anyplace Select will be the standard accommodation for such people in the post-pandemic world.”