A Q&A with Demeure CEO Peter Schwartz. The Waterloo, Canada-based startup, which offers white-label marketplace solutions for travel providers along with its own travel marketplace, completed a $4 million Seed funding round in late August.
SUB: Please describe Demeure and your primary innovation.
Schwartz: When we created Demeure, we wanted to rewire the online travel market with a platform that creates amazing value for both buyers and sellers. Today, Demeure acts as an online travel infrastructure provider with its proprietary Marketplace Management System [MMS]. The system allows us to operate our own marketplace, but we also license the MMS to third parties to power their networks. Demeure’s multi-sided marketplace connects travelers, vacation property owners, and service professionals to let them book amazing travel experiences, list properties, and trade in the market. Plus, the curated portfolio of thousands of travel experiences acts as a great resource for marketplace participants and licensees of the MMS.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Schwartz: We provide services for travelers and property owners, plus independent partners with their own travel businesses. Direct sellers, as in private property owners, hoteliers, and resort owners looking to deliver the best experiences and values, can monetize and maximize yield in our marketplace. Travelers can visit the Demeure marketplace to book curated experiences with personal service, selection and value. On top of that, corporate leaders can use our services to reward their dedicated team or clients with incredible travel experiences.
Our independent partners—travel agents and host agencies—can expand their service offering with free access to the marketplace for their network. The Demeure marketplace also serves as a model for channel partners and aggregators to license the MMS to power their own travel networks, destination clubs, and exchange and listing sites.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Demeure from the competition?
Schwartz: We actually don’t view others in the travel space as competitors. We actually consider them potential users of our MMS platform to enable them to do a better job of managing their customer or member experiences, and enabling them to tie into our network of over 2,400 curated properties—including villas and hotels worldwide—to expand their own offering to their members and customers. For example, we white-label our MMS to some of these ‘competitors’ today.
For property owners, Demeure offers the unique ability to trade time in a vacation property for travel elsewhere in our curated portfolio immediately without having to wait for their own property to be rented and without having to manage complicated points exchange systems. This is a feature you can’t find anywhere else in the online travel industry.
To provide our travelers with a one-stop-shop experience, we also bundle high-quality hotels and private properties together. This gives them a complete vacation package—when you plan a trip to Tuscany, Italy, you’re easily able to book-end your trip with a stay in Rome, booked all in one spot. This also lets hoteliers capitalize on our loyal, engaged guests by offering quality service and amazing experiences.
Travelers don’t just get amazing discounts, though. They also get amazing service. They have the option to hire a ‘Private Assistant’—someone to help conduct research for their next vacation and plan all of the details. During their stay, they continue to receive this support from on-the-ground hosts, local experts in their chosen destination who provide concierge-style service to ensure a worry-free vacation.
Further, as an example of the kind of ecosystem we are promoting in our network, we partner with boutique hotels in popular gateway cities and bundle room nights with local private villas in packages for travelers. This approach promotes travel and brings value to traveler, hotelier and villa-owner alike.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Schwartz: Demeure was founded in 2009 in Waterloo, Canada. We wanted to tackle opportunities we saw in the hotel and vacation property markets that had resulted from unused potential. Initially, we focused on creating the Marketplace Management System. This was essential to the successful launch of the Demeure Marketplace. Now, we’re expanding by providing third parties with the MMS, so that they can tap into the Demeure portfolio and power their own networks.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Demeure? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Schwartz: Our idea behind Demeure is consistent with the principles of the collaborative economy and multi-sided marketplaces. Our marketplace puts asset owners and travelers at the center of a dynamic trading platform to give them benefits through connectivity.
People don’t really realize what goes on behind the busy online travel space. We spent years building a platform that makes sense of it and allows customers to take full advantage of the value available to them, while making the process simple and rewarding.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Schwartz: Demeure is the closest meaning to the feeling of ‘home’ in French. It refers to a feeling of warmth and comfort that one can only find in a space of their own.
Several years ago, I took some time off to spend with my family in France. Staying in private properties was more practical and a better value for my family of six, but they were tough to find. This is when I came up with the idea of curating a collection of vacation property homes where asset owners could put under-used capacity to work. Providing this collection is meant to allow travelers to achieve a sense of ‘demeure’ away from home, and travel like they own the place.
SUB: You recently closed a $4 million Seed funding round. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Schwartz: Since we have just launched the marketplace and begun licensing the MMS, this is a great time to accelerate our sales and marketing efforts, as well as rapidly expand the rollout of the marketplace and our platform technology. The recent financing will enable us to do just that.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Schwartz: The funding will go toward ramping up sales and marketing, and help us to continue enhancing the platform.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Schwartz: Raising funding is always a question of whether or not you see an opportunity to accelerate your business model faster than you can do organically. We’ve just done that with this last round of funding, and it’s possible we may elect to do that again, but we don’t have any plans for additional funding at this point.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Schwartz: We’re doing something that no one else has attempted to do, and that’s always challenging. We’re tackling complicated problems that no one else has touched, and looking for solutions that are respectful of all the various interests affected by these changes in the online travel market space. So far, the results are very encouraging.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Schwartz: We are generating revenue. We have a number of significant white label licensees of the MMS platform. These customers are using the platform in order to enhance the travel offering to their members. As well, we are seeing significant traction on our organic marketplace where users can book their own travel or work with our Private Assistants to arrange travel. We also have over 100 channel partners who host properties and plan travel for customers.
SUB: What are your goals for Demeure over the next year or so?
Schwartz: We’re focused on licensing our patent-pending MMS to third parties—hoteliers and property listing sites—who want to power their own online travel networks. This gives them access to our marketplace, on-the-ground network of service professionals, and the powerful technology that enables the collaborative economy to work. We’ll also continue to grow our channel partners—agents, resorts, and affiliates looking to expand their service offering.
We are also generating more traffic in our organic marketplace—from travelers, property owners, and hoteliers. Within our marketplace, we are currently creating new packaging and promotions where we bundle villas or private properties with hotel stays, to continue generating positive network effects where more value can be created for everyone in the Demeure community.
Demeure – www.demeure.com