BLCK aims to help people make money hosting short-term rentals – without owning a property

By Nancy Dahlberg

Hosting properties for short-term rent without owning them — also known as rental arbitrage — is rapidly gaining popularity, with Airbnb influencers regularly touting the practice. But now, a new real estate tech startup in Miami plans to make it easier for anyone to become a vacation rental host or grow their business.

“BLCK is the first to tap into the rental arbitrage industry via technology,” says founder Samella Watson of her new startup in development. “While many hosts have made millions through rental arbitrage, our Marketplace will help streamline the process and bring this model to the mainstream.”

Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb said his business will need millions more hosts to meet the growing demand he foresees. To help, says Watson, “here’s BLCK.”

She describes BLCK (pronounced block) as a turnkey investment marketplace that allows the average person to unlock passive income by bidding on long-term leases for pre-approved short-term rental properties. It helps users start and grow their own short-term rental businesses.

Watson is no stranger to the hospitality industry or startup life. His first startup was Sebiya, a guest experience startup that partners with independent accommodation professionals to offer guests more than a place to sleep, while increasing ancillary revenue streams. With 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Watson has also worked in hotel operations, guest experience and team development at major hotels in the Midwest and Caribbean, as well as SLS Brickell.

How will BLCK work? Once BLCK launches, slated for the first quarter of next year, potential hosts will be able to access its website and view and bid on potential short-term rental properties that BLCK has already secured from landlords, a said Watson. They can also use a tool to calculate potential in-season and out-of-season profits. Once the auction is won, new hosts will get properties furnished by BLCK and ready to list. All they have to do is create a host page or add it to their rentals on Airbnb, for example. BLCK plans to surround hosts with services that make the experience turnkey, says Watson.

BLCK is also touching the fintech space: “We use blockchain smart contracts, which will allow BLCK to focus on innovation and efficiency while removing traditional intermediaries such as banks, brokers and lawyers for the whole rental process,” says Watson. “We’re doing something new in 2022, so why not make it the most profitable, the most innovative?”

Watson is part of Microsoft Black Partner Growth Initiative and received pre-seed support from the organization. Daniel Ikem, the program’s partner development manager, said his solution was promising.

“BLCK represents the generation of innovative solutions offering housing as a service and is sure to make waves in major vacation destinations across the country,” says Ikem. Additionally, he says, “Samella showcases the tenacity and creativity needed to succeed in the tech industry as a black female founder.”

Watson hopes to raise a funding round while continuing to develop BLCK. Watson says BLCK came to him several times in a vision from God before deciding to put Sebiya on hiatus to focus 100% on the new opportunity. The CEO has been busy building a team — now four: herself, a CTO, a blockchain architect, and a business analyst — and partners for the envisioned turnkey experience.

Current proptech partners include AirDNA for data, Sebiya for customer experiences, and TransUnion’s ResidentScore for tenant selection. BLCK has also found a partner for housekeeping services and is in talks with a tenant insurance partner and a department store for furnishings, Watson said.

BLCK hopes to launch the first in three regions – West Palm Beach, Chicago and the US Virgin Islands. Owners and potential hosts can join their waitlist here.

“No process currently exists. There is no technology, there is no way to search [for potential properties], so we have the advantage of being the first mover to bring that to life,” says Watson. “It’s time to go.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and email her at [email protected]


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