Wimdu, the Airbnb clone of Rocket Internet, to close its doors this year “in the face of significant business challenges” – TechCrunch

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But that doesn’t guarantee success, and today an Airbnb clone learned it the hard way. Wimdu, a startup that was originally born out of Rocket Internet’s Berlin start-up factory and modeled on US travel accommodation startup Airbnb, has announced it will shut down at the end of 2018, citing ” significant financial and commercial challenges “. 100 employees based in Berlin and Lisbon will be affected by the decision, he said.

“Stakeholders and management work closely with staff; the main objectives are the fair treatment of employees affected by the closure and the management of early bookings for our customers and guests, ”said an announcement on the site. “All guests and hosts with 2018 bookings – with a check-in date before or December 31, 2018 – will be conducted in a professional and reliable manner. All customers with 2019 bookings – with a check-in date after December 31, 2018 2018 – will be contacted separately to process their respective reservation.

The company has around 350,000 properties on its books and it is not clear whether Wimdu will work with another organization to move them to another rental platform. We have contacted the company to ask and will update as we know 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.

(It turns out that Airbnb also wanted to be Europe’s Airbnb, and it’s largely successful.)

Things were different when Wimdu was founded in 2011, and Airbnb was much smaller. Armed with $ 90 million in funding (a significant sum at the time, especially for a European startup), Wimdu and other clones competed aggressively against their American rival by building essentially the same business: a market where people can offer and rent entire private rooms and apartments. houses for short stays, as an alternative to hotel stay.

Coming from the Rocket Internet startup factory – which built international clones of other US companies such as eBay, Groupon, Airbnb, Square, Amazon, sometimes selling some of them to companies they cloned – the Wimdu’s growth hacking tactics were modeled on a pattern, one that was laid bare when Airbnb decided to strike back by writing to hosts to prevent them from working with its impersonators. In a letter, he outlined the tactics used by Wimdu and the others:

A new kind of scam has come to our attention: Airbnb clones masquerading as competitors. We found out that these scammers have a habit of copying a website, aggressively poaching their community, and then attempting to sell the business back to the original.

After receiving emails from many of you who are unhappy with these tactics, it’s time to address this issue as a community. So far, hosts report 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 in order to give you a sales pitch at home.
  • 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. At one point, Airbnb closed its business in Austria and consolidated that business in Germany. And in a few other cases, Airbnb bought its clones.

But if Airbnb seemed to be falling apart here and there, it was about small battles, not war. Longer term, it appears Wimdu never raised more funds beyond $ 90 million, and in 2016 it merged with another clone, 9Flats, amid reports of an attempt. sale by fire. This brought the total home inventory for the two companies to between 250,000 and 500,000.

This was not enough to compete with Airbnb on a large scale, however: the largest company then had 2 million properties on its platform.

Then few weeks later Wimdu was acquired by another European housing 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, and yesterday Novasol announcement a new CEO, so it looks like closing Wimdu is part of how the new owner now cleans the house and eliminates loss-making operations.

Airbnb has seen strong growth in recent years: the company is now valued at over $ 31 billion, is profitable on an EBITDA basis, and expects to be ready to go public by June 2019 (it will have the pieces in place at that time (point but he has not 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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