Glimpse raises $6.2 million to place products in short-term rentals

The idea for product placement startup Glimpse was formed out of the back of the U-Haul truck — sort of.

In 2019, Akash Raju and his friends, Anuj Mehta and Kushal Negi, started hosting branded pop-ups at their school, Purdue University, with the goal of bringing interactive shopping experiences to their rural campus – and often overlooked – from West Lafayette, Indiana. . The events featured local brands and small businesses and the trio made their first pass in the back of a moving van parked in the middle of school property. As graduation approached, the trio realized they could apply the same methodology to a new industry: short-term rentals.

The founders believed the strategy could allow rental hosts to improve the guest experience while giving brands a way to get their products directly into the hands of consumers. They launched Glimpse in 2020, and the startup now works with over 150 brands showcasing their products through a network of 8,000 short-term rentals. “We saw incredible attraction on both sides of the platform,” Raju said. Forbes. “The main reason is that this is a win-win-win situation.”

Glimpse seeks to sit at the intersection of two growing trends. One is the explosion in short-term rentals since the start of the pandemic. Airbnb alone saw 300 million bookings in 2021 and the momentum isn’t expected to slow any time soon. The other is that as digital privacy legislation becomes more stringent, brands can no longer rely on digital advertising as much as before, leaving many businesses looking for a new way to reach consumers, says Raju. This pitch got brands including mattress company DTC Purple, canned water startup Liquid Death and massage gun producer Lyric to sign on.

Experiential marketing — like what Glimpse does — can be very effective, says Mike Proulx, vice president and research director at research firm Forrester. Forbes by email. “When experiential marketing is done well, it creates intrigue and momentum fueled by word of mouth – TikTok-rich, Instagrammable moments captured by consumers that are shared with a growing audience.” He adds that a recent survey conducted by Forrester found that 44% of CMOs expected to increase their spending on strategy in 2022.

Glimpse works by asking brands to pay the startup a subscription fee based on the number of units the products are placed in. Brands get full control over the properties they feature and can track guest engagement. Lyric was one of the first brands to commit. Hugh Williams, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Lyric, says Forbes the company knew it had to put its flagship product – a massage gun – in the hands of people to show them why they should buy from their fledgling brand rather than a more established brand in the industry like Theragun.

“We had many conversations internally about how when someone sees [a Lyric massage gun] and feel it, they will fall in love with it,” he says. “So how do we put it in places where we can really effectively get consumers to experience it?” Lyric started at ten properties late last year and has been growing its stake ever since. “From a sales perspective, the whole partnership has been profitable,” says Williams.

Startup sees 40% month-over-month growth on rental side, announces $6.2 million seed round to bolster team, Raju said. The round was led by GSR Ventures with participation from Origin Ventures, Y Combinator and angel investors including Julia and Kevin Hartz, Bradley Horowitz and Bangaly Kaba. Glimpse’s concept quickly resonated with Yuechen Zhao, a partner at GSR Ventures. Zhao tells Forbes that when he met Glimpse during their 2020 stint at Y Combinator, he and his wife were in the process of creating their second short-term rental property. Zhao wrote a small check in the business in 2020 and decided to double in the last round. “What Glimpse has demonstrated is that the return on investment [for brands] is actually extremely strong,” he says. “Brands are seeing massive customer engagement and sales ROI when those customers end up buying.”

Raju says the company saw quadruple quarter-over-quarter growth in the first quarter, but declined to share details. “I think the next short-term step is to keep increasing the number of properties,” he says. “Just in the last few months we have launched many new brands and seeing them continue to evolve is the main focus today.”

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