Here & There - July 24, 2020

What's new in the world of travel/tourism/and remote-work startups

Here & There is a weekly email from Kyle Frost about travel/tourism, remote trends, and other stuff. If you’ve been enjoying these updates, please forward it to a friend, or share with your network. If you’re reading it for the first time, consider subscribing (it’s free!).


First, I posted all the pictures from the Selway on Exposure. 47 miles of pristine whitewater, 38 named rapids and beautiful wilderness.

Next, I wanted to share a few companies I’ve stumbled across over the last few weeks/months in the process of following developments in travel/tourism/remote work.

How to actually employ people remotely

Everyone’s talking about remote work, but few are talking about the challenges presented for employers to actually *employ* people in different places. Managing employment for people in different states/countries, is not easy. If my “primary residence” is in Colorado but I spend a bunch of time on the road taking advantage of remote work, I may have to file nonresident state tax return(s).

Remote is a new startup focused on simplifying the process of international employment. In order for a US-based business to hire employees internationally, they have to go through the process of opening it’s own legal entity in that country (which can be time-consuming and costly). Contractors are easier to hire, but come with their own set of challenges. The alternative is to use an Employer of Record, which is what Remote is doing. Technically your employees will work for Remote, and you’ll pay Remote their salary plus a management fee. They’ll also handle things like local compliance and benefit situations. Remote has already set up entities in 12 countries with many more being added this year and next.

With the transition to remote work accelerated to Mach 5, services that provide the “connective tissue” for other companies to operate remotely will continue to grow and be incredibly important. I see Remote having the potential to be a Stripe-type company in the remote work space.

Prefab tiny house/office companies

The future of remote work lies in working *close* to home, not necessarily in your house. I think there are two avenues of that — smaller, local co-working spaces, and the mini backyard office.

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On the backyard side, I think there will continue to be a big growth in prefab. These units are “relatively” inexpensive, and I could see a scenario where larger companies begin buying or subsidizing these workspaces for some employees. Companies like Kanga Rooms, Studio Shed, KitHaus, and CoverBuild are tackling various sides of this market. Studio Shed, which is based near Boulder, saw a 5x increase in orders in May and June. Founder Mike Koneig said:

"Data from our analytics team immediately showed these surges in 'home office' -- home office anything, 'home office desk,' 'home office furniture,' an actual home office kit. It was staggering. Our traffic was up on those keywords probably 400 to 500 percent." 

On the localized workspace side, I came across Codi, which describes itself as an Airbnb + WeWork. They allow you to earn money by turning your home into a mini-co-working space (or use other homes as quick working spaces). Much like Airbnb, you set the availability, house rules, and control the space itself. While an interesting idea, I think the growth opportunity here is really in the software — I’d love to see an easy way for anyone to set up their small, shared office spaces that aren’t residences. Think, more neighborhood spaces where one person couldn’t normally cover the rent for an office space, but a group of folks, together, could.

Co-living & Longer-term rentals

While travel is going to take a while to rebound, I’m anticipating growth in both longer-term travel and different styles of living situations as remote work becomes more of a norm. I could see people beginning to take more month-long “work-cations” in different places, as being co-located to an office bites the dust.

Bungalow is an SF-based company focused on move-in ready homes with a built-in community. Think of them a little like move-in ready shared apartments. Fully furnished, fast wi-fi, flexible leases, and easy transfer between Bungalows in different cities.

Zeus Living focuses on stays of 30+ days, for personal or work travel. Many of the same amenities as Bungalow apply, like super fast wifi included, and easy cancellations/extensions.

Blueground also focuses on month-long rentals. The company has 3,000 properties in six U.S. cities, along with Dubai, Istanbul, London, Paris, and Athens.

“It’s an entirely new definition of home,” founder Chatzielefteriou says. “Someone might start the month in Chelsea then move to the Upper West Side by the end of the month. It’s all about flexibility and exploration. That’s how we want to live today.”

While much of the past and current market for Zeus and Blueground is focused on corporate travel, I can definitely see room for down-market growth with people who want the flexibility or just don’t plan on living anywhere for too long.

Stay safe, stay healthy. As always, feel free to reach out with ideas, feedback, or stuff you think I should talk about via email, Instagram, or Twitter.

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