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Who says finding a place to crash has to be just about sleep. Startup Stay turns couch surfing into a business or networking opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Startup Stay is a global community for entrepreneurs that travel. It’s for people going on business trips who are interested in tapping into the local startup community. Since its launch earlier this summer, Startup Stay has spread worldwide into 200 cities in 60 countries with over 1,300 users. And this is just the beginning.
As opposed to staying in a hotel or an AirBnB, where the opportunities to network are often slim, Startup Stay offers a model similar to couch surfing. Locals open up their homes to travelers in an effort to promote cultural exchange and forge meaningful connections. The community on Startup Stay is vetted and consists of entrepreneurs.
“The value proposition is simple,” said founder Fred Caballero. “You stay with a host who is a like-minded entrepreneur. You avoid accommodation costs, but also connect, exchange ideas, use your skills to help each other, and tap into their business network as part of the full travel experience.”
To be accepted into the fold, members must be approved. “Entrepreneur” is a fairly ambiguous label that means different things to different people. Startup Stay does not only target people who have founded companies but also wants to ensure that each member contributes value to the community.
“We think of entrepreneurs as those folks who are actually making stuff,” Caballero said. “It could be the typical case of someone who has started a company or it could be someone who shows initiative and spirit.”
Every person brought into the network is given five invitations to bring others in as well, pending approval. Once membership is granted, travelers can search for accommodation on the site, as well as send messages about coworking opportunities, set up meetings, and request introductions.
Startup Stay also provides a way to get more out of the travel experience. Guests can benefit from their hosts’ local expertise and gain deeper insight into a destination. However, the mutual understanding that the arrangement is centered around business can eliminate the social pressure for both and the guest and the host, allowing people to get work done.
“Couch surfers aren’t always happy having startup people stay with them,” said Uldis Leiterts, the founder of Latvian startup infogr.am. “We go to conferences, meet VCs and partners, and can’t always be flexible with time to dedicate to the host. We can be called freeloaders. Most startups travel a lot, which isn’t cheap, and network a lot. This way combines both.”
Most of the people on the platform are technology entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35. Startup Stay is based in TechHub, a London based tech community and coworking space. It was founded by Caballero and his partner Facundo Villaveiran. The two met at the University if Buenos Aires in 2000. Since then, they have each traveled to over 20 countries and started multiple companies.