Wimdu, Rocket Internet’s Airbnb clone, to close this year ‘facing significant business challenges’ • TechCrunch
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But that doesn’t guarantee success, and today an Airbnb clone found out the hard way. Wimdu, a startup originally born out of the Rocket Internet startup factory in Berlin and inspired by US travel accommodation startup Airbnb, announced it would close in late 2018, citing “significant financial and commercial”. 100 employees based in Berlin and Lisbon will be affected by the decision, he said.
“Stakeholders and management work closely with staff; the primary goals are the fair treatment of employees affected by the closure and the management of advance reservations for our guests and hosts,” reads an announcement on the site. “All guests and hosts with reservations for 2018 – with an arrival date occurring before or on December 31, 2018 – will be handled in a professional and reliable manner. All guests with reservations for 2019 – with an arrival date after December 31, 2018 – will be contacted separately to process their respective booking.
The company has around 350,000 properties on its books and it is unclear whether Wimdu will work with another organization to transfer them to another rental platform. We’ve reached out to the company to ask and will update as we learn more.
The news ends a long-running attempt by Rocket Internet and then Novasol, another real estate rental platform that acquired the company in 2016 – to make Wimdu the Airbnb of Europe.
(Turns out Airbnb also wanted to be the Airbnb of Europe, and he largely successful.)
Things were different when Wimdu was founded in 2011, and Airbnb was much smaller. armed with $90 million in funding (a big sum at the time, especially for a European startup), Wimdu and other clones aggressively competed with their American rival to build essentially the same business: a marketplace where people can offer and rent rooms and entire private homes for short-term visits. , as an alternative to a hotel stay.
From the startup Rocket Internet Factory – which built international clones of other US companies such as eBay, Groupon, Airbnb, Square, Amazon, sometimes selling some to the companies they cloned – the hacking tactics growth of Wimdu were modeled on a model, the one that was laid bare when Airbnb decided to fight by writing to the hosts to dissuade them from working with his imitators. In a letter, he exposed the tactics used by Wimdu and the others:
A new type of scam has come to our attention: Airbnb clones posing as competitors. We discovered that these scammers have a habit of copying a website, aggressively poaching their community, and then attempting to resell the business back to the original.
After receiving emails from many of you who are upset with these tactics, it’s time to address this issue as a community. So far, hosts are reporting these issues with clone sites:
- They falsely claim to be affiliated with Airbnb or to be the “international version” of Airbnb.
- They claim to be part of Ebay and/or Groupon. We have confirmed that this is not the case.
- Their employees pose as Airbnb travelers to give you a sales pitch at your place.
- They duplicate personal profiles, descriptions and photos from your Airbnb listing without your permission.
It seems that in the beginning, at least part of Wimdu’s efforts to gain territory worked. Airbnb at some point firm activities in Austria and consolidated this activity in Germany. And in a few other cases Airbnb bought his clones.
But if Airbnb seemed to be falling apart here and there, it was just small battles, not war. Longer term, it appears that Wimdu has never raised more than $90 million, and in 2016 it merged with another clone, 9Flats, amid reports of an attempted fire sale. This brought the total home inventory of the two companies to between 250,000 and 500,000.
However, this was not enough to compete with Airbnb on a large scale: the largest company had 2 million properties on its platform at the time.
Then few weeks later Wimdu has been taken over by another European home rental platform called Novasol, owned by Wyndham Worldwide.
Wyndham Worldwide then sold Novasol to private equity firm Platinum Equity earlier this year for 1.3 billion dollars, and yesterday Novasol announcement a new CEO, so it looks like shutting down Wimdu is part of how the new owner is now cleaning up and removing loss-making operations.
Airbnb has experienced a growth rip in recent years: the company is now valued at more than $31 billion, is profitable on an Ebitda basis and expects to ready to go public by June 2019 (he’ll have the pieces in place by then, but he hasn’t set a date for an IPO). Even with a dose of controversy, the Airbnb machine shows no signs of slowing down, and so the writing may have been on the wall for Wimdu and its owners.
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