How a McGill dropout ended up running a billion dollar business with the backing of Jeff Bezos
TORONTO – McGill University Alumnus Has Successfully Turned A Summer Business Subletting Empty Montreal Apartments Into A Billion Dollar Business With Venture Capital Support From Jeff Bezos And Alex Rodriguez .
Probe is the brainchild of Francis Davidson, who got his start as an entrepreneur by renting his own apartment for the summer of 2013 while a student in Montreal.
When he sublet his own apartment, Davidson’s service included welcoming his guests with wine and even parking their cars valet-style. From there, he started to think about other ways to revolutionize the hospitality industry.
The following year, he partnered with Lucas Pellan to create a startup connecting travelers with vacant student apartments in other cities as well. This company would become Sonder.
Similar to other residential rental sites like Airbnb, Sonder operates in major cities around the world, renting apartments to travelers who choose not to stay in traditional hotels or motels.
Speaking to the CTV News Channel of San Francisco, Davidson recalled the choice he made nearly eight years ago to put everything he had in Sonder.
“Montreal is an amazing place in the summer, so many people want to visit it, but at the same time, literally thousands of apartments are left empty during the summer,” Davidson explained.
“I thought, ‘Hey, why not buy these students’ apartments and set them up so that they can accommodate travelers instead of being empty for the summer,” that idea got me. discovering the idea that there were a lot of innovations available in the hotel industry… seeing the problem as a student at the start, allowed me to think about a different way of developing my business ”, a- he declared.
Davidson said he was not interested in pursuing the typical career path at the time.
“As a student your alternative is going on and maybe getting an entry level job and I was like ‘hey I have this idea that I really believe in, why not go for it'” , did he declare. “Of course, I was very lucky to be joined by amazing people who helped me along the way in building what Sonder has become.”
Probe is now valued at $ 1.3 billion, but it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the company as the hospitality industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hospitality has been a very difficult industry to say the least in 2020, but I really think the opportunity is pretty bright for innovation – one thing we love to do at Sonder is take advantage of technology and provide a different kind of stay, ”Davidson said.
Sonder allows customers to have a completely contactless experience during check-in and check-out, which Davidson described as “bringing the lobby to your phone.”
“People are now really aware that it is possible to have a contactless experience, so while 2020 has been devastating for the industry, it has really given the consumer the opportunity to interact with hospitality technology. that would have potentially taken 10 years to make, but has happened all at once in a year.